“For pastoralists from neighbouring West African countries, access to grazing rights in other countries in the ECOWAS zone including Nigeria, are guaranteed by the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol of 1998 and ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Goods and Persons in West Africa.”
– Chief Audu Ogbe, Minister of Agriculture and Rural development.
This is what the federal government of Nigeria has to say to the majority of its citizens under siege of marauding Fulani herdsmen. What will we not hear from people who have taken oath of office to serve and protect the freedom and security of the Nigerian citizen (or now Ecowas citizens). Anything to please the Fulani and their men in power is sufficient, and no effort to even pause for a moment to think and make it sound a little intelligent. Just to remind the Minister of some things he would have thought through when some clever by half zealot came up with this convenient explanation for the inaction of the Federal government to protect and contain the murderous terror raids of Fulani herdsmen from the “Ecowas sub region”
1. Does this 1998 Ecowas transhumance protocol of Free and unfettered movement of goods and persons imply that as minister you are completely powerless to monitor the movement of Livestock (which by the way are not goods) and protect farmers from possible wholesome importation of livestock diseases from neighbouring countries?
2. Does this protocol imply that such movement include the unfettered bearing and movement of illegal arms across the sub region? Shouldn’t such a protocol mean that you should heighten your intelligence to monitor illegal activities such open borders will permit?
3. Does the protocol also mean that such herdsmen can invade farmers, destroy their livelihood and the basis of the economic diversification you drum into our ears every day and night, or is this mere rhetorics?
4. Does the protocol also guarantee the free movement of Nigerian farmers into other west African countries to invade and occupy land for purposes of cultivation?
5. Does this protocol provide that citizens of the Ecowas sub region can move between the countries without any form of identification or is there a discriminatory waiver for Fulani?
Now assuming all these illegalities are guaranteed by the protocol, does the government of Nigeria not see anything wrong even after farming communities have been ravaged, raped, displaced and annihilated by these herdsmen from hell? While the minister is quick to remind us that the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol allows for herders to move across borders in search of pasture upon fulfilling the conditions laid down in the Protocol, does it provide they move without any form of identification. Even if the Fulani enjoy a waiver to move without any form of identification, does our current security challenge and the Boko Haram experience not demand that such a provision be reviewed to respond to the spate of illegal arms flow from north Africa into Nigeria? Not even in a more integrated and better secured European union do people move without a form of identification. The other day a retired Fulani Professor playing what is obviously a conspired script from the Fulani caucus at the helm of power declared that no one can deny the herdsmen access to any territory in Nigeria. But like a pork loving citizen asked ‘would the states of the core north allow a man from another part of Nigeria openly rear or graze pigs in their land’, not to mention transporting pigs across farmlands in Kebbi, Zamfara or Kano states? Was an Igbo woman not beheaded the other day for just expressing herself? In anycase no one talked about denying access to the Fulani nomads. What they have no right is invasion, trespass and forcible occupation of peoples farmland and homestead. This is standard anywhere in the world and the Fulani should not expect special treatment or demand the right to impose their lifestyle on people who have sacrificed their closely held traditions to adjust to the demands of living in the ‘modern nation state’.
This kind of cavalier and insensitive public statement begin to make the Niger delta Avengers sound reasonable. What one expect the PMB led government to do is convene an emergency ECOWAS meeting to urgently attend to the security threats the Fulani economy present for the transhumance protocol. We have waited for a national broadcast in the absence of a definitive response to the unfettered invasion and killings perpetrated by the Fulani herdsmen and quintessential citizen of the Ecowas subregion.