Cattle herding is the moving of a group of cow from one place to another in search of pasture and water. Herding can also be done to move cattle from a disease prone area to a safer location. Though this practice has been abolished in most countries of the world, in Nigeria, about 90% of the cows we eat are grazed using primitive pastoralist cattle herding technique.
According to the 2011 national Agricultural Sample Survey, Nigeria has about 19.5 million cattle. The breeds of cattle we have in Nigeria have some of the lowest milk yield in the world due to several reasons. A cow in Brazil produces 30 – 40 litres of milk daily while the Nigerian cow produces about 1 litre of milk daily.
The demand for cow meat in Nigeria is huge due to the population of the country. Lagos state alone consumes about 6,000 cows a day. Nigerians prefer cow meat to any other meat. It will be very scarce to see a man or woman who does not eat cow meat in a day in Nigeria.
The government is intensifying efforts to modernize the cattle herding business in Nigeria by grouping cattle farmers and providing extension services to them. The government is also encouraging investors to invest in the business. Some major powdered milk producers have keyed into the government’s efforts to make the cattle business a very profitable one. The milk producers have organized cattle farmers in Oyo into groups and they now buy fresh milk from them daily.
In Nigeria, despite the efforts of the government to modernize the business, the Fulani herdsmen continue to drag the nation backwards with their primitive ways of herding cattle. This business has become a blood and deadly business. The Fulani herdsmen who are the predominant operators of this business have turned to destruction of farms, unauthorized grazing on farmlands, killing and maiming and rape as their tools for business.
The crooked ones among the Fulani herdsmen move around the country with sophisticated arms just to ensure that their cows graze on pastures at all cost. They are in the habit of illegally entering peoples’ farm to graze their cattle.
The dailies are inundated with the news of Fulani herdsmen killing farmers and destroying villages and towns daily. Once you prevent them from destroying your farm, you may be killed.
How do they carry out this criminal and blood business you may ask.
Strategies used by Fulani herdsmen to sustain their business
This set of Fulani herdsmen who are into the business of rearing cows around the country on foot are not educated. They are averse to western education. They only believe in Islamic education. No matter what you do, they prefer not to send their children to school in order to further their itinerant cattle business. This set of people knows that if their children take western educational instructions, they are likely not to take part in the primitive way of herding cattle. So to preserve this culture, the herdsmen and their sponsors continue to advise them to shun western education.
Uncontrolled appetite of having children
One will wonder will a very poor Fulani herdsman will marry 4 wives with each wife having 8-12 children. An uninitiated man will continue to ask himself, is it not wickedness to bring 20 – 30 children to this world when you know you cannot cater for them. The Fulani herdsman does not care; all he wants is to have as much children as possible so that he will have enough labour for his primitive business. They also use population expansion to dominate the indigent people in any area they settle.
Unbridled expansion in population can also be used to further the interest of their religion. Some of these Fulani herdsmen are religious fanatics; they do not tolerate other people’s religion.
Start rearing cows from childhood
Fulani herdsmen start tendering to cows from childhood. They know how to communicate with their cattle from a very young age. From childhood to adulthood, all they know is how to deal with cattle. However, it must be noted that the Fulani herdsmen are not necessarily goo cattle managers. People mistakenly think that they know how to take care of cows. This is a capital NO; the primitive ways they use to rear their cows have no place in modern science. They lack good knowledge of cattle herding, this explains why their cattle are always very lean and sickly. Their saviour is that Nigerian breeds of cattle are resistant to several diseases.
Arm themselves with arms and ammunitions
Hitherto, in Nigeria, Fulani herdsmen are very peaceful. Today, we see Fulani herdsmen carrying sophisticated guns around when they are grazing their cows. These herdsmen kill people at will; they can enter a town or village, kill or main people there so that their cows can graze. They never obey the laws of their host communities; instead they will ask their host communities to change their laws for them.
Some daring ones among the Fulani herdsmen may go to a village and ask all the residents there to leave because they want to feed their cows with the crops on the residents’ farms. This scenario plays out in Benue state often.
Criminality and Militancy
You will observe that some key roads in the northern and some in the southern part of Nigeria are locked down with Fulani herdsmen acting as kidnappers. Abuja – Kaduna road is a typical example. Most of the kidnap incidences there are carried out by Fulani herdsmen. Abuja to Owo is also a very dangerous place as Fulani herdsmen continue to rob innocent travelers on this highway.
There are allegations that these criminals use the proceeds from armed robbery and kidnapping to fund a Fulani militant group. The group is alleged to be behind the killings in most states in Nigeria.
Disobedience of immigration laws
In Nigeria, if you are a foreigner, you need an international passport before you can come to Nigeria. You also need some quarantine documents to bring animals like cattle to Nigeria especially if you are coming from another country. Even, if you are a national of a West African country, you need all these documents, though you do not need a visa if you are staying less than 90 months.
We all know that a significant percentage of Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria are from other African countries, how do they enter Nigeria without international passports and quarantine documents?
Slipping through security cracks
It wonders a lot of people how these fulani herdsmen slip through security crackdown. Some of them hardly get apprehended after committing robbery, kidnapping and killing. We have heard cases of Fulani herdsmen burning down a whole village and killing a lot of people with none of these herdsmen arrested.
How to disrupt this primitive Fulani herdsmen business
Modern Cattle Ranches or Farms in the South
Investors should consider establishing modern cattle farms in southern part of Nigeria. With good management, the cost of beef will go down. The Fulani herdsmen will not be able to compete because of their primitive and inefficient ways of handling the cattle business.
Zero grazing, irrigated pasture farms, animal tagging technologies, playing music to the hearing of the cattle and other profit boosting strategies can be used. Most inefficient businesses are being disrupted worldwide. Disruptive strategies can be used to put an end to the criminal activities of these Fulani herdsmen.
Sponsor the election of educated people into power
Electing semi-illiterates quota system tribalistic leaders will further make the issue of Fulani herdsmen killing in Nigeria worse. We should elect people from any region who are robustly educated and who do not believe in ethnic supremacy. Good leaders will not allow some people to continue killing others because they are from his tribe.
Champion the creation of state police
The central control of the nation’s police by the president is not doing Nigeria any good. State police controlled by the state government will be more effective in combating crime and the menace of Fulani herdsmen that a central police force. How can a hausa man who knows nothing about the terrain of Enugu be posted to Enugu as the Divisional Police Officer or Area Commander?
It is high time this primitive culture is abolished. You can start a business to disrupt this venture and make good money for yourself.