REVEALED: How Fulani herdsmen’s sponsors insist on open grazing to grab land—security experts, farmers


Open grazing, which was once considered a traditional livestock management practice in many regions, is now under increasing scrutiny for its socioeconomic and environmental consequences.

While proponents claim that open grazing promotes economic growth and preserves cultural heritage, a critical perspective suggests that it is more than just economic viability.

Instead, the practice is frequently associated with larger agendas, such as strategic land grabs from indigenous communities. This viewpoint sheds light on how open grazing intersects with complex issues of land ownership, resource control, and power dynamics, emphasising the importance of comprehensive understanding and long-term solutions in navigating this contentious terrain, reports Saturday Independent.

For many years, open grazing in Nigeria has been a contentious issue, with debates centred on its economic, security, environ­mental, and societal implications.

While some argue that open grazing is a tradi­tional practice that is critical to the live­lihoods of many Fulani pastoralists in the country, others highlight its negative impacts on land use, conflict resolution, and economic development.

The assertion that open grazing is primarily about strategic land grabs from indigenous people, rather than Nigerian economic growth, sheds light on the country’s complex dynamics.

There are some key points that experts and farmers consider when opposing open grazing of animals by herders, most of whom are Fulani pastoralists.

Nigeria has a long history of land tenure systems that have frequently favoured powerful elites or external in­terests over indigenous communities.

Strategic land grabs and land alienation are not new issues in the country, with roots dating back to colonial times and post-independence political dynamics.

While open grazing has been a tradition­al livelihood strategy for herdsmen, its economic impact on the national econ­omy is debatable. Inefficient land use practices, environmental degradation, and conflicts caused by open grazing activities have stifled economic growth and agricultural productivity in many areas.

This is especially true when the issue of open grazing revolves around land control and management. Powerful interests, including political elites, cor­porations, vested groups, and tribes, use open grazing practices to deprive indig­enous communities of their ancestral lands for commercial or political gain.

Open grazing frequently causes con­flicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers over land ownership, resource access, and environmental degradation. These conflicts have continued to esca­late into violence, disrupting local econ­omies and posing significant security challenges in the affected areas. They provide examples of what is happen­ing in Plateau and Benue states.

Open grazing has long-term environmental consequences, including deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution, which have implications for sustainable land use and rural development. Unregulat­ed grazing practices can harm ecosys­tems, reduce agricultural productivity, and endanger biodiversity.

Addressing the underlying issues as­sociated with open grazing necessitates a comprehensive approach that takes into account the economic, social, and environmental aspects of the problem. Policies that promote sustainable land use practices, provide alternative live­lihoods for pastoralists, and protect indigenous land rights are critical for addressing the root causes of land dis­putes and resource conflicts.

This is one of the reasons Ni­gerians have pushed for regulation by sponsoring anti-grazing bills, despite efforts by Fulani herdsmen and their sponsors to kill such potential laws in the National Assembly.

The anti-open grazing bill currently before the Senate is a welcome development, though there are some reservations about it. The bill, which is in its second reading, seeks to establish a commission to regulate cattle herders’ activities.

Senator Titus Zam, who represents Benue North West in the Tenth Senate, is the bill’s sponsor. The Bill seeks to es­tablish specific regulations for the estab­lishment and management of ranches throughout Nigeria.

It should be noted that, as good as the Bill is, findings show that some Senators oppose it, arguing that the National Assembly lacks the constitutional authority to pass ranch­ing legislation. The senators contend that the Supreme Court Judge has also claimed that the National Assembly lacks the authority to pass this Bill.

Ambassador Edewor Egedegbe, a Global Peace Ambassador and Chair­man of the Board of Trustees for the Citizens Rights Concern Enhancement Initiative, stated that the Bill is long overdue, given the atrocities commit­ted by marauding herdsmen across the country.

He added that “no doubt, the proposed law aims to resolve the long­standing conflicts between herders and farmers in Nigeria,” he said, adding that if a nation’s National Assembly cannot legislate on a protracted crisis-ridden concern of its people, what is the point of such an Assembly?

He added: “Some also argue citing the 1999 Constitution that every citizen has the right to move without any hin­drance; I largely agree that every citizen has the right to freedom of movement as provided in Section 41 of the Constitu­tion, but if you go further in that same chapter four of the Constitution, Section 45 provides that nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40, and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reason­ably justifiable in a democratic society.

“In my humble opinion, this im­portant bill should be given accelerated passage, just as budget appropriation is. The utility of this bill far outweighs what opposing forces see as a disadvan­tage. The passage of this Bill will largely alleviate the country’s insecurity caused by criminally minded herders and their sponsors, paving the way for food securi­ty, a critical component of social protec­tion,” Ambassador Egedegbe contin­ued.

Hon. Ebube Ebisike George, the SOAD Minister of Trade, told our correspondent this week that open grazing by Fulani herdsmen has long been about Fulani strategic landgrabs and displacing the original indigenous people through subtle and covert forms of violent and kinetic colonialism.

He claimed that open grazing by Fulani herders has stymied food secu­rity and can be described as an animal exploitative husbandry practice that is geared to and has destabilised Nige­ria’s sustainable agricultural enterprise through mass killings of farmers, de­struction of food and cash crops, spon­sored terrorism, and the creation of synthetic ethnic and religious tensions.

He added that open grazing has been used in recent decades to instill fear in other ethnic groups while allowing for its proliferation by the Nigerian state, which should have dealt with it decisive­ly but instead encouraged its vicious toll on national security, food sovereignty, and citizen rights.

“Husbandry is a private business that must adhere to the principles of the CAMA Act, which states that it must not encumber or obstruct other businesses and enterprises in their operating spac­es. “The personalities and groups that motivate and advocate the herdsmen methodology of open grazing cannot be promoters of positive commercial enterprise and peaceful coexistence, given Nigeria’s fragile state years ago, let alone in the last nine years.”

Ebisike George explained that open grazing is an illegal encroachment on private farmlands, which are either commercial businesses contributing to food security, sovereignty, and the coun­try’s GDP or subsistence farm holdings that provide for the holistic family unit and, in effect, collective society. Open grazing is thus a practice that embod­ies all of the expressive elements of housing hidden motivations, projecting insecurity, and the demise of the farm value chain.

Ebisike, an agriculture expert, stated that any cattle owners or groups opposed to ranching in their areas of Northern Nigeria and preferring the an­tiquated lifestyle of traditional nomadic methods are essentially people who are aware of breeding toxic unrest, carry­ing a hidden agenda, and encouraging insecurity. “First and foremost, cattle rearing is a private business like any other. It entails breeding animals that must be shel­tered, fed, and cleaned, as well as having their health monitored by veterinarians at all times to avoid illness and disease outbreaks.

“Ultimately, the excrements of these animals must be handled, cleared, and disposed of appropriately to ensure the overall safety of the environment. In the twenty-first century, if these funda­mental principles and structures are not followed, humans who eat these animals face a high health risk, with the possibil­ity of disease proliferation leading to the emergence of pathogenic phenomena such as zoonosis,” he stated.

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