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Spotted along Wuse Zone 2 and Dape areas of Abuja, herders have carried on with their cattle along Abuja roads in violation of the restriction placed on open grazing within the city centre.
Residents of the FCT have expressed concerns over the nuisance caused by the cattle and the threat to life associated with open grazing in Nigeria recently.
Speaking with The ICIR, a Bolt driver, who identified himself as Sena, said herders often obstructed traffic and other daily activities while grazing their cattle in the city.
“There was a time I encountered them around NNPC Towers. So, many cows were obstructing traffic. You have to wait so that they are cleared from the road before you pass. It’s frustrating sometimes,” he said.
A resident of Abuja Adi Samuel told The ICIR that the presence of cattle in the city centre made him feel unsafe.
Adi also said he had been part of a ghastly motor accident resulting from an encounter with herders some years ago.
“This is the capital of Nigeria. Foreigners visit us here. Living with animals inside the town is very bad. They pollute the roads and destroy the flowers planted along the road. The first time I had an accident, it was because of these cows. Instead of them going into the bush, they were crossing the road. I didn’t know that there was a cow that hadn’t crossed. In trying to dodge that cow, I hit the road divider. It was a very bad incident for me,” he said.
For Enakhe Aghedo, who lives in Kubwa, the link between herders and insecurity in the country was a source of concern.
“The lingering insecurity in the city has been linked to these herdsmen. That’s a critical concern for me. Also, the fact that they are yet to vacate the city even after the minster’s directive is scary to say the least as it shows how audacious they have become,” he said.
Reacting to concerns on persistent sighting of cattle within the city, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) Janet Peni said while cattle grazing had been restricted in the city centre, grazing reserves were provided within some area councils in the FCT for the herders.
Peni said the AEPB had been making efforts to curb open grazing within the city through activities of the Monitoring and Enforcement Department of the AEPB.
“When anybody sights these herders, they call us. The Director of Monitoring and Enforcement sends his boys there. When they go there, they arrest one or two of the cows. We take them to our office in Area 3 and try the herders in our mobile court,” she said.
The PRO stated that the cows were now being confiscated, as the initial strategy of collecting fines proved to be ineffective in deterring herders from grazing within the city centre.
She also noted that the AEPB had held several meetings with members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association as a strategy towards putting an end to the menace of open grazing in Abuja.
“There was a time Minister said we should employ 10 of their boys to help us so that when we catch any cow, they’ll be able to trace the owners of the cow. They employed about 10 of them to be a part of the task force. We’re trying our best,” she said.
She hinted that a committee would sit in a matter of months to review the penalties being meted out to erring herdsmen.
“There is a committee that is going to sit to see the way forward with this menace we are having with cattle herders. We are considering the review of parts of our Act, to place stiffer penalties to deter them from these actions,” she said.
Open grazing has been the source of conflict between host communities and herders across the country, resulting in the displacement of residents, banditry and deaths.
According to a report, over 300,000 Nigerians have been displaced in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and Jos, with 60,000 deaths recorded as a result of the conflicts between 2001 and 2018.
Over N400 billion has been recorded as economic losses arising from the destruction of properties during the crises, leading to open grazing ban by governors in several states across Nigeria.
In 2016, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Muhammad Bello had prohibited the open grazing of cattle within Abuja, following series of complaints by residents of the city.
The ICIR reported that Bello had earmarked a total of 33,485 hectares of land in Paikon Kore, Karshi, Kawu and Rubochi areas of the FCT as grazing reserves for herders.