Herdsmen, Cattle Rearing, Manslaughter: The plight of the Nigerian child
Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria explains that every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria. However, in any case, where there is a restriction on the movement of a person, then there is a violation of the person’s right.
It is also very true that the constitution allows the free movement of Nigerians, as persons, I do not think the constitution allows any freedom of movement rights on animals or cattle owned by Nigerians.
Even at that, they have the constitutional right to move, to live and to carry out any legitimate activity in any part of the country, freely as guaranteed by the land. But what do we say of a movement that infringes another human right, the right to life?
It is true that the constitution outlaws anyone or assemblage from disallowing anybody’s movement from one part of the nation to another. But where it encroaches on another right, what does the constitution say? Section 45 of the Nigerian Constitution clarifies that the freedom of movement of any citizen of the country can be delimited based on convinced conditions.
It says if the movement of a citizen within the country threatens public or private safety, then that movement can be constitutionally abridged. This means that every Fulani herdsman, for instance, who rears his cattle on foot across communities, puts the lives and source of revenue of agriculturalists at risk.
It is already a common knowledge that the Fulani herdsmen have become a major threat to the rights and freedom of others in Nigeria. These nomadic herdsmen have put so many communities in unparalleled destitution and have turned citizens into expatriates in their own fatherland.
Thousands of Nigerians have lost their lives to the herdsmen and many more have been evacuated from their homes and communities for fear of death.
I have read on the national dailies and seen broadcasted on national television channels about minor and major cases of deadly clashes between local agronomists and the cattle breeders, which often draws the attention of the security agents. Some of these Fulani herdsmen even invade the farmlands of these farmers, destroying their farm produce and possibly causing bloody clashes.
Most of the clashes have resulted in bloodbaths, manslaughter, slayings, and several scenes of carnage. Sometimes, these cattle breeders go as far as forcefully having sexual intercourse with the wives or daughters of the farmers, and if there is any resistance from the women or their husbands or their sons, these herdsmen murder them in cold blood.
I do not think that there is any community that has not had its own stake of these ferocious and brutal doings of the Fulani herdsmen. However, the annoyance of the locals is that the government has deafened their ears to this atrocious manifestation, leaving the peasants to their Providences.
It is very sorrowful too, to mention that while the cries of grief as the episodes of manslaughter, theft, rape, damage, and abduction by the cattle herdsmen on citizens lingers, these cow rearers still confidently parade their cows on streets and farmlands, shore of compunction and fear.
This is because nothing concrete has been done by the government to curb this defilement of the fundamental human right to life. This is a government that was voted into office to protect the lives and properties of her citizens.
This insurgency by the herdsmen has become an eye of life in some areas in Nigeria, as inhabitants cannot sleep with their eyes closed anymore. Startling to me, is the fact that these herdsmen are well equipped, with fortified and sophisticated weapons for their operations. They use these weapons not for self-defense but to threaten and most times harm the innocent farmers in their farmlands.
Reports have it that, since the invasion of about 12 Agatu comminutes in Benue State, where about 600 villagers or more were slaughtered; holding to an unacceptable reason that likens the lives of cattle with those of human beings, livelihood has been awful. Up till now, the nomads have not been held accountable nor have they been held responsible for their actions.
Why would they not plot another massacre? The government and its security representatives have chosen to remain mute in the face of atrocities and calamities befalling the electorates.
If something is not done permanently to check this aberrant act of killings and desertion of villages or towns by the surviving members of the communities, Nigeria might be disintegrated and is very much capable of setting Nigeria ablaze in relations of ethno-religious crisis; which is not the prayer of Nigerians at this trying time of our history.
The locals are aggrieved knowing that the herdsmen, calculatedly, let their cattle trespass on cultivated lands and refuse to give recompense to agriculturalists whose crops have been destroyed. Should they be grieved? Yes, they should. It can be very hurting to see your labor go down the drains by people who do not respect your right to life. But should they retaliate? No, they shouldn’t. Rather the government should respond very quickly to sabotage the growing animosity within the people.
I can remember gaudily, in the past, people used to live with the herdsmen and even purchase their products. They were the group of people one would ordinarily hire for a farm job, and at the end of the work, a satisfactory outcome is projected. But I do not think anyone would want to employ them for anything again, knowing that, in recent times, the Fulani herdsmen have turned out to be a group that everyone gets frightened of across the country.
The reason it is nerve-wracking is primarily that it is inviting an imminent hatred for this group of people; which definitely is not good for nation building and national unity. The government needs to act fast.
I think there should be a permanent pasture area where these Fulani herdsmen can feed their cows and when the piece of land no longer provides food for the cows, they can be allowed to carry the cows in a lorry to another piece of land; owned by the government possibly.
We need functional cattle estates in every state, if possible. This will reduce the daily parading of cows on our streets and major roads; then life threatening occasions can be controlled.
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There are even a lot of diseases in the society we live in. Parading of cows about can even expose cattle to the whims of ailments, viruses, and natural diseases in the communities. No one knows what the cows eat from these grazing forests and lands.
There was an information that went viral, some time ago, in the media, that these Fulani nomads sexually commit themselves to these cows; with the intention of infecting them with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases so as to transfer the viral diseases to those who consume the extract from their cows. How despicable this could turn out to be. If the government provides a place for them, I am convinced that the death rate of humans; which might come from the consumption of unhealthy and contaminated cattle parts, would be reduced.
I am also very sure that our laws prohibit civilian citizens to own unauthorized armaments of any kind. But it has been noticed that these nomads, with unfathomable impunity and liberty, flaunt around dangerous and sophisticated arms; generating strains and tensions on harmless and vulnerable Nigerian farmers. I think since private citizens are not allowed to handle such arms, the nomads too should not be allowed. If a member of the public can be penalized for owning any arms, then the nomads too should be checked, at least no Nigerian is above the law; unless if that has been reformed.
It is very true that the Fulani herdsmen are vital members of Nigeria, as they play crucial roles in the provision of meats for human consumption. When you go to the market places today, majority of the meat sellers are Fulani men. But there is a great need for them to realize the fact that their present actions of taking the lives of people is totally unmanageable and is threatening the unity of Nigeria as a nation.
The citizens of Nigeria are complaining, as this very act is becoming unbearable to all and sundry. They need to collaborate with the government and end this unnecessary killings, manslaughter and assassinations in our communities.