Until the discovery of oil in Nigeria in 1958, agriculture was the mainstay of the nation’s economy. Different regions could boast of different cash crops like groundnut, cocoa, rubber, palm oil produce and many more.
Then, the country was a net exporter of food and earned most of its foreign exchange from the agricultural produce.
However, with the discovery of oil, agricultural sector was abandoned. All attention was diverted to the new bride that was spinning money while the agricultural and infrastructural sectors of the economy were jettisoned.
But with the drastic reduction in oil price in the international market recently and its attendant consequences, there have been calls for the nation to go back to agriculture. Diversification of the economy is now the talk of the day. Not a few individuals, both private and corporate, heeded to this call as more and more people began to invest in agriculture.
In Anambra State for instance, renowned businessmen went into massive production of rice, tomatoes and all that. Government at both federal and state levels have also shown readiness to diversify the economy and invest hugely in agriculture.
Incidentally, with the endless menace of herdsmen across the country, particularly in the North Central, South-East and South-South zones, the idea of revamping the agricultural sector might be a mirage.
Virtually every day, we hear stories of the brutal attack of the herdsmen who would not spare any community that dares question the destruction of their farmlands and crops by their cattle. Apart from the destruction of crops, they engage in armed robbery, abduction, raping and killing.
The loss of lives and massive destruction of property that usually attend the attacks are indications of how heavily armed the cattle rearers are. From a group of stick – wielding pastoralists, living essentially normadic life, the Fulani herdsmen have metamorphosed into arms bearing fighting force.
Today, most peasant farmers in the South East, South South, North Central and some part of South West can no longer engage in their daily farming activities for fear of being attacked by herdsmen.
Reports have it that in some states like Delta, policemen now escort farmers to their farms. But these herdsmen are even ready and have been confronting the police.
A few days ago, about 15 policemen drafted to the farm of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, narrowly escaped death when suspected herdsmen allegedly opened fire on them in the farm. It was gathered that the herdsmen stormed the farm in Akure and destroyed it. That prompted Falae to invite the police, only for the herdsmen to attack the policemen. Not even an anti-open grazing law can deter them.
During a Press Conference in Abuja recently, leaders of a Fulani socio-cultural association, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore kicked against an anti-open grazing law recently signed into law by the Benue State Governor, Samuel Otom. The group also vowed to mobilize their members to resist its implementation.
Why both current and past governments have not taken any concrete action to stop this barbaric act is still a puzzle to many. Of course, the Federal Government would always order an investigation into some major attacks, the National Assembly would equally assure to look into the matter, but what has been the outcome of these? Has anybody or group ever been made to account for their deadly acts?
No doubt, the failure to address this problem all these past years has emboldened the herdsmen to carry on with the unbridled trampling on the rights of other Nigerians. This has continued to flame the ember of hatred among various communities, religions and tribes.
One wonders how we can revamp agricultural sector and achieve food security under the prevailing circumstance. Government should, therefore, as a matter of urgency, address the menace of herdsmen and rustlers across the country in other for agriculture to thrive and food to be abundant.
At this critical time when people are being encouraged to go into farming to ensure availability of food in the country and to curtail food importation, herdsmen should not be allowed to empty their cattle into cultivated farmlands to destroy crops and farmlands.
Most importantly, Nigeria should tow the line of the developed countries who keep their animals in ranches. In no advanced country can you see cattle roaming freely on the properties of other people and causing problem for their countries. Both federal, State and local governments, even cattle owners who make money from this business, should join hands in establishing ranches and grazing reserves across the country as well as adopt other strategies to enable herdsmen settle to modern systems of livestock farming.