Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom has identified “agenda” of Fulani nationalities across the globe to make Nigeria their own country as the major factor fueling ethnic conflicts in Nigeria.
Ortom said the raging secessionist agitations in parts of the country, is a response to what he described as the repulsive agenda as well as the obvious injustice, lack of fairness and equity in appointments and siting of projects in total disregard to the principles of Federal Character as enshrined in the Constitution as factors fanning the embers of crisis and disunity in the country.
Ortom said this on Friday in his keynote address at the 2021 Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Makurdi Branch with the theme: “OPEN GRAZING IN NIGERIA: THREAT TO NATIONAL AND FOOD SECURITY, NATIONAL COHESION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.”
He accused the presidency of hidden agenda in the way it is pushing for grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen, wondering what informed President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to opt for open grazing and grazing routes when ranching is the global best practice in animal husbandry
“In Nigeria, open grazing has been the practice of livestock production. However, in recent times, the livestock production system has led to conflicts between farmers and herders,” he said.
“This is due largely to population growth, infrastructural development and increased economic activities and above all, the Fulanisation agenda of Fulani nationalities worldwide to make Nigeria their own country.
“Across Nigeria, open grazing has led to the invasion of farming communities by Fulani herdsmen leading to massive killings and maiming of people, raping of women, destruction of property, loss of livelihoods, and displacement of persons.
“You might have heard that on March 20, 2021, there was an assassination attempt on me by Fulani militia on my way back from the farm. It took the grace of God for me to survive the attack. As at today, many States in Nigeria have been affected by the activities of marauding herdsmen.
“The negative impact of open grazing which often results in attacks on communities in different parts of the country, adversely affect the local economy as farmers are prevented from accessing their farms and local markets are also deserted for fear of imminent invasion by the killers.
“The continued rise in the attacks by Fulani herdsmen in the country have also led to mass displacement of persons leading to desertion of farm lands. In Benue State for example, over one million people have been displaced and are currently living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps and host communities.
“Farmers who have attempted to go back and till their land are either killed or maimed by herdsmen. This has led to food insecurity and poverty in the country thereby affecting the attainment of goals One and Two of the Sustainable Development Goals on Zero Hunger and End Poverty.
“Open grazing of cattle leads to destruction of farm lands and environmental degradation. This has resulted in resistance from communities whose lands have been negatively affected by the activities of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle roaming across the country.
“Consequently, this has had a negative impact on the socio-economic life of the country and is also fueling ethnic tensions. The current secessionist agitations are also a result of this in addition to the injustice, lack of fairness and equity in appointments, and siting of projects in total disregard to the Federal Character Principle as enshrined in the Constitution.
“Similarly, the failure of the Federal Government to decisively address the herdsmen attacks and invasion and other sundry issues have led to disaffection among the citizenry. Nigeria has never been as divided as it is today.
“There is a growing perception that the Federal Government is encouraging the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen by its actions and inaction. From all indications, the public trust in the Presidency has eroded. This does not speak well for the corporate existence of Nigeria.
“My position still remains that the Presidency has a hidden agenda. If not, Nigeria is ripe for the implementation of a Policy on ranching as captured in the National Livestock Transformation Plan that was adopted by the National Economic Council (NEC).
“This will not only protect farming communities from attacks and herdsmen from cattle rustling but also lead to environmental protection, security of lives and property as well as guarantee food security. Indeed, ranching will also boost livestock production.”
While calling for the arrest and prosecution of leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the Governor urged the Federal Government to also proscribe all militant Fulani groups as was done in the case of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), “given that the Global Terrorism Index ranks Fulani militia as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world. Similarly, other extremist groups should be proscribed.”
Welcoming dignitaries earlier, the Makurdi NBA Chairman, Mr Justin Gbagir said the disturbing trend of the activities of militia herdsmen in Nigeria and the attendant security threat to the corporate existence of the country necessitated the choice of the theme.
Gbagir said the security architecture in the country was in doldrums as all parts bleed uncontrollably with over 250 million inhabitants becoming endangered and travel routes becoming targets for attacks by the militia herdsmen.