Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate Thursday expressed grave concern over the protracted deadly clashes between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of the country, saying the trend portends grave danger to national security, national unity and harmony among communities.
The parliament therefore advised the federal government to establish ranches and grazing reserves across the country. It also asked the government to check proliferation of arms and ammunition among the herdsmen.
The Senate also condemned the criminal activities of some of the herdsmen whom they said hid under the cover of the animal rearing to perpetrate harrowing activities against settlers and their farmlands. It warned cattle owners to ensure that the grazing of their cattle does not infringe on the rights of farmers and consequently stall agricultural production.
The mover of the motion, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North), said the perennial clashes have spread from East to the West, Middle-belts to the North as a result of the insensitivity of the herdsmen to economic and cultural norms of farm owners.
According to him, the herdsmen lead their cattle to graze on farmlands indiscriminately, resulting in destruction of farmlands and economic sabotage adding that illegal possession of arms by the herdsmen culminates in security breach.
He also observed that the trend culminated in armed robbery, human savagery, rampant rape of innocent women and kidnapping of settlers, warning that if the trend continued, it could result in political and economic crises. He described the act as a threat to civilisation.
In his contribution, Senator Barnabbas Gemade (Benue North-east) recalled how the herdsmen had burnt houses and made their cows to graze farmlands under their watchful eyes as he advocated the need to restrict movements of criminal elements parading themselves as herdsmen through security agencies.
Also contributing, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa Central), claimed that the crisis was being fueled by the decisions of some farmers to break into gazetted parks and reserved areas to farm. He said the situation deprived Fulani herdsmen of the traditional places of grazing for their cows.
In his remark, Senate President Bukola Saraki advocated the need to put paid to the crisis by ensuring that there are grazing reserves across the country. In another motion, Senator John Enoh (Cross River Central) advocated the need to revive and resuscitate River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) across the country, noting that Nigeria now solely relies on one seasonal farming period which he said was inadequate to satisfy the current food needs of the people.
Enoh, who further noted that Nigeria had vast arable farm lands, abundant water and river basin resources that are capable of guaranteeing farming activities throughout the year, recalled that the federal government created 11 RBDAs in 1976 to provide water for irrigation and domestic supply.
He said the essence of the creation of RBDAs was to use the platforms as development models to forestall a drift from rural to urban communities.
The Senate therefore advised the Minister of Water Resources to tackle the crisis militating against the functioning of the RBDAs.
It also asked the Senate Committee on Water Resources to inspect and assess the state of RBDAs across the country and report findings to the parliament.