THE menace of herdsmen all over Nigeria is spreading like wildfire. The consequences are igniting conflicts in the country. Hardly a day passes without their unsavoury activities being reported in the media.
From Benue to Imo, Rivers to Delta and from Ogun to Oyo States, the story is almost the same. Cattle minders simply run their livestock through farmlands, all year round; they graze on them and destroy what they cannot eat, consigning farmers and host communities to starvation and poverty.
Attempts by these farmers to protest the activities of these rampaging vandals often end in bloodshed because the cattle rearers are always armed with sophisticated assault rifles such as AK 47. They have moved from bows, arrows and daggers of a few decades back.
Apart from damaging farmlands, they also invade villages, kill and steal as well as rape women. Reports to the law enforcement agencies often fall on deaf ears, and villagers and their traditional rulers are forced to cry out to state governors for protection with little succour.
These herdsmen clearly violate the African concept of cohabitation between guests and hosts, which says, “May my visitor never bring me harm, and on his way home may he never develop a hunchback”.
Communities are being forced to fight in the absence of protection from the authorities. They are arming their youth vigilantes with equally dangerous weapons to fight back.
If the law enforcement agencies do not rise up to their duties and disarm illegal arms bearers, cattle rearers would cause more challenges in the country’s charged security situation. Illegal grazing should be punished; that the situation has been allowed for years does not mitigate the damage it does and the security problems for the communities. Proliferation of dangerous weapons in rural communities would result in destabilisation.
Farmers and herdsmen are important to the economy. Both should co-exist symbiotically. That has been the arrangement for ages. The new tendency for the nomads to exhibit terrorist and invasive traits must be curbed before it gets worse.
It is time we designed cattle grazing pathways all over the country or better still, reorient the animal farmers to modern options and confine their animals to designated camps. If they insist on being nomads, they must stay away from farms and commit themselves to the rule of civilised conduct and the law.
The National Assembly made a feeble effort at a grazing pathway law. It should be concluded. We are mindful of the dangers and possibilities of religious terrorists infiltrating new areas of the country as rogue herdsmen to extend their bloody campaigns.
If the security agencies act fast, they would avoid more upheavals across Nigeria at minimal costs.