Some herders are lured into crime due to ignorance and poverty, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Secretary-General Othman Ngelzarma said yesterday.
He said some of the herders were impoverished due to the stealing of their cattle.
Ngelzarma spoke in Kaduna while addressing the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) National Executive Council (NEC) led by Chief Audu Ogbe.
He believes the solution is to settle the pastoralists within a place and educate them.
According to the MACBAN leader, the criminal herders have powerful backers.
Ngelzarma said: “The merchants take advantage of the ignorance of the young Fulani and their poverty to engage them crime.
“Crime is everywhere. When you catch criminals, you always get Fulani among the group because of their lack of education, their ignorance and their poverty.
“We all see on social media when these herders who are engaged in crime are asked about how much was given to them out of millions collected from their victims, they would say N30,000, N40,000. This is to show that some big merchants are behind this.”
Ngelzarma said legitimate herders are now in fear.
“Most of the Fulani especially in the South are only grazing the cattle for other people; the cattle are not theirs.
“The Fulani cattle breeders have lost over three million cows to cattle rustling. We sleep as wealthy people with lots of animals, but wake up as poor people due to cattle rustling,” he said.
Ngelzarma said there was the need “to begin to settle the pastoralists in one place because that is the only solution that will take us out of these problems”.
He added: “When they get settled in a place, it will become easier for the government to educate them.
“As it is now, they don’t enjoy anything from the government while they contribute more than most to the government because they supply nutritional needs to the Nigerian population.
“Lagos alone consumes 6,000 cows daily. Our statistics show us that 250 truckloads of cows enter the Southwest daily.
“Cattle contributes six per cent of the country’s GDP and if the government wants to settle them, we have the land.
“We have over 400 grazing reserves in the country but only three are in the Southwest – Oyo and Ogun. All the other grazing reserves are in the North. Put together, there are about five million hectares.
“If these can be utilised, it is enough to settle these landless people. The pastoralists are landless. They stay in a place and when development comes they move and leave the place. This is a very big challenge,” the MACBAN leader said.
Ogbe, was the Minister of Agriculture during the first term of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, said the government was committed to addressing the crises despite misgivings.
“When we spoke of RUGA the last time, people were very angry. Meanwhile, RUGA is not a Fulani word; it is an acronym of an English word, Rural Grazing Areas introduced by the British in 1946.
“It was the British who saw this coming – that there is a need to put cattle in a good place where we can give them water and grass and secure them so that we can get better meat and milk.
“Kaduna, Kano and Niger have already offered land where we can put the cows. It’s about government developing the land,” Ogbe said.