Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

The swords were out and tempers rose to molten magma point in Ibadan on Thursday, 27 June 2019 when prominent leaders of the South West met. That was at the gathering of Yoruba leaders and presentation of the Translation of “Awo”, the Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo held at the International Conference Centre of the University of Ibadan.

One of the key areas that drew their anger was the Federal Government’s proposed Rural Grazing Area, RUGA, which are settlements for the use of cattle breeders in the South West part of Nigeria. There was actually a historical parallel to the subject matter with Justice Adewale Thompson’s 17th April,1969 Judgment on Open Cattle Grazing – Suit no AB/26/66 at Abeokuta Division of the High Court.

He ruled: “I do not accept the contention of Defendants that a custom exists which imposes an obligation on the owner of farm to fence his farm whilst the owner of cattle allows his cattle to wander like pests and cause damage. Such a custom if it exists, is unreasonable and I hold that it is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and therefore unenforceable…in that it is highly unreasonable to impose the burden of fencing a farm on the farmer without the corresponding obligation on the cattle owner to fence in his cattle.

“Sequence to that I banned open grazing for it is inimical to peace and tranquility and the cattle owners must fence or ranch their animals for peace to reign in these communities.”

People on the different divides can interpret this ruling to suit their own position. Proponents of RUGA may say that it is an order to avoid a situation “whilst the owner of cattle allows his cattle to wander like pests and cause damage,” that they are asking that some areas be carved out for them. The only trouble is that who has the power to carve out lands for the cattle breeders?

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