Written by Chuks NZEH

Abuja, the grazing city for cattle

Despite several attempts by the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, which some residents say, half-heartedly, to stop the movement of cattle in the city center, herdsmen have continued to roam the streets of Abuja with their cows.

The presence of herdsmen and their cattle are a regular sight even in restricted areas like the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway, Mabushi, Central Business District, or even the entire stretch of from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport to the city gate.

Every day, these herdsmen casually stroll on the streets of Abuja seeking lush vegetation for their cows. They pay no attention to any possible effect their action could have on the economic or collective image of the city.

The streets of Abuja are dotted with cow dung, with road users constantly having to drag the roads with cattle. Car owners also run the risk of losing their side mirrors or even have their windows smashed by confused cattle scampering to cross the roads

The regular clashes between man and cattle have since degenerated to communal clashes in parts of the country. Several lives and properties have been lost over the age long disagreement between farmers and herders on the best way to rear cattle in Nigeria. While the herders, who are predominantly Fulani, insist that the nomadic practice remains their way of life, farmers are calling for ranching so as to stop them from destroying their crops.

Countries like India and Brazil with the largest population of cows in the world have successfully been able to restrict their movement to farms and ranches. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, of the United Nations, both countries have well over 50 percent of the world population of cows.

India alone has over 300 million cows, while Brazil is home to over 200 million cows. Despite ban on slaughtering of cows in some states in India, the country has over 500, 000, cow shelters, with each one having the capacity to carry about 200 cows, cow clubs and hostels to reduce effect of straying in the streets, destroying people's farm amongst other.

Though there are no written laws that ban the practice of cattle grazing in Abuja, the FCT minister, Muhammad Bello, had in his first tenure, banned cattle from roaming the city.

The minister had in 2016 inaugurated a task team to keep cattle off the streets of Abuja. He told executives of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association that, “You have to understand that when Abuja Environmental Protection Board says cattle should not roam the city, it is not because they want to prevent cattle breeders from rearing cattle in the FCT. Basically, it is just for safety. It is for safety of your cattle and above all, safety of the citizens.”

The AEPB acknowledged that the minister’s pronouncement was in variance with the law establishing the board.

The administration has however taken steps towards creating new grazing reserves in the city, so as to check the practice of indiscriminate grazing within the City Center.

A total of 33,485 hectares have already been earmarked for grazing reserves to cater for about 7 million herds of cattle comprising of Paikon Kore 8,500 hectares, Karshi 6,000 hectares, Kawu in Bwari 9,000 hectares and Rubochi in Kuje 9,985 hectares.

Some residents who spoke to METRO welcome the development, saying it will check the movement of cows in the city. They however ask the FCT administration to ensure the enforce the

Labake Adeola, a resident of the FCT, said “This challenge became obvious a few years ago and I don't think there are capital cities where cows are carried around for purposes of grazing, but unfortunately our government is not doing enough to ensure that this practice is stopped, giving reasons for citizens to think that those in places of authority are protecting their tribesmen who are usually the herders.

Abuja City will better enjoy the status of one of the most developing cities in the world when some of these little challenging are resolved without raising any suspicion among the residents and indigenous peoples.

Musa Majindadi said, “I think this tradition of itinerant Fulani people herding cows has to change because it is no longer fashionable to graze in the open.

“We should learn from the Brazilians who are the largest exporters of beef in the world, making several hundreds of millions of dollars, as revenue for the country. For the years they have been herding their cows across the country how much has it accounted for in terms of revenue generation?

“So if that practice is not providing the desired peace, economic development and growth why do we have to continue to practice it in present day Nigeria? The grazing reserves that government says they have identified should be put to use to at least reduce the number of herders and cattle still roaming streets in Abuja and other state, we are not even among the first 15 cattle rearing countries in the world, why would our own be different?”

The American Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington, earlier in the year in Kogi State during the lunch of the first American feedlot system in Nigeria, encouraged Nigerians to embrace feedlot system hence it is more productive and result oriented.

He reiterated that the modern meat production feedlot will reduce the constant clashes of herdsmen and farmers in the country.

He also said that if Nigeria can get it right the whole West Africa will do the same and that if Nigeria can get it right the whole world will be a peaceful place to be.

Mr. Kwasari Andrew, adviser policy and project manager to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, explained that the feedlot project is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s grazing agenda, and that the country needs more private investors in these regard.

He said the federal government is willing to support such ideas that will help to improve the agricultural sector and lay to rest the constant clashes of farmers and herdsmen in the country.

But for now, it is a free reign for herders and their cattle while hawkers and other petty traders face a difficult task with the AEPB sometimes even hounded to their death.

 

 

Cattle on a major street in Gwarinpa. Photo: Laraba MUREY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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