All Progressives Congress chieftain, Bola Tinubu, on Saturday, backed the ranching system as a way to end the near perennial herdsmen-farmers clashes being recorded in the country.
In a statement titled, ‘Tinubu’s Statement On The Herder Crisis,’ the APC chieftain said nomadic herders in the country must realise that they are fighting a “losing battle against modernity and climate change”, and so, must embrace a ‘sedentary’ mode of cattle-rearing.
He also lamented that those who should know better were the ones inciting farmers and herders to clash in the country.
Of late, nomadic herders in parts of the country, especially in the South-West geopolitical zone, have been accused of trespassing on farmlands of host farmers with their cattle. Farm produce worth millions of naira have been destroyed in the last few months. Some herders have also been accused of raping women in host communities, kidnapping the rich and in some cases, killing host residents, amongst other unprintable crimes.
Many leaders in Yorubaland including a chieftain of socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, had said Tinubu was afraid to speak on the herders crisis because he does not want to jeopardise his 2023 presidential ambition and because he does not want to offend the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
But the former Lagos State governor broke his silence on the matter on Saturday. In the statement made available to The PUNCH by his spokesman, Tunde Rahman, Tinubu said, “The herder-farmer dispute has taken on acute and violent dimensions. It has cost too many innocent lives while destroying the property and livelihoods of many others. It has also aggravated ethnic sentiment and political tension.
“Despite the efforts of some of those in positions of high responsibility and public trust, the crisis has not significantly abated. Sadly, others who should know better have incited matters by tossing about hate-tainted statements that fall dangerously short of the leadership these people claim to provide. We all must get hold of our better selves to treat this matter with the sobriety it requires.”
He also said, “What is happening has been terrible…We do both herder and farmer grave injustice by allowing the herder to continue as he is – fighting a losing battle against modernity and climate change. In that fight, desperation causes him to flail and fight the farmer, who too is a victim of these impersonal forces.”
Tinubu noted that both innocent and law-abiding farmer and herder need to be recompensed for the losses they have suffered. “Both need further assistance to break the current cycle of violence and poverty,” he said.
He recommended that the Federal Government convene a meeting of state governors, senior security officials, herders and farmers representatives, along with traditional rulers and religious leaders. “The purpose of this meeting would be to hammer out a set of working principles to resolve the crisis,” he stated.
The APC chieftain opined that the meeting must come up with policies that will help, amongst other things, the herders to transform to a more sedentary method of cattle-rearing.
“Help the herders’ transition to more sedentary but more profitable methods of cattle-rearing. Unoccupied public land can be fenced into grazing areas or ranches and leased to herders on a very low-cost, nominal basis. The leasing is not intended to penalize herders.
“Rather, the nominal fee is intended to ensure the herders are invested in the project and incentivized (by reason of their investment) to use the land provided.
“This aspect will also mitigate any resentment over herders being given land for free. Government, in turn, being a responsible lessor, must help with supplemental feed and water in these areas. This will enable herders to better maintain and care for their livestock thus enhancing their incomes,” he said.
The APC stalwart further said the meeting should resolve to “assist farmers increase productivity by supporting or providing subvention for their acquisition of fertilizer, equipment and machinery and, also, by establishing commodity boards to guarantee minimum prices for important crops”.