Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State first announced that his administration was going to embrace the establishment of Fulani herdsmen (cattle colonies) in the state, the people of Kogi reacted to the idea with mixed feelings. But recently, the state government explained the philosophy behind its decision.
Abdulkarim Abdulmalik, director-general, Kogi State Information Services and Grassroots Sensitisation, has disclosed that the intention was to curtail movement of the cattle herdsmen and provide adequate security of lives and property.
Abdulmalik disclosed this in an interview with journalists in Lokoja. According to him, the general principle behind the cattle colonies was to check criminalities and mayhem cropping up from Fulani herdsmen/farmers’ clashes, adding that Fulanis were cohabiting with people in various communities and doing their businesses without hindrance, but the major problem was the itinerant herdsmen who migrate from one place to another with their cattle destroying farm produce with impunity.
The DG said government in its wisdom felt it was better to embrace the cattle colonies in order to tame and curtail their movement instead of leaving them to move around all over the place and cause a lot of menace in the various communities they cross.
“Government said let them have a designated place where they would be restricted with their animals whereby they would not be able to move beyond the designated place and if they do and anything happens they would be liable,” he said.
However Abdulmalik regretted that some members of the public had misinterpreted the position of government to embrace cattle colonies which is aimed at checking the wanton shed of innocent blood.
He alleged that those kicking against the creation of cattle colonies misunderstood Yahaya Bello’s idea of integrating the nomads in the state government system with their leaders’ involvement at community, local government and state levels as a way of holding them whenever there is clash between herdsmen and host communities.
“Hence, if there is any problem there is a line of communication through which they could be resolved. If we don’t integrate them, they are still passing by and they are destroying your produce, it becomes more difficult for us to do anything.
So, we have to be broad-minded and look at the issues rationally with opened mind. We need them, they need us and they are of some economic benefit to us just as we are to them. All that is needed is for us to look at the nagging problem areas,” he explained.
According to him, “The ranch system is as old as before the old republic. Obudu Cattle Ranch was established in the 50s by Sir Ahmadu Bello with similar purpose as the colony but was not improved upon.
“If we buy into the State Government’s proposal we would have started the process of modernising the rearing of cattle. All that is needed is to appreciate the wisdom in the policy.”
He equally disclosed that plans were underway to convey an expansive stakeholders’ meeting, adding that those expected to attend the meeting are the Miyetti Allah group, the traditional rulers, the local government leaders, religious leaders, youth leaders, top government officials and other organisations in the state.
Abdulmalik also explained that on the issue of land ownership and aversion to ceding land to the Fulani herdsmen for the purpose of the colonies and ranches, there was so much land in the state and around the country that would very likely not be put to use in the next hundred years, adding that “with this, government is also coming up with a law on the minimum age for the pastoralists who will tend their cattle.”
According to him, “The law would equally check the present practice of allowing under-aged to tend a large number of cattle”, saying, “When this comes up, the Fulani herdsmen may not even be happy now with the colony idea because they are used to roving around but the government cannot fold its arms and allow this mayhem to continue everywhere in the society,” he said.