…Nigeria Conspicuously Missing
By Eric Elezuo
Averagely, it has been estimated that the world has a total 998.3 million in number of cattle, according to a 2017 inventory.
At the top of the list is India which dethroned Brazil as leader following a 2015 inventory, with 303 million heads of cattle followed by Brazil with 226 million heads and China in the third place with 100 million heads. It is estimated that roughly 63% of the world’s cattle are in India, Brazil and China. (The cattle inventory in India includes water buffalo). Also, the United States has the 4th largest cattle inventory in the world in 2017. See table below:
While these countries and others boast of the huge number of cattle, it is on record that none of them has ever been involved in any act of violence regarding the rearing of the cattle. There has been any reported case of crop destruction in farms necessitated by rampaging activities of the herdsmen and their herd. The reason lies in the fact that countries like India, China, USA, Brazil and even South Africa have devised lasting and acceptable ways of keeping the cows fed and out of farmers’ crops and lands. This they did through the development of ranching system.
In Nigeria however, the rearing of cattle has become a challenge as clashes have become the order of the day between herdsmen and farmers over the use of arable lands, for cattle grazing; lands that are personally and not government owned. These clashes have resulted in commando forms of attack and killings with the latest on New Year day of 2018 when two communities in Benue State were attacked and women and children were massacred. At the last count, 73 persons were reported to have been killed in a most bizarre fashion.
It is worthy of note that in the three areas that cattle ownership proves desirable, Nigeria continue to miss in the number. The areas include number of cattle owned, top milk exporters and top beef exporters. The absence of Nigeria in the index has made it critical to ask the question why the in-fighting over a product that has brought next to nothing to the country in terms of revenue or foreign exchange.
In the prelude to settling the imbroglio, the Federal Government, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Fulani man and cattle merchant, decided to establish cattle colony in every state of the country. Unconfirmed information has it that each volunteer-state is expected to donate 100 thousand hectares of land for that purpose. While about 16 states, through their governors, have given the green light to respond, others, especially states in the Southern parts, have vehemently dissociated themselves from the arrangement.
The Federal Government, according stakeholders in the Nigerian project, need to understand that countries like New Zealand with tops the list of top milk exporting countries earn a whopping revenue of $4.4 billion annually while Australia which tops the list of top beef exporting countries makes $5.6 billion annually. And not only that, these countries employ the best of modern ranching for maximum benefits, using up to date technology to cattle rearing. Consequently Nigerian citizens must not continue to die in the hands of Fulani herdsmen because of the cows.
It should be noted that the option presented by the Federal Government has not gone down well with the people because cattle rearing business is a personal business, and must be undertaken by the owner of the business, otherwise ponds must also be provided for fish farmers in all the states of the federation. Again, whose land will be given for this all important colony that the Federal Government is so concerned about.
Many have argued without classified evidence though that the plot is based on expansionism as a theory to establish Fulani colonies in every corner of the nation, pending an eventual takeover of the country. Others have said the President’s lukewarm attitude is a sign of his nepotistic stand in the affair of things. It is known that the President has not done anything tangible as regards the killings in Benue and its environs, and even failed to attend or send a government presence to funeral of the 73 slain. The best the President did, to be fair, was to receive delegation of seven governors led by Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, who came to endorse him for 2019, while the dead were being buried. Again, he received in audience leaders of Benue in Aso Rock and told them to ‘accommodate their brothers’. And that was how the matter was ‘settled’.
The Nigerian government has told anyone who care to listen of its interest in diversifying the economy, using agriculture, most especially. It is therefore, necessary to understand that billions of dollars can be raked in through the business of cattle and its by-products.
Mrs. Aisha Jibril, lawmaker representing Nafada, Gombe State, once said in the public domain that the Fulani values cattle more than human life, and will not think twice before taking a human life in protection of his cattle. She seemed to have aggregated the minds of the Buhari administration which is populated to a great extent by Fulani men and women. This is going by their vocal silence in all that has happened so far.
The Nigerian citizens in their despondency, has taken solace in 2019 when they hope to cast their votes the other way if need be.