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‘Open grazing is our culture’ — Miyetti Allah rejects cattle colony

The North East Zonal chapter of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) says it will not accept the idea of cattle colony being proposed by the Federal Government as an alternative to open grazing, which has led to several violent clashes in the country.

Mafindi Danburam, Chairman of north-east zone of MACBAN, made this known during an interview with The Punch.

Danburam condemned the anti-open grazing law that had just been introduced in Taraba State, after Benue State passed a similar law, adding that MACBAN had challenged the new Act in court and the case was being handled by Justice Josephine Tuktur of the Taraba State High Court.

“As the Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in the North-East, who is also the immediate past Chairman of the group in Taraba State, I want to tell you that we do not accept the open grazing prohibition law being implemented in Taraba State,” Danburam said.

“We don’t need it, we don’t want it and that is why we are challenging the law in a court of competent jurisdiction — the state High Court.

“The case is before her lordship, the Chief Judge of Taraba State, Justice Josephine Tuktur. So, we won’t do anything before the outcome of the case in court.”

Danburam accused the Taraba State Government of insincerity in the formulation, articulation and the proposed enforcement of the new anti-open grazing law.

The new law states that the state government will establish model ranches, which would serve as an example for the herders to copy in setting up their own ranches. But Danbarum pointed out that the same government had tightened land acquisition procedures in the state, wondering how herders were expected to acquire land to be used for ranches.

“Another aspect of concern in the law is that it prohibits selling of land to a typical herder until the Governor gives approval. Okay, how many of us have Certificate of Occupancy in Taraba State?” Danbarum queried.

“We are practising traditional method of land ownership in Taraba State and if my wife or parent is sick and I need to sell my land to take them to the hospital, does that mean that I have to get the Governor’s approval?

“Okay, the Governor is the custodian of all lands in the state. We have over 20 grazing reserves in the state. Let him establish the pilot ranches in these grazing reserves and allocate them to typical herders in the bush, so that those of us in the town, who have the money, can buy land and establish our ranches.

“Until government recognises that this sector is also contributing to the economy of the state and they begin to give us subsidy, ranching will not work.”

Danbarum said that although MACBAN boycotted the public hearing that was held before the Act was passed, the Muslim Council of Taraba State presented the association’s position.

He noted that Miyetti Allah supported the anti-open grazing law in Benue State, but “the only area where there are issues is the implementation, because they started implementation like a decree”.

“They woke up one day and announced that ‘by tomorrow, nobody should rear cattle’. That was not the best approach, and that was why the Fulani in Benue reacted by fighting back,” Danbarum said.

On whether the Miyetti Allah will accept the idea of cattle colony as an alternative to open grazing, Danbarum said nobody could force the herdsmen to change their culture.

“You see, we know the plan of the Federal Government and I tell you that anything that infringes on our rights, we will go to court,” he said. “Open grazing is our culture and you cannot wake up one day and stop me from practising my culture. Cattle colony is not our culture. We have our culture and tradition and we want to maintain it.”

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