The menace of cattle grazing in Abuja
Contrary to the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB Act of 1997 which provides for the control of animals, where animal owners are directed to keep them in a manner that they do not constitute nuisance to the public, the nation’s capital has witnessed an unprecedented influx of cattle rearers, having unfettered access into the city.
Though the AEPB Act has no clear cut guidelines on what the agency should do to check the activities of cattle grazing or the free movement of animals on the streets of Abuja in general, the agency has tried to use every legal means in curbing the activities of herdsmen without much success.
Established in 1997 with the primary aim of securing the quality of environment, the AEPB seeks to ensure that the FCT remains conducive for the good health and well-being of the residents of the territory.
The board was also created to conserve and use the environment and its natural resources for the benefit of the residents of the territory.
It is in pursuant to this mandates, that the immediate past Permanent Secretary of the FCTA, Engr. John Chukwu in September 2015, issued a warning to nomadic herdsmen to stop grazing within the city center or face the full weight of the law.
However, nearly a year after the directive, the activities of Fulani herdsmen have gone on unabated with some of them venturing into supposedly controlled areas, like the CBN headquarters, the federal secretariat, FCDA, and even premises of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport and the national stadium.
Premises of the defense headquarters are also not spared, as herdsmen and their cattle stray into security zones, causing traffic gridlocks, while living cow dungs on their trail.
Although the recent spate of violence between farmers and herdsmen are uncommon in Abuja, there have been dotted cases of scuffle between framers and herdsmen.
Most of these cases are unreported probably because there were no lives lost, however, the fear of violent attacks on rural communities in the nation’s capital do exist.
Only recently, the FCT Minister, Mallam Muhammad Bello, set up a new special task team on environmental protection of Abuja.
The 200-man task team is saddled with the responsibility of reversing the deplorable environmental condition of the city and restoring it to the enviable position of one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
Dispelling the notion that the Fulani herdsmen are being protected by powerful individuals from their ethnic group, the Squadron Leader of the FCT Task Team on the Cleanup of Abuja, Abdullahi Monjel, told The Abuja Inquirer that the law is no respecter of any group of persons who constitute nuisance to the city.
He assured that the team will continue to do its best in riding the city of beggars, hawkers, destitute, herdsmen, and also restore the FCT to its pride of place.
The AEPB must therefore rise to its responsibility of protecting the environment. The Agency should apply the same momentum with which it is checking the activities of beggars and hawkers, to also rid the FCT of activities of cattle rearers.
The Cleanup Abuja Task Team must stop paying lip service to the arrest and prosecution of cattle owners who freely roam the streets. They should ensure that offenders are not only arrested, but also charged to the relevant courts.
Abuja, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and the gateway into the country, cannot afford to degenerate into slum where a human and animal activities are not checked.
The city which was conceived as a symbol of Nigeria’s unity and greatness must therefore not be stopped on primordial sentiments or in the guise of protecting cultural values of any given tribe.