By Akintayo Balogun Esq.
Recently, the news of President Muhammadu Buhari giving a go-ahead for the immediate review of grazing Reserves in some States in Nigeria, graced the headlines and front media. This followed the President’s approval of the recommendations of a committee, chaired by his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari on grazing reserves. The issue of grazing reserves, grazing routes, herdsmen settlements and movements, RUGA, etc., have been on the front burner since the inception of the present administration in a manner in which Nigeria has never experienced since its inception.
Affected parties have rejected proposed policies, including cattle colonies, cattle routes, grazing reserves, and Rural crazing Area (RUGA) settlements. One of the priorities of this administration has been to create a co-existing relationship between the cattle breeders/rearers and their host communities. However, this has failed to yield the required or desired results from all parties affected. As matter of fact, many of the States of the Federation have been considering the anti-open grazing law, while some have even passed it into law. The grazing issues have drawn so much attention and commitment from the government in its desire to see the issue resolved.
The interest of the current administration on issues of grazing reserves has however been very resilient to the detriment of other sectors which are in dire need of sturdy and decisive intervention. Prominent amongst which is the worsening security state of the nation. Nigeria across virtually all the States of the Federation has been plagued with a worsening and dreadful security situation. Aside from the fact that the roads in Nigeria have become death traps, due to the terrible state of the roads, virtually all roads have become a field for kidnappers/bandits to have their lethal businesses unfettered. Recent history has witnessed the shutting down of many of the schools indefinitely (both tertiary and secondary Schools) in the northern part of the country, due to consistent kidnapping and demand for ransom from the parents and families of the kidnapped victims. Some of these victims were killed by their abductors to press home their demands on the parents and families of the victims. Several online videos and clips have shown the inhuman and dehumanizing treatments these victims suffer at the hands of their abductors. Life has been insouciantly snuffed out of several innocent persons, some even prominent Nigerians, while some visiting from outside the country. Furthermore, the videos in circulation tell a lot about the magnitude of stockpiles of weaponry these insurgents/bandits/armed robbers are parading. No wonder they have become dare hearted and seem ready to face any form of resistance against anyone that stands in the way of their newfound profession. The proliferation of arms which is believed to find its way into Nigeria vides her porous borders has escalated massively. The shooting down of an air force fighter jet by the insurgents/bandits in July 2021, and the narrow escape of the flight lieutenant tells a lot about how armed and technologically advanced these insurgents/bandits have become. Attacks on communities, reprisal attacks, demands for royalties, foodstuff, motorbikes, and general welfare from isolated communities have become the other of the day. The networking of these abductors has gone several miles ahead of the entire security architecture of Nigeria and that is why they seem to succeed easily in their illegitimate activities and go scout-free. Recent history has also witnessed the dare hearted attack on the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), Afaka, Kaduna. This is one of the places in the country that one would have assumed was the safest place around. Unfortunately, the place was attacked and this led to the death of 2 officers and the kidnap of another who is still in captivity. The entire 36 States of Nigeria have been under siege. No one is safe, not even a convoy of heavily armed officers. We have witnessed the attack on convoys, conveying governors and other top government officials. The kidnapping and banditry that looked very far away and only happens in border towns of the various States are now happening right in the center of town and at our very doorsteps. We heard of such things around the northeast region and some parts of the northern part of the country, but today, the reports of banditry, kidnapping, etc. have been coming from every corner of the country. One way or the other, virtually every Nigerian has been a victim of the security situation in Nigeria. Either by being robbed, kidnapped, or having to contribute to pay a ransom to get a loved one out of the hands of the kidnappers. The security situation in Nigeria has become heart-rending, very discouraging, and sickening. You just don’t want to open or listen to the headlines or news nowadays because of the nature of reports coming in.
Now, in juxtaposing the devotion and attention given to grazing matters and the deploring security situation in Nigeria, the pendulum tilts in favor of the grazing-related issues, as against securing Nigeria and Nigerians. We have seen this administration making several attempts at resolving herders/farmers clashes, proposals for the creation of grazing routes, grazing reserves, etc. we have heard series of statements from government officials defending the rights and privileges of herdsmen, which is one of the reasons they are still thriving in their movements across the country. Unfortunately, we are yet to see this type of commitment, drive, devotion, and enthusiasm being reciprocated in the sorry state of the security architecture in Nigeria. The question for the moment; is this administration doing substantially enough to quell escalating threat to its existence? Is it until we have heard that the government has been overrun before there is a sitting up (when it has become too late)? To my mind, and with the utmost respect to the current administration, substantial effort has not been put in place to restore the security situation of Nigeria.
One of the resolves of this administration while campaigning as well as upon assumption of office in 2015, was to bring an absolute end to insurgency and terrorism in Nigeria. Many Nigerians voted for the current administration in 2015 because of the belief in the efficacy of the set man of this administration to handle the security situation and bring same under reasonable control, being a retired military officer and more so, being a northerner. Unfortunately, right under the muzzle of this administration, the security situation has grown from bad to pathetic and has spread way beyond the northeast to virtually every nook and cranny of the country. A few months ago, the pride of this government had been in its perceived success in confining the tiny pieces of insurgency to the fringes of the northeastern part of the country, but the situation in the country today seems to be very far from the assumed success. The entire country is under siege. Nigeria has gradually become one of the most dangerous places for anyone to stay as everyone is at the risk of being robbed, abducted, killed, or forced to pay a ransom.
The strong expectations of Nigerians at these difficult moments is for the government to save its citizens from the current security situation bedeviling the country beyond grazing reserves and routes. The President should be told that NIGERIA IS UNDER A SEIGE. If there is an emphasis of the government at this time, it is to rescue the country from the grips of banditry, insurgency, and armed robbery which has spread to virtually all the States of the Federation. The country has lost too much for the attention of the government to be concentrated on grazing issues. If the government gives half the attention and commitment it gives to grazing-related issues, the situation in Nigeria would not have degenerated this much.
Our borders are very porous. The movement of arms across national and state borders is a matter of concern, yet we don’t hear of any decisive move by the government to curtail the situation. In all these pointless attacks, there has not been any known decisive or forceful response or statement from the government to curb the menace. The government at State and Federal level were debating on whose responsibility it is to handle security issues. This ought not to be. Ordinarily, we should have been hearing of the ultimatum giving to these bandits to surrender their weapons or face the wrath of the law. Unfortunately, till this moment, the issue is being handled with kid gloves, while banditry seems to be thriving massively as more persons are being recruited into the act. This administration needs to set its priorities or else, it is heading towards destruction and an unhappy ending. Nigeria deserves a better priority which is far beyond grazing reserves, grazing routes, and grazing settlement. The country is under siege. The siege is getting stronger, thicker, and bloodier by the day. The government should rise to its responsibility and save Nigeria and Nigerians from the brinks. May God bless, save and deliver Nigerians from the hands of men of the underworld.
Akintayo Balogun Esq., LL.B (Hons), BL, LL.M, is a legal practitioner in private practice and based in Abuja, FCT. A prolific writer, public affairs analyst, and commentator on national issues.,firstname.lastname@example.org.