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  • Opinion - Editorial
  • Updated: June 09, 2024

Barau, open grazing cause terrorism 

Barau, open grazing cause terrorism 

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

This is a direct response to the opposition to the move by the National Assembly to ban open grazing of animals nationwide as put up frantically by the Kano state-born Deputy Senate President Jibrin Barau

The Deputy Senate President, Barau reportedly kicked against the proposal by a majority of the Senators to put a mechanism in place to check the terrorism that usually trails open grazing of cows in the Country. 

I strongly think that this gentleman from Kano State is scared of modernism and wants to draw back the rest of us in Nigeria to remain with him in the practice of open grazing that rightfully belongs to the past and should be consigned to the dustbin of history if Nigeria is to get it right in reaching the kind of level of food security and stability that we need to be able to fight back massive hunger that even the United Nations has just forecasted will affect Nigeria and few other countries imminently.

Acute food insecurity is projected to worsen in magnitude and severity across 18 hunger “hotspots,” including Nigeria. This was revealed in a recent report from the United Nations.

The report emphasised the immediate need for assistance to prevent famine in Gaza and Sudan, as well as the worsening hunger crises in Haiti, Mali, and South Sudan.

It also warns about the continuous effects of El Niño and the impending risk of La Niña, which could lead to extreme climate events that disrupt both lives and livelihoods

It stated, “Since the previous edition of the Hunger Hotspots report (October 2023), the Central African Republic, Lebanon, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Zambia have joined Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Somalia and Zimbabwe in the list of hunger hotspots, where acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further during the outlook period,” the report revealed.

The report also stated numerous hotspots were grappling with escalating hunger crises, emphasising the alarming compounding effect of simultaneous and overlapping shocks on acute food insecurity.

The truth must be told and this is that Nigeria at the moment and for the better part of the last decade, has been buffeted by all kinds of issues characterised by unprecedented insecurity. 

At the heart of these terrorist attacks are these armed Fulani terrorists masquerading about as herders who have spread their dragnet of violence in most parts of Nigeria with a predominance of their daredevil attacks centred around the North Central and North West with Benue, Plateau and Southern Kaduna states taking the greatest and most brutal hits.

But of course, the farmers in the core North Western states of Zamfara, Kebbi and most devastatingly, Katsina states, made up of largely Hausa ethnicity, have also come under massive terror attacks masterminded by suspected armed herders who are mostly Fulani militants. 

At a time in the last decade, Nigeria became notorious as one of the third most terrorised nation on earth and one amongst these terrorist groups are the armed herders suspected to be of Fulani ethnicity. 

In the next few lines, we will be shown reputable statistical data on these deadly activities of armed herders all around the length and breadth of Nigeria and most especially around the rural farming communities. 

For instance, the GTI, published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace, serves as a comprehensive analysis of the impact of terrorism worldwide, assessing factors such as terrorist incidents, fatalities, injuries, and property damage.

With a score of 7.575, Nigeria’s placement in the index signals a continuing struggle against terrorism within its borders, raising concerns both domestically and internationally.

Nigeria’s ranking among countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia – all known for their protracted conflicts – highlights the severity of the situation within the nation.

“Nigeria recorded its first increase in terrorism in three years in 2023, with total deaths rising by 34 per cent to 524. This year marks Nigeria’s highest death toll since 2020, driven by a surge in conflict between ISWA and Boko Haram. If the conflict between these two groups was excluded, terrorism deaths would have declined by 18 per cent”.

One of the most alarming aspects of Nigeria’s position in the GTI is the longevity of its struggle against terrorism. Despite concerted efforts by the government and security forces, the threat of extremist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) continues to loom large over the country.

The report highlighted “deaths from terrorism rose to 8,352 in 2023, a 22 per cent increase from the prior year”.

Also, Nigeria is one of ten countries responsible for 87 per cent of global terrorism-related deaths, with its share amounting to 6 per cent.

Attacks from herders killed more Nigerians in 2018, compared to the number of deaths caused by Boko Haram in the country, according to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index (GTI).

The GTI report released on Wednesday ranked Nigeria, for the fifth consecutive time, since 2015, as the third country with the worst impact from terrorism, globally.

The report said terror-related incidents in Nigeria increased by 37 per cent, from 411 in 2017 to 562 in 2018 and also deaths from terrorism in the country rose to 2,040 in 2018, a 33 per cent increase.

“The increase was due to a substantial escalation of violence by ‘Fulani’ extremists, whilst Boko Haram recorded a decline in deaths from terrorism,” the report said. 

However, one of the most alarming things about politicians in our country is that they put ethnicity and religious sentiments far above the well-being and the national security of Nigeria.

Politicians think that protecting mundane agendas other than the national agenda is what gives them mileage during elections because they will then boast that they championed the narrow interests of their constituents even when the National Security interest is endangered.

Surprisingly, even when all persons who have some modicum of sense and ability to decipher developments in Nigeria must be very much aware of the extensive killings carried out and are still been engineered, masterminded and executed on a large scale by Fulani armed herders, yet, a ranking Senator who has been to the Senate for over ten years, is the person behind the opposition to finding a solution to the terrorism orchestrated by majority of these armed Fulani terrorists all over Nigeria. 

Is Senator Barau more concerned about some herders who would be required by law to run their businesses in line with the global best practices such as the use of Ranches than the high casualty figures of farmers killed by marauding armed Fulani extremists masquerading as herdsmen? 

The Deputy Senate President should be reminded that open grazing that creates environmental pollution, insecurity of lives and property and a multitude of other socio-economic adversarial challenges, needs to be changed and the modern and contemporary fashion of doing cattle entrepreneurial activities activated to fast track our current genuine business owners of cows to open up Ranches that would ensure that cows and other domestic animals are not to be left roaming around and invading and rampaging farmlands thereby causing destruction of crops and instigation of Conflicts therefrom. 

Is this such a complex thing for the number two in the upper legislative chamber of Nigeria, Senator Barau to digest and accept?

But rather what we read all over the press is that the Deputy President of the Senate, Jibrin Barau on Wednesday strongly opposed a bill for an act to establish the National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission, which was sponsored by Senator Titus Tartenger Zam, from Benue State.

Barau said the bill, if allowed and passed into law, was targeted at relocating Fulani herders wherever they are to their various states of origin, which will be absolutely difficult as they may not know where they came from.

The concerned lawmaker maintained that the bill was in breach of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, particularly in regard to choice of residence, insisting that nobody should be denied where they chose to live.

Barau stoked heated debate as he expressed rejection, but was the lone voice as other Senators who contributed to the bill welcomed the development.

According to him, he benefited from living in a place that was not his place of origin, hence, Fulani herders in any part of the country should be allowed to live wherever they chose to.

He said: “There is a snag in this bill, there is a problem because you cannot stop any Nigerian from living in any area that he so wishes.
“The relevant section of the constitution has been read. I saw something just a few days ago: Senator Natasha visited a Fulani settlement in her senatorial zone. Those people do not have any home except that place. They have been there for so long. They have been part and parcel of that society.

“Now, to tell them to move to their state of origin, where is their state of origin? Now, for us as political leaders, I would like you to look at that. Who is the current Senator of FCT? She is a Yoruba native, but she has won the election here. Nobody told her to return to her state.

“I won my first election in Tarauni Federal Constituency to the House of Representatives in 1999 from Kano Central, but I am from Kano North. Nobody told me to go back to Kano North, so why do we now tell herders to go back to their states of origin?

“My friend Zam understands that this is not in consonance with our constitution; your bill is good. I like this bill, but this aspect should be removed. We should remove it. I advise my friend Senator Zam to stand this bill down for a consultation, for better drafting, so that it goes in consonance with our constitution.

“Mr President, I will tell you some of these Fulanis, if you ask them where their state of origin is, they have even forgotten; they look at themselves as Nigerians.

“We should address the issue to reflect wherever someone is, it’s his place, and he can do his business there. So, Mr President, I advise this bill to be stepped down for further consultation.”

Barau’s spirited effort to shut down the bill failed as the majority of the lawmakers okayed the bill when Senate President, Godswill Akpabio put it to voice vote.

The bill having passed a second reading was committed to the relevant Committee for public hearing.

The truth is that Senator Barau is simply playing ethnic politics against the current political rhythm that is dominant in the minds of most Nigerians which is to find the most enduring solution to the terrorism caused by open grazing in Nigeria. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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