National Secretary, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan, an engineer, has said that the Anti-Open Grazing Law in the southern part of the country is a bargaining chip by the zone to secure favourable political negotiations ahead of 2023 elections.
Saleh who posited that the law is not implementable disclosed that the association has already swung into action in a bid to protect their members and their businesses in the zone.
He spoke further in this interview.
What is Miyetti Allah doing now to ensure your members do not run foul of the Anti-Open Grazing Law, which is spreading in the southern part of the country?
We are taking a number of actions as regards this development. Number one, we are taking legal action against the states both at local court and international court. We are equally applying political and spiritual solutions. We are already lobbying the National Assembly and the executive arm of the government to stop the governors. The National Assembly should perform its constitutional responsibility of protecting every citizen of this country, including the herdsmen and their business of herding. We are equally lobbying the executive arm of government to do the needful by creating options for the herders through budgetary allocations, creation of ministry for livestock and fishery. The National Assembly should pass the bill that has been there, lying fallow; these are the political options we are taking. And then, we are sending a very strong negotiating team to some of these governors because they may have been ill-informed about the security situations in their states. Let them look at the realities. There is no any space that cannot be governed in this country with GPR technology. We are equally exploring spiritual option that is why Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho are in jail while those sponsoring them are there in the hospital.
On what basis are you planning to challenge the action of the southern governors who have decided to save the economy and lives of the people in their respective states from criminal elements terrorizing their states?
We are going to challenge them on the basis of the violation of the fundamental human rights of our members as free citizens of this country- that is freedom of movement. We have this fundamental right protected by the constitution; by the African Charter of Human Rights to move freely and do our business freely as law-abiding citizens of this country. If movement is the same thing as inter-state commerce, you cannot legislate against inter-state commerce at the level of state Assembly; it is the jurisdiction of the National Assembly. You cannot deny us our freedom of movement and means of livelihood because that is protected by the constitution and the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights.
This law came as a response to the effect of the activities of herders on the lives and the means of livelihood of the people of the South. How do you intend to react to this?
It is not true. Is there any case in the law court against the herders in those states? We have laws against trespass, how many of the cases are in the law court in this regard? How many cases have been declared against the herdsmen? It is mere propaganda. All these cases are cases of trespass. Where have they been accused of violating the law of trespass? There are existing laws against trespass. It is just propaganda to destroy our business. It is a policy that is meant to destroy our means of livelihood.
Why do you think southerners are now moving against the Fulani herders whom they had lived together with for years if the allegation against them is mere propaganda as you posited?
Southerners are just playing bad politics because the president is a Fulani man. Their plan is to put pressure on his (President) people, which is wrong. The truth of the matter is that most of the cows in the South actually belong to merchants from Southern Nigeria. If you go to the bush there is nobody farming in the forest. The reality is that it is all propaganda. They are just hiding under this Anti-open Grazing Law probably because they want to score political point. Secondly, they may want to use it to steal security votes, loot the treasuries of the state. Thirdly, they want to deceive the people of their states – the masses in order not to be accountable to them.
You seem to suggest that the move is targeted at the president. If you would recall, the South voted overwhelmingly for the President, why do you now think they want to turn against the president?
That is probably because they are not getting favourable signals from their negotiation with him for 2023. So, they think by the time they mount pressure on his people, the herders, they will be able to get political commitments, which is wrong. They should go and discuss with their political peers and leave the herders to do their business.
If the cows in the South actually belong to southern merchants as you claim, don’t you think the fight over the Anti-open Grazing Law should be between the southern merchants who own the cows and the governors in the region, not Miyetti Allah and the state governors in the South?
The law is not targeted at the southern merchants, but the herders. What they should do is to close the cattle market there if they don’t want cattle business in the South. But if they make law against our people in the forest, that is what we will reject. Let them shut down all the abattoirs in the South. There is nothing they aim to achieve than to frustrate the Fulani. So, if they can shut down the abattoirs in the South then we will know that they are serious that they don’t want cow in the South. Is there any grazing field in Rivers State? Is there any grazing field in Lagos and Bayelsa states? You must understand the ecology of these areas. If you see cow in any of these states, it is meant for abattoir. Yes, there are grazing areas in northern part of Ondo and part of Oyo; these are just few places we can say we have grazing areas. When they ganged up to make anti-grazing law we knew they were just playing politics. We are waiting to see how they will implement the anti-open grazing law. It is a satanic law; it’s an empty law because it is not implementable. It is a law made without creating an option. They made law against grazing in their states, where are they going to graze their cows? If you are making a law you must make sure it is a law that can work; a law that promotes peace and ensures harmony in the society.
Do you know what it costs to set up a ranch? You need nothing less than N4 million to ranch 20 cows. If you sell the entire 20 cows you can’t make N4 million. The government should create the ranches then rent them out to us. But you don’t create the ranches and you want to drive us, you cannot expect us to keep quiet. It is not possible. Do you think we will carry our cattle on our heads and leave the region? That is not possible. It’s an empty law. Create places and tell us this is where we designate for you and state your conditions; tell us what we will pay as tax or fee then we take our cows and settle there. The governors are pretending as if they don’t know what to. The truth is that they know they are just playing politics with it.
Now that you have kicked against the Anti-open Grazing Law, how do you think the problem of herders going about with AK47, which they use for their nefarious activities, can be addressed?
The pictures of herders carrying AK47 on Internet are pictures from East Africa, they are pictures of the Masai. If you see anybody carrying AK 47 and the person is not following cows; he is a bandit and it is not our responsibility to identify bandits, it is the responsibility of the government. Go and see bandits who are terrorizing everybody in the bush. Their first victims are the herders because they rustle their cattle. A criminal is a criminal whether he is a Fulani man or a Yoruba man. So, why are you attaching his ethnicity to his infamous action? Do you attach the ethnic identities of the Southerners who are into Internet fraud to them when they are caught? Have you ever heard people say ‘Yoruba ritualist? There is an agency against prostitution and human trafficking; do you attach the identity of Edo people who constitute 80 per cent offenders to these crimes? No, you don’t that. There are criminals everywhere and in every community, so stop attaching ethnicity to crimes.