Wherever I go people who know I am from Benue State always ask one same question: “Fulani herdsmen are killing your people and what are your people doing about it?” ‘I am sad, but I don’t want Anti-Grazing Law’ is usually my answer. I mean Anti-grazing law is not necessary, because it draws unnecessary attention. We don’t need such law as its enforcement would be difficult. State government has no capacity to enforce such law. States lack power because all the security agencies are under the control of federal government.
I do not support open grazing of cattle. If a herdsman wants to feed his cattle, he should have his own identified land where he should be rearing them. Herdsmen should restrict themselves to a particular place for grazing of their livestock. If your cow strays to my farmland, you should know you have committed a trespass against me and you must compensate me. And I, the farmer shouldn’t come to your grazing land to farm or do anything that will be injurious to your animals. Herdsmen should understand that just as they value their cows, farmers also value their crops. They cannot destroy farmers’ crops because they will never be happy if farmers kill even a single cow belonging to them.
Nomads are naturally violent and value no human life. They value the lives of their animals so they hate any laws that will affect their movement. Since by nature they are ready to kill human beings for any wrong against them, we should understand that what farmers need to protect their crops is wisdom.
When a State enacts anti-grazing law, what agency will it use to enforce it? Is it Nigeria Police or Civil defence which is under the federal government or the Military? The State lacks funds to maintain its own paramilitary to enforce its laws. So what will happen…if a herdsman is cautioned by a farmer whose right is violated, the farmer is not safe. Farmers need protection.
What is the best approach to control herdsmen’s excesses? The law and task force agency to enforce it is counterproductive. I recommend a mobile court where herdsmen who allow their cattle to destroy farmers’ crops will be brought to under civil matter and not as criminals. What farmers need as justice is compensation. The crops destroyed should be valued and the herder should be made to pay to the victim. Parties could be brought to court and the matter could be heard and judgement delivered the same day.
It should be a mobile court where legal representation will not be necessary. But expert magistrates should be appointed to preside over the proceedings. Since every land belongs to someone else, herders must acquire their own lands by purchasing them legally from the owners. The herders should be educated to restrict their grazing to the lands belonging to them. When the herdsmen are made to pay compensations regularly, they will understand the tenet of civilization and begin to adjust to modernization.