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By Leonard Karshima Shilgba
Troubling times are here in Nigeria. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina announced on Wednesday, March 25, 2014 a decision of the National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by the Vice-President, Namadi Sambo: Due to incessant clashes between nomadic Fulani cattle herders and farmers, the Federal Government of Nigeria has decided to set up a committee to work out modalities for establishing grazing reserves “across Nigeria.”
Let me state here what the Minister cited as advantages of the grazing reserves; I would add my commentary to each “advantage” cited:
1. He said that grazing reserves would help to check the smuggling of arms and ammunition across Nigerian borders by foreigners who come into the country disguised as cattle grazers.
COMMENTARY: It makes no sense to think that a purely immigration problem can be solved by an internal creation of grazing reserves. In comparative narrative, I see no rational nexus between stopping smuggling in of cocaine and creation of internal cocaine colonies across the country. Don’t you think establishment of such cocaine colonies would rather instigate more smuggling of the substance? This comparison pointedly illustrates what the government is trying to do. Setting up of grazing reserves “across the country” is certainly not the solution for arms and ammunition smuggling across our borders; it is securing of our borders that will do. If the leadership of immigration and other relevant security agencies has failed to stop smuggling and illegal entrance across our borders then the President should consider a change of leadership. It is outright stupidity to consider removing a rash on the hand by cutting off the hand. The establishment of grazing reserves, which would require taking away of land from indigenous communities, would create more bloody baths across Nigeria. Any government that has failed to secure the borders of a sovereign nation it is mandated to defend is irresponsible.
President Jonathan’s government has established a familiar pattern of handling problems—running away from the obvious solution. For example, it considers complete removal of fuel subsidy as the solution to the abuse of fuel subsidy funds. The government lacks the courage to punish offenders that it refers to as a “cabal”, and has instead decided to punish hapless Nigerians because, in its estimation, they cannot bite. I must warn though, that we the Tiv people will bite. We will not allow grazing reserves for Fulani cattle herders on any inch of Tiv land. Our forebears got us this land as far back as the 18th century AD when there was no Nigeria. And no Nigerian government will take it from us. Section 25 of the Nigerian Constitution provides that a Nigerian by birth must belong to a community indigenous to Nigeria, even though timelines for such inclusivity of communities “indigenous” to Nigeria have not been given (1900, 1914, or 1960?). Accordingly, every Fulani cattle herder who claims to be a Nigerian by birth (and not Chadian, Nigerien, Cameroonian, Senegalese, etc.) must find land in their state of origin (as all Nigerians by birth have them) and establish a grazing reserve there. In fact, their state governments can help them to so do. When some governors in Nigeria established “Sharia law” in their states, they claimed that was what their people wanted, and that it would be restricted to those states. In the same way, if their Fulani herdsmen need grazing reserves they should establish for them within their states and not “across Nigeria.” The federal government cannot afford throwing up crises by this foolish policy. It is historically evident that nomadic Fulanis are not indigenous to Tivalnd. A Kongo proverbs says: “Your area of influence should only affect the things that concern you, for they say, ‘The community solves community problems.’ “A word is enough for the living!
One of their Emirs, the Lamido of Adamawa, said on Thursday, March 26, 2014, on the floor of the on-going National Conference that his kingdom “extends to Cameroon”, and that he could be easily “assimilated” if he decided to go and reside there. What is the point? The Fulani people in Nigeria see nothing wrong in bringing in cattle herders from other African countries such as Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Senegal, etc., to graze in Nigeria. Establishing grazing reserves across Nigeria for Fulani cattle herders will mean the gradual take-over of land from indigenous communities in Nigeria!
2. Dr. Adesina is reported to have said that “issues such as increasing population of cattle, coupled with influx of foreign cattle from Nigeria’s neighboring countries as well as urbanization, resource degradation, were behind the need for the new government policy.” He said, “We have a rising population of livestock, not only in Nigeria but also from our neighboring countries. A lot of animals are coming in from Chad and several other places leading to a large population that our current capacity cannot cope with.”
COMMENTARY: This statement is one of the most unimaginable statements by a government official on the issue so far. So, Nigeria has decided to make herself the grazing reserves for cattle from other African countries because we are the “Big brother”? This statement is a clear evidence that government is not interested in controlling our borders, at least the northern borders, which have been left porous without security. Tiv people are opposed to their land being used as grazing reserves for Fulani cattle.
We are traditionally farmers. We used to move from place-to-place to farm. But the realities of population increase and competition for land have forced us to adopt modern ways of farming. Should Tiv people also insist that the federal government provide “farming reserves” for Tiv farmers “across Nigeria” in order to stop Tiv people slaughtering and butchering the natives who resist us? Should the Ijaw nomadic fisherman also be provided, through government executive or administrative action, “fishing ground reserves” “across Nigeria” so that they can practice their traditional business of fishing? Should the Igbo trader be provided by the Nigerian government “shopping reserves” “across Nigeria” so that they will do their business? There is always a bigger problem that is created by a “solution” that is not though through.
The Inspector General of Police, himself a Fulani man, spoke in a highly provocative manner few days ago about the slaughter of the Tiv people on their ancestral land by his Fulani brethren. He also said there must be grazing reserves and revival of “grazing routes” for his brethren’s cattle before the attacks on Tiv people and other Nigerian natives would end. In fact, he is so proud of “providing security” for the Tiv people in “their huts and bush houses” that he is relaxed about my people being butchered in spite in those “huts and bush houses” that he “has provided security” for since when the attacks started “ten days ago.” I ask President Jonathan to call this man to order. Tiv people have lost confidence in his ability to help secure Tivland even as the Nigerian Constitution does not allow us to establish our state or community police even though we have the ability and resources to.
We the Tiv people are concerned that the Inspector General of Police, Minister of Defense and National Security Adviser are all traditionally linked to the Fulani herdsmen who attack Tiv people and other Nigerians at will while they stand by with pretentious efforts that have not calmed down the situation. The Benue Commissioner of Police is also a Fulani man; and the murder of Tiv people on their land is going on unabated. I demand, for a start, that the Benue State Commissioner of police should be replaced with a Benue State citizen. We need to be realistic about issues of policing such as community policing, and at least the Commissioner of Police in every state should be an indigene of such states. Here is the emerging scenario: Fulani herdsmen attack host communities in Nigeria on their ancestral home, dislodging whole communities, and then the Inspector General of Police lends his voice in support of establishing grazing reserves across Nigeria. Not long after, the National Economic Council under the leadership of the Vice President, also of the same cultural affinity with the aggressors, sets up a committee to work out modalities for establishing grazing reserves “across Nigeria” through an executive action that would be unconstitutional.
Section 42 (1) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution states that: “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person—
Be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.”
If Nigeria is a country of laws; if there is any reason in the corridors of power; and if the Nigerian government does not want to be an accomplish in the pogrom of inestimable proportion that will certainly result from its irrational knee-jerk approach to solving the Fulani aggression and assault on innocent Nigerians, then, the committee that has been set up by government to consider “modalities for establishing grazing reserves across Nigeria” should be quietly stepped down. Such a contemplation is contrary to the constitutional provision cited above. Any executive or administrative action that gives any privilege or advantage to the Fulani cattle herders that is not given to the Tiv farmer, Ijaw fisherman, Igbo trader, etc., is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect, and shall be resisted and opposed by the Tiv people and other Nigerian who feel the same about it. There would be no peace and it cannot be enforced.
It seems to me that the only way to get attention and some form of “compensation” from Nigeria is to show some capacity for violence. The Fulani herdsmen and their government officials such as the Inspector General of Police do not have the monopoly of violence. I must also warn the governor of Nasarawa state, Almakura that he must not work against but rather work toward the return of Tiv people to their ancestral lands in Awe, Doma, and Keana local governments. It is his responsibility to facilitate the peace and security of citizens of his state whom Tiv people of Nasarawa state are part of. We request adequate compensation from the federal government to re-build their destroyed settlements and other destroyed settlements in towns and villages of Benue State that have been destroyed by the Fulani invaders. I should think that the federal government should be considering re-building the destroyed homes of Tiv people, returning and securing them on their farmlands and homes, and adequate financial compensation for their losses on their ancestral homes, and not to be considering establishing grazing reserves “across Nigeria.” The aggression of the Fulanis has left thousands of Tiv people as refugees in their country. What is the federal government doing? Even a serving Tiv federal minister is technically a refugee since his ancestral home in Guma local government area has been destroyed, including the headquarters of his local government area, Gbajimba; and the federal government is only talking of seizing lands in Nigeria, including Tivland, to establish grazing reserves for the aggressors? Are we being taught now that violence pays? Can the federal government cope with the emergence of another militia group that senses injustice?
We the Tiv people will fight injustice with all we have got, especially, the type that threatens the extinction of our race. We have no other choice. The only thing that gives me an academic claim to the Nigerian nationality is my ethnic group (according to section 25 of the Nigerian Constitution).
All Tiv congress- men and -women at both state and federal levels and delegates at the National Conference must understand that their claim to Nigeria will end with the demise of their Tiv nation. This is a call to duty!
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is a Sad Nationalist (SaN)
TEL: 08055024356; Email: [email protected]
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