[Interview] Herder/Farmer Conflicts: How Best To Implement Benue’s Open Grazing Prohibition Law – Mohammed

From Msughshima Andrew, Makurdi
Mohammed Mohammed is the founder and National Chairman of a youth movement, The Future of the Nigerian Youths. In this interview with 247ureports.com in Makurdi, Mohammed identified potential conflict triggers between farmers and herders in Benue communities, particularly in Guma local government stating how they can be resolved. He praised the Benue Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law and called on Governor Samuel Ortom to establish sample ranches in the state, get experts to tutor herders who will in turn adopt it. 
What are the issues that generate conflict between herders and farmer in your community?
What is causing conflicts between farmers and herders is injustice, lack of understanding, not regarding the teachings of our creator and not following the procedures of our holy books which are the Koran and the Bible. We experience different conflicts most especially in Benue and Nasarawa states. And this has caused us a lot of damages of properties, loss of lives, loss of unity and others. We don’t forgive one another. For instance, when a farmer kills the Fulani man’s cow and is taken to the police station, within a few days, he will be released. Then he will go and meet the Fulani man and say, whether I kill all your cows, nothing will happen. Also, the Fulani man will destroy a farmer’s crops, he will be arrested the same way he will be released and he will come and tell the farmer that even if I destroy all your farms, nothing will happen”. From there, People started taking laws into their hands and taking revenge. This led to many issues. Where Fulani are killed in Benue, the Fulanis in Nasarawa will say since we have a larger population here, we will kill the Tiv people here in Nasarawa, which is very bad.
Like I said, we are not regarding our Holy books. For instance, no book in the world teaches their people to maintain peace, unity, love each other like the Bible and Koran. If we are to use the words and what God has commanded us, no matter what happens to your cows or farms, you can’t kill someone because of that.
Another reason is lack of education which is a big challenge. As a Muslim, if I kill someone by mistake, I am going to pay dearly in the sum of more than N50 million; for killing one soul by mistake, not to talk of carrying gun to kill a person. These are some of the causes in my opinion.
What do you think can be done to bring solution, peace in the Benue communities?
 The solution is simple, Justice. When a Fulani man destroys a person’s farm, let him pay for the damages. After he has paid for the damages, let him be imprisoned for two years. After that he will feel the pains of the two years he spent there and he will be scared not to repeat same so he won’t be sent back to prison. For some, they just think that once I destroy it, I will sell my cow and pay, after all, I have the money. Tiv, if you kill Fulani cows, the same thing. How they will be fished out is, in communities like Guma, Agatu, let committees like be set in every community like what Suswam had done in the past. If a Fulani or Tiv man commits an offence, that committee will provide the culprit and they will face the consequences of the offence and if they don’t bring them out, the consequences will be on them. This is the first solution.
Secondly, the federal government project of RUGA was a good idea but as I said before, it’s not yet the time because Nigerians are not in good relationship with one another. The Fulani is being hated by most of the tribes in Nigeria due to lack of understanding between then and other tribes. I will like Nigerians, governors of the states, traditional rulers to accept this RUGA project. This is because this project will bring an opportunity to the youngest generation of Fulanis to be educated so that they will know wrongs from right. If they will stay one place, they will be schooling, education will change their lives.
Thirdly, Christians have Reverend Fathers and pastors, we Muslims have Mallams, Imams and Shirks depending on your group. Let them start creating awareness like ‘The Hour”. Let it be the hour for peace. Let those Fulani people living in the bush be followed and be told that this is what God has commanded his servants to do. Christians should also do so by preaching to their followers. These three things when they are done, I think will bring results.
What are some of the efforts your community has put in place to enhance peace?
God will bless anybody that promotes peace anywhere in the world. Therefore in any tribe, you must find good people, you must find bad people. I believe good people in my community are doing their best and I pray the bad ones should join the good ones to do so. We have been creating awareness and talking to our people and we will continue to do so.
You spoke about RUGA which is obviously a ranching idea. What do you know about ranching?
If I will meet the Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom, my first advice will be that he should ban grazing in totality. This is because, in Kenya, the population of cow is more than what we have in Nigeria but no open grazing rather 85 percent of them are into the ranch because they are getting more profit and benefits. But in Nigeria, the Fulanis here don’t have the idea of it and they don’t know the income or benefits but if government will establish two ranches as samples and get some Fulanis to go there, others will see how they ranches are being managed what income they are getting within the year and from that, others will follow. You won’t need to force anybody because everyone needs to gain and rest especially in this global time. This will encourage people to remove their money and invest. But someone who doesn’t have ideas, a Fulani man who cannot read ABCD to Z, will not know what you are saying. How can a Fulani man who doesn’t know the value of a ranch remove N5million to invest in what he knows nothing about. What the governor has done is commendable because it will help my people to be educated and I want them to be educated. I really appreciate the effort og the Governor, may God bless him for that. But the true matter is the Governor did not do it the way it was supposed to be done. No religion says kill people but those in it are doing it for their personal interest. When you spend time telling Boko Haram people that killing people is not good, they say it’s Jihad but it is a personal interest. But how many hours can you spend with a Fulani man telling him about ranching when you do not have the knowledge of it. So I want to plead with Governor Samuel  that because of what he believes in, to do at least two sample ranches; one in Guma local government and one in Makurdi local government so that experts can be called in to stay there with herders to teach them how to do it. I believe that when this is done, between one to two years, everybody will go into ranching.
Are your people ready to embrace ranching as a way forward in their business?
I know the values, incomes and benefits of ranching but as I mentioned, my people don’t know the value or have any idea of it. In Nigeria now, nobody is operating a ranch but if ranches are established, millions of Nigerians will be employed even for exporting cow. So, for me, it’s a welcome idea, who know, I may be one of the lucky ones that will be getting the job. But if my suggestion will be followed, by the next two years, everyone will know and go into it.
There are several calls for collaboration, awareness creation among community members to make peace?
There are things I was doing which I will continue to do when I return except I’m dead and that is peace advocate. When I go back to my community, I will educate my people. When you learn or achieve something somewhere and you don’t share it with your community, it means you don’t love them and God will never be happy with you.
What does your organization do?
The organization is called “Future of Nigerian Youths”. When I created this organization, I was very sad, in pain. I was very angry. Buba Galadima is my boss. I quit my support for Buhari because he was not appointed as his cabinet minister. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is also my political boss. I joined Rabiu Kwankwaso movement because of Buba Galadima. I found myself in a critical condition but why I created the platform is because I joined a business and I made a big loses. My goods worth more that N5million got lost and I was owing people money who were in need of it. I never took my complain or my request to Kwankwaso even though I spent a lot for him. I worked for Kwankwaso nation wide and even international. When you Google G-36 you will see what I’m saying. When I went to see Buba Galadima to assist me meet with Kwankwaso to help me with some funds because of my condition, he was telling me that I was the one who is supposed to help Kwankwaso because he was in the tribunal. I swear to almighty God, that what I’m saying is the truth, Buba Galadima told me that he only care about his children and family and nobody else. I was so angry and I went to meet with one of my friends in Keffi and on that day, I vowed to sacrifice myself, time and experience to build the future of the Nigerian youths. I immediately created a whatsapp group called Future of Nigerian Youth, and we started the movement. Tthe aim is to see how we can bring the Nigerian youths into politics, how we can ensure that kidnapping in Nigeria becomes history, how we can campaign against drug abuse and many more. Because of what Buba Galadima did to me, it spur me to created this platform to work for my dear country, Nigeria and the Nigerian youths and by the special grace of God, we have our officials in the six geographical zones of the country and we planing to get the national executive and soon we will register the organization to kick start our activities.
What activities do you have lined up to end kidnapping, robbery, drug abuse in the country?
We will create awareness through the radio, television, and in public places and we can raise finance to help youths who want to go into businesses to establish their businesses. Most youth are into drugs because of idleness and the conditions they found themselves. So, to integrate them back into the society, we need to assist them to be gainfully engaged.



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