From Fred Itua, Abuja
Moves by governors from the 17 Southern States to ban on open grazing, has been descried as not the solution to insecurity and an unfair label to a group of legitimate businessmen.
The No Alternative to Buhari and Osinbajo 2019 (NATBO 2019) in a statement issued in Abuja, said the herders should be educated and tolerated.
National coordinator of NATBO, Vincent Uba, said the herdsmen were hitherto not known to carry arms, stressing that recent reports linking them to criminality were still unverified.
He said: “Granted that there could be some bad eggs or criminals within the herders who perpetrate these crimes, it is pertinent to note that criminal tendencies equally obtain in other professions or occupations.
“It would, therefore, be unfair to label the entire herdsmen as criminals. This is in no way an attempt to condone criminality.”
He stressed that crimes and criminals should be punished, adding that he did not subscribe to any undesirable elements invading and destroying crops in farmlands, much less any acts of rape against women and killing of farmers.
He however berated the allegation in some quarters the the Herdsmen were agents of fulanisation of Nigeria, querying why the nation had not been fulanised in all the years of their operation.
Uba pointed out that the ploy to make herding appear like an exclusive preservation of Fulani muslims was deceptive, adding that ever Nigerian had the right to rear cattle.
“Yes all of us who claim we are descendants of or lineage of or identify with Abraham, David, Jacob and Amos in the Bible are invariably descendants of normadic herders.
“People paint ethnic picture over open grazing and herding, thereby fanning the embers of ethnic war. These persons erroneously suggest that northerners (Hausa-Fulani) are the only herdsmen in the country, while the southerners are not.
“This is as deceptive as it is erroneous. The truth is that some northerners as well as some southerners engage in nomadic herding, with the northerners being in the majority,” he said.
He condemned the action of some Christian religious leaders who make foul comments against herdsmen when they preach, urging them to preach tolerance, oneness and love amongst the different ethnic and religious groups.
“Hiding under the cover of “Islamisation” to condemn open grazing is not only most insincere, but also not Christ-like.
“To the Southern governors and others who have banned open grazing, we urge you to thread softly. Banning a system that is as old as Nigeria itself is bound to produce rebound effects.
“This will definitely breed more crises and insecurity than is desired to be avoided. Legislating against open grazing without first providing alternative means of herding is likely to fuel more crises and heat up the polity.
“The much talked about ranching is no doubt the way to go, with due consideration taken that the vast number of these people who engage in nomadic herding are illiterates. Educating them on the need for a new approach to their way of doing business is key,” he said.
Therefore urged Southern Governors and leaders to show understanding and be patient with the herders.