By Tony Eluemunor
Until details emerge, I fear the 1963 gazetted Cattle Routes may have passed through the State House, Abuja. Numerous bats nestle in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa area. When they fly out in the evenings, they darken the sky. Also, the entire three–arm zone (Presidency, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court) is home to a large set of monkeys.
I once raised this unique love which some animals have found for the villa’s vicinity and was told that in the Abuja master plan, which was earmarked for National Zoo is where the villa is. That would have been a unique zoo; apart from the caged animals, free-ranging bats and birds would have joined the happy monkeys in entertaining animal lovers.
And when you remember that the very first source of water supply into Abuja was from under the real Aso Rock itself, you would suspect that a cattle route could have led directly to it.
Now President Mohammadu Buhari, has asked that, that gazetted copy of that 1963 law be dug out. And I suspect that the Justice Minister and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) may have gone far in his digging for that document. So, what if the powers that be have decided to implement what was gazetted in 1963? Some smart lawyers have actually said that that was a Northern Region law, and that made me more unsettled: Abuja was within the defunct Northern Region.
So, do we tear down the villa…if the 1963 cattle route passed through it? And what if it was even a cattle reserve? It might have come to that because that is what you get when you do the unthinkable; jettison the search for tomorrow for the quest for yesterday.
One would have thought in this cattle routes, cattle reserve and cattle colony issue, that the tomorrow is personal ranches. And yesterday should decidedly and incontestably be cattle routes and open grazing. Or, are we not talking of a 1963 gazette, 58 years ago?
Yet, it could be patently wrong for even the majority to fail to take into consideration the feelings of the minority. I know that some people would actually insist that in this case, the minority has patently refused to listen to the majority. I say this because a larger number of people, it appears, were scandalized by the pronouncement that open grazing is the future that Nigeria has been waiting for. But I pray that Nigeria should not be the first country in God’s own earth to hold a referendum over cattle routes!
Now, it says a lot that no minister has resigned over Mr. President’s insistence on cattle routes and open grazing. That could mean that all of them believe in it wholeheartedly. So, to give the rest of us an inkling into this tomorrow they have seen from the mountain top, could they answer a few nagging questions?
Question one: After the government has built the cattle reserves or ranches (including water facilities, schools, hospitals, markets etc, and the herders and their cattle have moved in,would they be paying any fees for the amenities that support their personal businesses? Or would Nigeria be supporting the herders in their personal businesses indefinitely? And if more Fulani herders from other countries arrive here and contend for space, do we simply call for more contracts to construct free herders havens? If not, why not?
Question two:And as the Justice Minister has likened cattle husbandry to auto spare parts business, would shopping complexes, containing schools, hospitals, water supply, electricity, etc, also be made available to the spare parts sellers and cocoa farmers and timber merchants? And for free if the government provided cattle reserves are for gratis?Question three: As Malami has asked the state governors who have banned open grazing to please first pursue a constitutional change, could he please spell out the constitutional passage that should be changed? I hope he would not be thinking of freedom of movement for cattle for that would begin and end in their owner’s ranches. Or should the Minister welcome some spare parts sellers to operate their shops from his personal property?
Question four :Is the president unaware of the fact that some states have duly passed the ban on open grazing into law? And does he not see the need to go to court to challenge such laws first?
Question five :In giving out spaces in the government built cattle reserves to herders, how would the bona fide Nigerian Fulani herders be differentiated from the non-Nigerian ones? Or would that not be necessary?Question six : What has informed this need for the government to even begin to think of constructing Cattle Reserves for herders? Are we saying that it would be wrong to ask herders to pen in their animals? Or that right now in Abuja, anyone could just put up a chicken poultry anywhere and anyhow? If not, why has cattle husbandry been treated differently? And since when did governments start building business offices or farms or spare part for business people? And what would be provided for the fishermen?
Question seven: Fulani cattle herders have always had the need to have a Seriki wherever they go. Why can’t they live under the guidance of the chief or king of a village where they ply their trade? Must they live apart from their host community? And how would a traditional ruler be held responsible for security in his domain when he does not even know that some Fulani herders have arrived at a particular place?
Question eight: Mr president has asked that governors, LGA chairmen and traditional rulers see to the security needs of their areas. As he understands grass-roots security needs, why does he not support the state and community Police idea? Who do the police commissioners report to?
The answers should help educate dull minds who have not arrived at the level of the All Progressives People’s Congress (APC) administration and help Nigerians hold real discussion. Enough of the monologues please.
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