A few weeks ago, tensions began in some parts of Southwest following the alleged atrocious activities carried out by some Fulani herdsmen in the region. Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, had banned open grazing and underage grazing, and had given unregistered herdsmen in the state a seven days ultimatum to quit Ondo State forest reserves.
Amid the controversy which the quit notice generated, Yoruba activist Sunday Igboho had also joined the fray, and had given Fulani herdsmen in Igangan community of Ibarakpa North Local Government Area of Oyo State a seven days ultimatum to quit the area. After the seven days, he had stormed Igangan to evacuate the Sarkin Fulani and other Fulani people in the area, and the clash between the groups had allegedly led to loss of lives and destruction of properties worth millions of naira.
A few days ago, we saw videos of how ESN operatives championed by Nnamdi Kanu set a Fulani community in Abia State ablaze, pursued the Fulani people away from the land, and killed their cows. The IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, a few days ago, had issued a 14-days ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen operating in the Southeast to quit the region, if not they would have themselves to blame.
In some parts of the south, there have been increasing agitations for the state governments to give quit notices to Fulani herdsmen operating in the south. On social media, serious campaigns are going on from concerned persons who accuse these Fulani people of carrying out criminal activities in the south under the guise of doing business in the region.
In a report which was made by some mainstream media a day ago, some women in some part of Edo State had taken to the street to protest the atrocious activities of the Fulani herdsmen in the area. They said that they are now afraid of going to their farms and other daily activities, as the herdsmen kidnap and kill their people, and get their cattle to graze on their crops.
The entire south seems to be clamouring for the same thing - they want Fulani herdsmen to leave their region. But even as we are making these demands, one question we in the south have failed to ask ourselves is - is this the right thing for us to do?
No one is supporting the atrocious activities of these criminal herdsmen, but that does not mean we should act outside the jurisdiction of the Nigerian Constitution. One of the earliest things we learnt as Nigerians are the fundamental human rights we have as Nigerians, and those rights include the right to live in any part of the country.
By asking the Fulani people to leave the south, are we actually doing the right thing? Are we not trying to take laws into our own hands by acting outside the jurisdiction of the Constitution? The law is sweet when it is in our hands, but it becomes bitter when it ends up in the hands of the other person. How would we feel if the Igbos, Yorubas and other southerners doing business in the north were asked to leave the north?
This is in no way trying to support the atrocities of these criminal herdsmen, but we should not make the mistake of criminalizing an entire ethnic group because of the activities of a few bad eggs among them. Sometimes we need to call a spade a spade. Just as there are kidnappers among the Fulani herdsmen, there are also kidnappers and murderers among the Igbos, Yorubas, and other ethnic groups. And just as there are good people among the Igbos, Yorubas and other tribes, there are also good people among the Fulani. The infamous kidnapper Evans was Igbo, yet we did not end up labelling the entire Igbo people as kidnappers because of his evil actions.
The same way it is evil to label an entire ethnic group as money ritualists because a few people from there were alleged to have acquired their wealth through blood rituals. The biggest mistake we can do as a people is to indict a tribe because of a few criminal elements among them. But there are ways to filter the bad eggs from the good ones without causing any social upheaval in the society, and one of the most effective ways to do that is by setting laws on the land that are binding on the Fulani herdsmen. In that way, the Fulani herdsmen would be the ones to leave the region if they cannot obey those laws, thereby none of them would say they were asked to leave the region.
In my own opinion, instead of asking the Fulani herdsmen to leave the south, there are 4 important things the southerners need to ask them to do.
1. Every herdsman operating in any state must register with the state government.
This would be one of the most effective ways a state government would be able to check the excesses of the herdsmen in their region. The state governments in the south should enforce laws mandating herdsmen who wish to do business in their state to register with the government and be given identity card before they can settle there and do business. In that way the state government will know the number of herdsmen they have in their state, and will be able to monitor their activities there.
Being registered and getting an identity card will also make it easier for the government to track any herder that engages in crimes in the region.
2. Herdsmen should be banned from carrying guns around.
One of the things I always failed to understand is why these herdsmen go about with guns everytime. How can you say you are doing business in a region, yet you go about with sophisticated guns like AK 47 in that region? The possession of these guns alone is a major reason why they end up being suspected, because unless they see themselves as enemies of the host communities, then there should no reason for them to carry guns about.
So state governments in the south should set laws that ban herdsmen from going about with guns. It is obvious it is these guns they move about that give some of them the guts to carry out the atrocities they carry out in these places.
3. Any herdsmen operating in a region must rent a house and live among the host communities, and not live in the forests.
It is suspicious to have the Fulani herdsmen isolate themselves from the host community where they are doing their business. It cannot be said that the Igbos, Yorubas and other southerners doing business in the north live in forests over there. They live among the people, and that is the same thing the Fulani herdsmen need to be asked to do.
Living among the people would create an atmosphere of trust between them and the host community, and in that way, the host communities would also be able to see what they are doing.
Reports have it that these forests where they stay are where some of them take their victims to when they kidnap them. So state governments need to establish laws banning the herdsmen from living in the forests. If they must do business in any state, then they must rent a house among the people and live.
4. Cattle must be banned from roaming the streets and highways.
Finally, the Fulani herdsmen must be banned from roaming the streets and highways with their cattle. Any Fulani herder willing to do business in any state must meet the state government and register, after that, the government would then give them a portion where they can build a ranch for their cattle.
They can keep their cattle there and go there everyday to do their business, and at the end of the day they will go back to their house in the community.
They should not allow their cattle graze on people's crops in the name of doing business, because the same way they are trying to make ends meet, that's the same way those farmers whose crops they are destroying are trying to make ends meet.
In my opinion, these are the best ways to go about these clashes between the Fulani herdsmen and host communities. Setting laws to regulate how a business should be run in a particular place is not a crime. After all, in Kano State we have the Hisbah Police regulating how certain businesses are being run. We have seen instances where the Hisbah Police destroyed beers worth millions of naira belonging to business people, and that's because they don't want beers to be sold in their region.
In other words, the Hisbah Police are not telling these people to leave their state, but you would be the one to leave Kano by yourself if you feel you cannot abide by the laws of the Hisbah Corps. That's exactly what southerners need to do, instead of giving quit notices to Fulani herdsmen in the region, they need to enforce laws to regulate their business activities, and if they cannot abide by those laws, they might then be forced to leave. Because quite frankly, no one has the right to tell anyone living in any part of Nigeria to leave their land.
What do you about this - do you think state governments in the south need to enforce laws to regulate the activities of the Fulani herdsmen, or you think giving them quit notice is the right thing to do?
Content created and supplied by: Richiehenshaw (via Opera News )