Con­tro­versy over graz­ing re­serves not new – Sha­gaya

A for­mer min­is­ter of in­ter­nal af­fairs and a mem­ber of the 6thSe­nate, re­tired Bri­gadierGen­eral John Sha­gaya, speaks on why some states are against the pro­posed graz­ing re­serve bill and Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari’s lead­er­ship so far. Ex­cerpt:

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - From Lami Sadiq, Jos

How would you rate the per­for­mance of APCled ad­min­is­tra­tion?

The APC-led gov­ern­ment, which I am part of, has done well, con­sid­er­ing the over­whelm­ing chal­lenges that it in­her­ited. It is more dif­fi­cult to pick the pieces of a ro­bot and build than to de­stroy. This is a re­build­ing stage. Al­most ev­ery as­pect of our economic sec­tor had turned to pieces. Even the most dis­ci­plined or­gan of a coun­try, which is its armed forces, be­came morally bank­rupt. You find gen­er­als, mar­shals and ad­mi­rals stock­ing mil­lions of dol­lars of pub­lic funds in their homes, as if it were nothing. So, we were morally de­rail­ing as a na­tion.

Many peo­ple com­plain of suf­fer­ing in the coun­try, is there hope for some respite?

I think the gov­ern­ment has sev­er­ally said that there are pro­vi­sions in the budget to re­duce the pains. It has also said that money re­cov­ered will be re­turned to those ar­eas from where they were stolen.

Many peo­ple have faulted the pres­i­dent’s fre­quent trav­el­ing, what is your view?

Many Nige­ri­ans will not un­der­stand the rea­sons for the trav­el­ing of the pres­i­dent, but, you have to re­pair some of the dam­ages around you first. Cer­tain things have gone wrong, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the fact that we are not a pro­duc­ing na­tion. Now, con­fi­dence is be­gin­ning to re­turn to Nige­ria. Al­most ev­ery coun­try is rush­ing to visit Nige­ria, and to say to Muham­madu Buhari, ‘you are do­ing some­thing right.’ That tells you that the eti­quet of diplo­macy did not al­low them, few years back, to say some­thing was go­ing wrong.

Some peo­ple say that the threats posed by some herds­men over­shadow the Boko Haram men­ace. Do you think the gov­ern­ment is do­ing enough in this area?

I think the first thing to be done is what the pres­i­dent has doneau­tho­ris­ing se­cu­rity agen­cies, with the un­der­stand­ing of tra­di­tional in­sti­tu­tions and state gover­nors, to curb the men­ace. I am sus­pect­ing that the ac­tiv­i­ties are be­ing spon­sored by the de­trac­tors of Buhari, be­ing a Fu­lani man and a pres­i­dent from the north­ern part of Nige­ria, haven taken over from some­one from the South-south. If you go back to write-ups in the me­dia and read the state­ments of some peo­ple who ac­quired bil­lions of naira, it wouldn’t be out of place to think that such peo­ple could spon­sor per­pe­tra­tion of il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties within some par­tic­u­lar com­mu­ni­ties. What we are see­ing is some­thing that has never hap­pened be­fore. I know, from my 70 years on earth, that there were ded­i­cated graz­ing routes and that Umuahia was the ma­jor cow and ram mar­ket be­tween 1937 and 1943 in the East. Then, any­body in Port Harcourt, and parts of the East, that wanted to buy cow, went to Umuahia. For La­gos, the only area that they went to was Malo Street, off Is­land, very close to Aje­gunle. The ma­jor trad­ing cen­tre for the north­ern cow drivers was Ibadan. And to say to­day that peo­ple will drive cows to cer­tain place and kill peo­ple, I don’t be­lieve that be­cause it takes sons of the soil, who know the place and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of their com­mu­ni­ties, to com­mit such crime. So, it re­quires in­ves­ti­ga­tions, we should find out who is be­hind it. The only time that this coun­try was faced with a threat of mas­sive move­ment of live­stock from some West African coun­tries was in 1984, from Ghana and Togo, where they called it trans-hu­man move­ment. That was when Fu­lani herders were sacked from Ghana and Togo and I hap­pened to be the chair­man of the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment committee that re­ceived those Fu­lani. We estab­lished them around Niger, Benin Repub­lic, Kwara and Kamba, and since then, dis­cus­sions have been on­go­ing to look for graz­ing ar­eas. But, at a point, we dropped the idea and to­day it has be­come an is­sue that mem­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly are in­ter­ested in. There is a bill that has gone through sec­ond read­ing on the need to es­tab­lish graz­ing re­serves in the six geopo­lit­i­cal zones of the coun­try. That is some­thing that has been dis­cussed, start­ing from 1984 up to the ten­ure of Jonathan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. But, it is also some­thing some states say they are not in­ter­ested in. Some states may say they don’t want and they will be right to say so.

The East has never been an area for graz­ing. It was only a mar­ket to sell-within Umuahia. The East does not have such lux­ury of land as we have in the North to sac­ri­fice for graz­ing. So, the at­ti­tudes are bound to be dif­fer­ent.

But it shouldn’t be seen to be re­lated to the graz­ing re­quire­ments alone, the re­sponse of peo­ple in ar­eas south of rivers Benue and Niger, in terms of es­tab­lish­ing gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tion, has al­ways been ‘we don’t have land.’ That is why you find most train­ing in­sti­tu­tions of se­cu­rity or­gan­i­sa­tions lo­cated in the North.

The north­ern ad­min­is­tra­tors will say ‘come, we will give you land.’ So, I don’t think they should be blamed for it. But, we must un­der­stand that in terms of live­stock pro­duc­tion, we have been de­pend­ing on mi­grant Fu­la­nis that come from Niger and Chad. Hence, if you look at the mi­gra­tion and sea­sonal move­ment, when the Sa­he­lian desert is dry, it is the only time you wit­ness the mass move­ment of cows into the Sa­vanah grass land of Nige­ria.

And as at the time they hit River Benue and slightly be­low, rain­ing sea­son would have started, and then the mi­gra­tion route re­verses it­self. In Au­gust and Septem­ber, we be­gin to have rains and they go back to Niger. So, the day they refuse to sup­ply us cows and rams, you will know that ours can­not match what comes from there. If you read the sta­tis­tics of live­stock pro­duc­tion, we pro­duce just about one third to com­ple­ment what comes from Niger. The rams you see dur­ing Sal­lah, Easter and Christ­mas are mostly not bred in Nige­ria, they come from Niger. So, if the East says they don’t need it, why not cre­ate the graz­ing re­serves in places that can provide the land? I sug­gest that any sub­re­gion that says they don’t have land, then, it is the right of those who do the an­i­mal busi­ness to say come to our do­main and buy it. Go to Wase (in Plateau State), if you want one mil­lion cows, you will get, de­spite all the ha­rass­ments.

Re­tired Gen­eral John Sha­gaya

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