In Spite of the Ban, Open Grazing Grows In Abuja

The Federal Capital Territory Administration outlawed open grazing in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Abuja earlier this year. Muhammed Bello, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, had put a total ban on the activity earlier in 2016. Despite the prohibition, herders boldly and menacingly graze their cattle in the middle of the city, according to Ng Times

Motorists, pedestrians, commuters, and residents of the capital city are all confronted with herders’ activities on various highways and streets.

Dr Hassan Abubakar, the Director of the Abuja Environment Protection Agency, announced this year that the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammed Bello, has granted some alternate spots for cattle grazing in the Kwali, Kuje, and Abaji regions.

Our reporter discovered that grazing is not confined to locations with grasses, but also includes roadways in the midst of cities with no vegetation.

It was also discovered that the practice poses a severe threat to food security and production because the animals graze on farms, destroying crops at will.

However, several of the herders who spoke with our correspondent said they continued to open graze despite the restriction since they, too, were FCT natives with nowhere else to feed their cattle.

They also said that not only had the capital city encroached on their grazing pastures, but that they were also afraid of going into the bushes due to the country’s current state of instability.

They claim that they will only relocate if the government supplies them with grazing lands and the necessary infrastructure.

Baba Yakubu Mohammed, a Fulani herder, said he had resided in Jahi II for more than a decade while his parents had lived there for over a century, herding more than 200 animals including cows, lambs, and goats.

“We are indigenous people of Abuja. We have been inhabiting the place for more than a century. We don’t know any other place apart this place,” he said.

He said that although they were aware that open grazing had been banned in the FCT, they had no option because, “The capital city took over all our grazing lands and blocked the routes where we reared our animals.

“Again, due to the current situation in the country, there is no way we can move our cattle to the bush. As you leave with your animals, criminals will trail you, kill you, alongside your family and rustle all your animals. For us, it’s fire at both ends – town and bush. So, we have no option than to live and graze here. That’s why we are living amidst people.

“If the government can give us a land outside the city, where we will have a grazing area with basic amenities such as schools for our children and health clinic, we won’t hesitate to relocate with our animals and live comfortably.

“We are also worried about the way we are living here. It is not comfortable. Our forefathers were born here. But wherever we settle, we are always driven out of the city. The way things are going in Abuja, one can’t afford to sell one’s herds to buy a plot of land because the price tag is outrageous. Subsequent governments neglected us over the years. We are treated as if we were not real citizens of Nigeria.

“All the places we were living have been sold off. They would just come and evacuate us, alongside our animals. You can see that our homes are just thatched houses. We have lost count of the number of times we have been driven out from one settlement to another.

“We are also Nigerians, with hopes and ambitions for our children. We want them to get quality education and excel in life. Our children are not fortunate to attend school, even though some of them are passionate. We cannot afford school fees for them,” Mohammed said.

Despite the fact that they had lived in the FCT for many years, he bemoaned the fact that no nomadic school had been created for their children.

He also stated that Fulani sociopolitical organizations such as the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders of Nigeria (MACBAN) had failed to represent their interests.

Neither Miyetti Allah nor any other Fulani group is making case for us here. They have never fought for our interest. We are left to our own fate. They are totally disconnected from us,” he said.

He said a minor misunderstanding occurred between them and farmers, adding that there are still some grazing bushes around the FCT.

“Sometimes we receive minor complaints from farmers, that our herds encroach into their farms and destroy crops. But we settle the dispute among ourselves,” he said.

Open grazing has been a source of concern for the public, according to some Abuja residents who spoke with Ng Times about the matter.

Daniel Ayuba, a motorist from Utako, said cattle grazing within the Abuja capital frequently caused traffic on roadways.

Cattle rearing in the city of Abuja has continued to constitute worry to residents. I think herders are emboldened by some powerful men in the political circle. That is why they are untouchable despite all the mess they cause in the city. The authorities have banned them from open grazing, yet they boldly roam about and disturb vehicle movement. Many times I had to control my speed to avoid accident due to herds of cattle crossing the road. A vehicle can lose control and everybody would become victims,” he added.

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