As the activities of Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists continue to deal blows on innocent Nigerians despite the acclaimed presidential committee to stop the trends, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has dissociate its members, the indigenous Fulani herdsmen, from the killings. National Assistant. Secretary, Dr. Ibrahim Abddulahi, in this interview with JIBRIN MIACHI, challenged federal government to rise up to the problem by observing international protocol provisions in relation to transhumance. EXCERPT:
Fulani herdsmen/farmers’ clash is degenerating. Are you worried with the dimension this is taking now?
I am deeply worried because it is not only degenerating but it is being manipulated for selfish reasons. The clash between farmers and pastoralists has been there for many years but there have always been solutions for it. It has to do with encroachment into farms and damages to farms. When that happened, a Fulani man is not shy to pay whatever is required of him. It is part of our tradition. In fact, where I grew up, if you happen to encroach into somebody’s farm and he is not around, you look at your flock, if the damage done requires that you pay up to a ram, then you tie a ram there in the farm. The moment the farmer comes round and sees a ram, he knows that somebody has encroached into his farm. It is not something shameful and it is not something that we take so serious that we can fight and kill somebody about. Like I said, it has been there and it is part of our tradition that whenever we encroached into somebody’s farm there should be a way of resolving the issue by paying compensation either in cash or kind equal to the damage done to the farmer but what we are seeing today is something blown out of proportion and manipulated for political, ethnic and religion reasons by some people, especial the politicians that have nothing to offer their people and they are looking for escape route. It is really worrisome and we want government, security agencies to look into the issue and work with the stakeholders in order to bring it under control.
Over the years, Fulani herdsmen are not known to be carrying sophisticated arms and they are friendly wherever they pass through, unlike today. Why the resolve?
I don’t want to say that Fulanis are moving with sophisticated weapons because I cannot proof that. But one thing I know is that some people somewhere are trying to create mistrust and misunderstanding between indigenous Fulanis and their neighbours that they have been living with and even grew up with. That is why you hear new terminologies like Fulani robbers, Fulani terrorists etc, but if you go back to your locality, there are some Fulani people that you grew up with and they have been there for years. For example in Yoruba land, they don’t speak any other language except their own and Yoruba languages. If you go to Ibo land, you will see Fulani people that have been living there for years. Wherever they are, they speak their language and their host native language. Those ones, if you search them, you cannot get AK47. Those people you see moving about with AK47, if at all you have seen some, I think they are not the actual fulanis that we are talking about here. People have been circulating, especially in social media, pictures of people from other countries like Kenya, etc herding their animals with rifles but if you go out of Kaduna here and see Fulani people moving with their animals, you cannot see them with AK47.
How will you react to the insinuation that there are influxes of Fulani herdsmen from other countries into the country?
One thing I know for sure is that there have been flock-routes that traverse the entire West Africa if not the entire African continent. Those routes are well established, known and demarcated in some of our countries. Another thing I know for sure is that there is provision in the ECOWAS status, especially ECOWAS’ protocol on free movement of transhumance across the sub region that you are free to move from Niger for example into Nigeria, into Benin Republic or from Central Africa Republic into Cameroon, part of Chad , Nigeria and across. We know there are provisions for this. So, I will not be surprised if Fulani pastorals from other countries are coming into Nigeria. I do also know that in Nigeria we are a signatory to that protocol and that protocol has specific terms and conditions that each country is suppose to adhere strictly to, like trying to profile who comes to your country and who goes out at what time and when etc. Unfortunately, those protocols are not applied in Nigeria. In Nigeria, we don’t even know the actual number of our indigenous Fulani not to talk of those that are coming in and I think it is a challenge to our government
Will you say it is those nomads that travel from other countries into this country that come in with sophisticated arms which is now robbing on the integrity of our indigenous Fulani brothers?
Well, I am not ruling out that possibility. As I am talking to you, I am yet to see a Fulani man in Nigeria moving with sophisticated weapon. But I do know that there are bandits, there are criminals and cattle rustlers. They live in the bush. They attack the actual indigenous Fulani and so the indigenous Fulani are the worse affected with the activities of those bandits. I know that. We do have criminals both among Fulani and other tribes that security agencies should work diligently to fish them out and make them to face the wrath of law.
What is the way out of this national problem?
Let us identify who are the indigenous Fulani that we have been living with for many years. Let the government also accept the fact that a Fulani man has been neglected for many years. That neglect has affected his means of livelihood, it has decreased the number of animals or even in some cases totally eliminated the animals that he has and it has made him vulnerable to so many dangers, it has exposed his children to the possibility of so many crimes and his women to prostitution and other things. The government should therefore come up with policies that empower a Fulani man. The government should adhere strictly to the provisions of ECOWAS protocol, government should also think of creating two separate ministries to promote livestock production separately from the ministry of agriculture, so that what you have seen for over forty years where about 89 percent of annual budgetary allocation is on arable farming to the detriment of livestock shop centre will stop. If you go round the federation today, you will see that where we used to have vet clinics, you don’t have them today and where they are, they don’t have facilities. Annual vaccination of cattle has completely been abandoned by both the state and federal governments. Therefore, many killer diseases of animals have reappeared to continue to destroy their means of livelihood. I think the government need to do something and if you ask me, I will say government need to declare a state of emergency in trying to rehabilitate a Fulani man and his means of livelihood. We all, both the government, Fulani and the general public, should realise that cattle rearing as we used to know it, traversing from one place to another looking for greener pasture is no longer feasible for obvious reasons. Again, because 89 percent attention is given to arable farming, that has increased farmers’ demand for land, which has also affected the life of a Fulani man. Where you cannot travel a kilometre without encroaching on a farm, building the flock routes that are well defined and established have now been encroached not to talk of grazing reserves that we used to have and are yet to be gazetted by government. I think we have to look for a way of solving this family problem with a view to resettling our indigenous nomads and that will help us to know who is coming and who is going out.