Cattle, bloodshed, hunger and climate change

By Nnimmo Bassey

Violent conflicts have become so pervasive in Ni­geria that one could be excused to say that they threaten to become the new normal. Some years ago, no one could imag­ine that a Nigerian, child or adult, would become a suicide bomber. That thinking was loudly put to rest by the activities of Boko Haram, the group that erected and foisted a bomb-culture on our na­tion. Today, the horren­dous conflicts between farmers and pastoralists must not be allowed to become another normal.

Conflicts in the oil fields, including third party interferences, oil thefts and acts of sabo­tage led to youths of the Niger Delta being la­belled as restive when­ever they made demands for ecological or social justice. That adjective gave the oil companies some cover over the poor handling and policing of their pipelines, equip­ment and other facilities. And then to add cream to the cake, it has become normal for oil companies to scream sabotage at the slightest hint of accidents in the oil fields.

Tango in Bonga

The only time a com­pany like Shell did not plead sabotage was when they had the Bonga off­shore spill of 20 De­cember 2011. That spill occurred when the top-ranking oil company pumped thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State, instead of pumping it into a wait­ing vessel. By their ad­mission, they pumped 40,000 barrels of oil into the sea before they knew something was amiss. That speaks volumes of the high standards they maintain in their opera­tions! It may have taken long in coming, but we must applaud the Federal Government of Nigeria for finally instituting a suit against Shell for the damage done to the en­vironment and on our people.

Grazing Times

An intriguing cycle of violence that has become worrisome is that of the so-called herdsmen wielding AK47s, brutally attacking, killing, kid­naping and raping citi­zens in their paths. The atrocious level of killings and destruction has led some to call these live­stock blood cattle. Gov­ernment action cannot be delayed on this matter.

While it is left to our security agencies to say if these attackers are truly herdsmen or a new band of terrorists, the issue of a Grazing Bill before the National Assembly has added more cause for concern to many Nigeri­ans.

For those who may not know, the Grazing Bill seeks to acquire swaths of land across Nigeria, dispossess individuals and communities of their lands. The bill bars land owners from having ac­cess to these lands, ter­ritories and resources. Trespass by owners of the land could lead to terms of imprisonment and other penalties. The Bill is a perfection of move to legalise land grabbing and internal colonisa­tion using the obnoxious Land Use Act as a cover. It is interesting that the Bill has now been said not to be on the tables of the National Assem­bly. Phantom or not, the Bill remains a source for concern. Despite the de­nial of the existence of any Grazing Bill, we read that there are versions of private members Graz­ing Bills in the House of Representatives and that one is expected from the executive arm.

Meat, Hunger and Cli­mate Change

While many have linked the herdsmen to the Fulani ethnic nation­ality, it is clear that own­ers of the cattle that have become the lightening rod of the peculiar vio­lence rocking the nation in recent days may ac­tually range beyond the Fulani. One interpreta­tion could be that what we are experiencing may be the manifestation of a primitive use of power by a blood-thirsty wealthy class using the poor as canon fodder against other poor and helpless citizens.

If this mayhem is not nipped it threatens to set the nation ablaze. In a situation of rising sus­picions, there is need to build bridges between our peoples, build a van­guard of the oppressed against the forces of di­vision and annihilation and ensure that the poor among us are not used as foot soldiers in a proxy war they have no busi­ness fighting.

The rich owners of the cattle should set up ranches to support their enterprises. If the no­madic lifestyle is a way of life that cannot be com­promised, the range of the movements should nevertheless be con­trolled. We hear much about value-addition as a way of building our ag­ricultural industrial sec­tor. Is it not time to move meat rather than cattle across the nation?

The world’s appetite for meat is having global impacts on the rate of de­forestation and on global warming. Indeed, much of the food grown in the world today go to feed­ing animals rather than humans, thus entrench­ing hunger and malnu­trition.

With so much blood shed so that cattle may roam roughshod over the land, it does make sense for us to rethink our meat production and consumption patterns.

By Nnimmo Bassey (Di­rector, Health of mother Earth Foundation – HOMEF)

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