Friday, April 15, 2016
I was going to find time to write about Agatu.
I was going to write about this relatively unknown town, and how I had first come in contact with it, when I was but a broke ‘Youth Corper’.
I was going to narrate how my best friend who had been posted there as her place of primary assignment would come visiting with 7 tubers of yam, bought at just N45. Write about how I became attached to the town… how Agatu came to symbolise some respite for a fresh hustler.
I was going to pour my grievance about how its townsmen had been slaughtered by cattle herdsmen, without one word of commiseration from the Presidency. Barely a nod of acknowledgement from the country’s prominent ‘leaders’.
I had planned to express my indignation at the growing brazenness of the cattle herdsmen, who have turned murderers, and would ‘protect’ their cattle with human blood.
I was going to court being accused of 'tribalism' in condemning the proliferation of their nefarious acts into Enugu State, and question the arrest of members of the community who exercised their right to protect their lives and property, in warding off these herdsmen.
But I have been distracted by the National Assembly. ‘Our’ National Assembly.
(It appears that this is their recently adopted modus operandi; distract us with the most bizarre things)
This present distraction is the National Grazing Routes and Reserves Bill.
Naturally, my attention has shifted. Slightly
I cannot replicate the full provisions of the proposed Bill. In a nutshell, this Bill proposes that:
1. A National Grazing Route and Reserve Commission be established, with funds allocated to it from the Federal Account
2. Every State is mandated to provide for an office of the Commission in the State’s Ministry of Agriculture or Lands, with the Commission’s Head Office in the Federal Capital Territory.
3. The Commission will establish “Cattle Routes, Farm Camp and Grazing Reserves” in different parts of the Country, which cattle herdsmen will use for grazing and feeding their livestock.
4. Every State is mandated to cooperate with the Commission in providing the land for Grazing, as requested.
5. It is only the Commission that can authorize persons to enter and use the identified routes and grazing reserves.
6. Eventually, such grazing lands may be turned to ranches
Summary: There will be compulsorily acquired lands nationwide, to be made available to cattle owners, to feed their livestock and keep them in business.
(You can download the full Bill here)
Where do I begin?
(Where would YOU begin?)
Do I start by pointing out that this would eventually lead to conflict with the unfettered ownership in land given to the Governor of each State by the Land Use Act?
(Not that I do not have issues with that ownership. It is discussion for another day)
Do I delve into the vagueness of the proposed law, in enforcing its provisions, and in preventing clashes between the herdsmen and the original owners of the lands through which the cattle ‘routes’ run?
Ok. Let me start with the discriminatory nature of this absurd bill.
Is there a corresponding ‘National Fish Farming and Feeding Waters Pool’ (or something like that) Act or Bill?
Do we have a ‘Nigerian Chicken and Sundry Poultry Growing, Rearing, Feeding and Cultivation Nationwide Farms’ Act or Bill?
Why were cattle-owners singled out to have their business nationally carried on the shoulder of each Nigerian??
Oh… wait. I can almost hear some half-baked (typical Nigerian) response.
“It is better to give them some land they can be using to feeding their cattle, so they can stop killing people…”
Let us hypothesise that the 'waters' for all the Bakassi fishermen in Cross-River began to dry up. The fishermen began invading private property of innocent citizens, to seek ‘waters’ for their fishes.
Rather than stop the reign of terror on citizens, rather than explore options for generating water supply in Cross-River, let us hypothesise that the Government decides to acquire lands from the same citizens, to equip the fishermen with the very thing for which they killed innocent citizens.
(This analogy is not good enough)
Let us look at the yam farmers from South-East Nigeria.
Let us imagine that the lands in the South-East are being used up in building lush and attractive houses for the rich people. There are no more lands for planting of yams.
Then… the yam farmers begin to encroach unto the neighbouring villages. Slowly encroaching into the neighbouring States. Maiming and killing and terrorizing the host communities of the lands they have encroached on, seeking fresh planting ground for their yams.
Would it be acceptable for the Government, in response to the acts of the Yam farmers, to mandate that lands be yielded nationwide for the Yam farmers to plant their yams?
The foregoing is what the half-baked argument (I presume) in support of the ‘Grazing Bill’ is suggesting.
It is this same half-baked argument that would suggest amnesty for ‘repentant’ members of Boko-Haram; that would seek to compare members of the sect to members of the Niger-Delta militancy, responsible for oil bunkering.
Not that I support the Niger-Delta militancy or any form of violence. But in what sane world could oil bunkering in the Niger-Delta be comparable to the killing, the maiming, the reckless shattering of human lives and kidnapping of young girls carried on by the Boko-Haram sect, to warrant amnesty being granted to ‘repentant’ members of the sect?
Forgive me, I digress.
(You must have noticed; I am quite angry)
This ‘Grazing Bill’ is unacceptable, as its passage would mean that the government is not only being commercially discriminatory in favour of cattle-owners, but is also rewarding the various recorded acts of killing and maiming carried out by the cattle herdsmen all over the country.
It would mean this government is endorsing Murder.
Even if the government was interested in cattle rearing, as a national source of food, it should research on how countries like the United States, Israel, and Australia manage to be among the world’s largest providers of beef, without having to usurp anyone’s land for ‘national grazing’.
It is important to note however that cattle-rearing is a business, just like any other (agricultural) business.
While every business has its own hazards, the owners of such businesses would usually bear the burden of the hazards, not other private individuals. After all, it is the business owners who enjoy the profits.
Similarly, the owners of the cattle should be made to invest in building ranches, so as to feed their livestock, rather than entrench in our national laws the trespassing of private lands by the cattle-rearers and their flock, in the search for greener pastures.
(Ok. I am tired.)
It is my hope that the irritation I feel and have vented here will ignite a righteously angry spark in you who reads this, and this angry spark will keep spreading, so that we the majority do not continue to suffer for the benefit of a few.
After all, government is (supposed to be) for the majority.
P.s. I pray God rests the souls lost in the Agatu massacre; the souls lost in the various slaughters of innocent citizens in Jos; the souls lost in Enugu State; and the future souls to be lost at the hands of these cattle herdsmen, who will continue to kill, maim and destroy innocent lives. Until we as a nation decide to stop this madness.