How I Tried And Failed To Solve Nigeria’s Herdsmen-Farmer Crises – Prince Charles Offokaja

Nigeria’s herdsmen-farmer crisis  has led to so many unnecessary deaths and had a very bad effect on Nigeria’s agricultural sector. It has increased the amount of internally displaced people in Nigeria. It also poses grave risks to President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to diversify Nigeria’s economy, following the crash in the price of crude oil.

The answer to this as everybody, both the herdsmen, the federal and state governments, the farmers and the general public have agreed is a phasing out of cattle grazing. That is where the point of departure starts.

The herdsmen made it clear that they lack the funds to buy land for commercial ranching; the Federal Government and sections of the National Assembly started work to create grazing reserves, dedicated for cattle grazing and a Grazing Reserve Commission to be in charge of the whole thing.

But the problem arose when it was clear that under the plan, ethnic ancestral lands would be taken from people and used in these reserves. Thus, many in Southern Nigeria bitterly oppose the grazing reserve plan, seeing it as an attempt to take land from Southerners to give to a profession dominated by Northerners; seeing it in other words, as a ploy that could result in an indirect land grab.

So, this got me thinking as to what I could do to end the problem because tensions between the herdsmen and farming communities all over the country remain high.

Who I am

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Prince Charles Offokaja. I am a journalist, businessman, philanthropist, and blogger, among several other caps I wear. As a blogger I write on several blogs, including Igbodefender.com and Zikistmovement.com; and as a philanthropist, I am the founder of my own NGO, the Prince And Princess Charles Offokaja Foundation, with CAC IT number 75980.

It was as a blogger and as a philanthropist that I proposed to tackle the issue of bringing peace, unity, and harmony between Nigeria’s herdsmen and farmers, 2 of our most important communities.

The Attempt For A Solution

As part of my search for a solution, I ran across a foreign donor organization called the Global Innovation Fund (GIF). The organization funds social innovations all over the world, even to the tune of $15 million dollars.

Their website describes their services thus, ”

The Global Innovation Fund invests in social innovations that aim to improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people in the developing world.

Through our grants and risk capital, we support breakthrough solutions to global development challenges from social enterprises, for-profit firms, non-profit organisations, researchers, and government agencies.

…The fund is flexible in our funding structure: we can provide anywhere from $50,000 – $15 million and we can use any form of capital – grants, equity, debt, hybrid capital, etc.

My team and I decided to apply for a grant of $15 million (N4.5 billion) to set up and then donate a 30,000 Hectare mega ranch to the principal herdsmen association in Nigeria, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria or MACBAN. Continue reading “How I Tried And Failed To Solve Nigeria’s Herdsmen-Farmer Crises – Prince Charles Offokaja”

Grazing areas for Nigeria’s herdsmen must be Federally Owned (to enhance security for the herdsmen and quell local suspicions)

In the past few months we have seen a multiplication of bloody clashes and tensions between Fulani herdsmen and farmers from various parts of the country. These parts include the South South, South East, South West and the Middle Belt/North Central.

One of the bloodiest clashes is the one that happened recently in the town of Agatu in Benue State, where hundreds of people were reportedly killed and thousands displaced from their homes. But the violence is not restricted to that place.

A kingdom in Delta State lost its monarch when he was kidnapped and murdered by suspected herdsmen. In the South West the same fate almost met Olu Falae, a traditional ruler and politician of Yoruba stock. The story is not much different in the South East, as the people of Nsukka and other areas have claimed that their farmlands have been attacked, their youth killed or maimed and their women raped.

All this has led to a huge outcry and accusations that President Buhari , who is not just a Fulani man, but reportedly one of the Grand Patrons of the Fulani cattle breeders association is biased towards them – that, that was the reason for the silence of the Federal Government in recent times in light of the killings of locals by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

Perhapse to dispell those insinuations, President Buhari, through his minister for agriculture Audu Ogbe, has announced that Federal Government has mapped out grazing areas where the Fulani herdsmen would be restricted to.

Nigerians have been told that in 24 months no cows will be seen roaming about in any part of the country.

That announcement has been widely welcomed, but if not handled well the implementation could backfire and lead to greater crises.

This is because the Fulani herdsmen are held with great suspicion by many in other parts of the country, rightly or wrongly. A lot of people believe that the whole crises is fuelled by an attempt by the Fulani to take over the country and with time, appoint traditional rulers of their own in every zone.

The herdsmen are even accused of forming a whole new ethnic group in Plateau State for the same purpose. If amid such speculation, the ownership papers of grazing land is handed over to the herdsmen when the government finally launches the grazing lands project, it will create a lot of controversy in the land.

That is why the ownership of the grazing areas must remain in the hands of the Federal Government – the same way military barracks in the country are owned by the Federal Government.

Not adhering to this may open President Muhammadu Buhari to political risks as it would create a perception that the president is furthering territory-grabbing by his ethnic group at the expense of national interest.

The Federal ownership of grazing lands will serve as additional protection for the Fulani herdsmen. Research has shown that the presence of Federally owned barracks all over the country has protected guests of local communities during times of inter-ethnic tensions.

For instance, the Hausa community in various parts of the country have been known to seek and find adequate refuge in Federal barracks during times of ethnic tension. That has sometimes been more helpful than having to swarm the motor parks and then still face risks on their way out of the troubled area.

Of course the same level of protection from harm given in the barracks should be provided for the Fulani herdsmen in the Federal owned grazing areas. That way, the agelong tension between the Fulani herdsmen and locals can be brought to an end, and the Fulani herdsmen can face their business of cattle rearing without being accused of attempting to occupy and take over the lands of other people for ethnic purposes.

NB: The only way the herdsmen may own grazing land in a way that will be acceptable to the local populations is if they employ the strategy of ranching. That way they buy the land with their own money; and it must be emphasized that the Fulani herdsman has every right to buy landed property from any part of the country, just like the Igbos and every other ethnic groups who buy land from outside their indigenous zones.

This approach may even be better than the grazing lands approach, because it will completely isolate President Buhari from any accusations of preferential treatment towards his ethnic group and it will open the business of the herdsmen to greater commercial potential.

According to government officials, the herdsmen are still very reluctant to abandon their nomadic culture. but so were the cowboys of the United Staes before they fully embraced ranching, and today they are the better for it.