From Okwe Obi, Abuja

 

•Herder and cattle on the expressway

 

Open grazing has been an age-long tradition in most developing countries. Overtime, the practice of animal husbandry has increased the revenue of some society.

•Wike

In the same vein, it has depleted and distorted the fortune and beauty of most countries like Nigeria as a result of the unending crisis between herders and farmers caused by unregulated movement.

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja seems to be the latest epicenter for cattle to roam without recourse to the beauty and image it has before international visitors.

•Arome

Most residents of the seat of power are grumbling because the allure, serenity and urbanization are being defaced by the lawless movement of cattle even in areas without grasses.

From Wuse to Nyanya, Gwarinpa to Dei-Dei, Zuba to Garki, Maitama to Lokogoma, Apo to Life camp, Gwagwalada to Jabi and Waru to Asokoro, cattle mill freely and leave mountains of dung everywhere.

•Nyulaku-Bemshima

The environmental mess has added to the workload of street cleaners, whose lamentations have not changed the ugly scenario.

Aside that, vehicular movements are, sometimes, obstructed because the herders, who are mostly teenagers without basic western education, find it difficult curtailing the movement of their herds as they stray into the expressway causing traffic congestion and scare residents who cannot stand the sight of cows.

In most cases, the animals run into moving vehicles which, in most occasions, lead to accident.

Horticulturists and petty traders, who deal mostly on vegetables are at the receiving end of the animals and their minders as their gardens and foodstuffs are eaten or destroyed with reckless abandon.

Instances are abound where officers of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) wage war against cattle and arrest some and the owners for violating the laws. Yet, nothing has changed.

An environmental expert, Kayode Emmanuel, frowned at the unregulated cattle movement in the FCT.

He said: “Speaking from the perspective of an environmentalist, it is unhealthy for cattle to be roaming the streets of Abuja.

“If you check, most countries are phasing out this practice. Animals cannot be encroaching on people’s land and right of passage and we turn a blind eye to it.

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“The owners should buy lands and rear these animals, to preserve our environment. Government should resist the movement of cattle.”

Also, President, Nigeria Young Farmers Network, Abubakar Bamai Musa, said government should look into the policies of open grazing and find a lasting solution to the practice.

“If you look at the grazing system all over the world, nobody is having open grazing.

“We have had the issue of herders and farmers crisis because of open grazing. I think it is something that the government has to critically look into the policies where grazing has to be in isolated places.

“We have technology of raffia grass and grasses that are coming from Cambodia and other countries. It is something we can do and they will grow in specific places. It is something we need to put a limit to.

“We can even expose these people to western education and the technological part of it,” he said.

But the proposed move by the Minister of FCT, Nyesom Wike, to restrict cattle movement has sharply divided opinions among stakeholders in the agricultural and economic spheres.

Country Director of International Alert, Dr Paul Nyulaku-Bemshima, welcomed the idea, but said government should be careful on how to drive home the policy.

He said: “The movement of cattle and how to manage it has been a long debate in Nigeria. I think for the city centre, the movement of cattle needs to be carefully managed because there are environmental implications.

“There are also hazards involved when cattle are allowed to move freely within the nation’s capital. There is a lot of administrative activities going on in Abuja.

“So, movement of cattle can create obstruction of people within the city centre. Abuja is a city where movement of vehicles need to be free. Pedestrian movement needs to be free.

“We need to review how to manage the movement of cattle. We need to make provisions on how cattle can move. The restriction is important.

“But far more importantly is that we need to reflect on how to manage movement of cattle.

“People who depend on cattle rearing as a means of livelihood also need to know what provision had been made for them in terms of policies because these are group of people that move from a very long distance.

“It is a trans-human issue. So, when they get to this point we need to create a way they can carry on with their lives.

“So, I think it is not a bad policy in itself but I think we need to go a step further to make plan on how these cattle can move.

“There has been a lot of conversation about whether open grazing or ranching. But I think we can create situations where certain designated areas in the FCT are earmarked so that those rearing cattle can actually know that this is their right of way so that they can actually pass through those locations.

“I think that might help. Because ranching, sometimes, is not very attractive to herders because there is a whole lot that is involved in herding cattle; it is about their culture.

“It is about their identity. When they move through several cities, communities, they talk to their kith and kin. They settle in certain areas where the land is green.

“So, there is quite a lot that is involved in the movement of cattle beyond restricting them.

“But if we have a couple of them who are willing to ranch these cattle I think it would be a great idea to establish cattle ranches so that they can stay temporarily in those ranches as they move forward to other locations.”

Also, the Executive Director of Africa Youth Growth Foundation (AYGF), Dr Salifu Arome, wholeheartedly supported the restriction initiative.

He said: “Open grazing of cattle is not a  good thing. The move by the FCT minister to restrict it is a good move. What is bad is bad. What is good is good. Government cannot act out of fear. I do not think that is the right thing to do.”