Niger Delta activist, Ann Kio Briggs has described the Grazing Reserve Bill before the National Assembly as part of the underground moves to turn the country into an Islamic country, declaring that President Muhammadu Buhari has not shown enough statesmanship in dealing with the issue.
Briggs also said that Buhari, being the patron of Myetti Allah Cattle Rearers Association of Nigeria, makes it worst, adding: “Because he is the President of Nigeria, the herdsmen think they can do whatever they like and nothing will happen, so far they are right.”
Tracing the history of the rampaging Fulanis, Briggs said that they have been attacking farmers and destroying their farms starting in the Middle Belt for over 20 years.
She said: “The Fulanis are in history books as far back as the 1800 across West Africa, between the 17th century and the European colonisation. They conquer territories and impose political and religious Muslim leaders.”
According to her, “in the past 18 to 20 years, nearly 10,000 innocent Nigerians, men, women and children have been killed by the Fulani herdsmen and women raped and even ganged raped, the mention of herdsmen puts fear in any life loving human being.
She added: “We have been given many reasons why they kill, maim and rape and destroy peoples farms, from revenge for things done to them in the past, to their cattle been stolen, to searching for lush areas for grazing their cattle. We are told it’s their way of life to move around, they have no respect for border control, they don’t care that there are rules in different countries they must obey. These are some of the causes.”
Briggs suggests that all Nigerians have a right to carry arms and protect themselves against the marauding Fulani herdsmen, adding: “The governor of Kaduna State has told us that they are not Nigerians; well if they are not Nigerians then Nigeria is in trouble. We have been invaded by foreigners and the Federal Government is unable to protect us, if this is the case then; all Nigerians have a right to carry arms and protect themselves, for these herdsmen are carrying arms in broad daylight.”
She foresees a hard time ahead unless the menace of the herdsmen is tackled with sincerity, saying that “the outcome is dangerous it will break Nigeria. We are not in the 16 century, if they are not Nigerians, then who are they? They must have passports and be identified at our borders, the law does not permit non-Nigerians to walk in and out of Nigeria at their own and will kill, maim and rape at will, destroy peoples communities and leave when they like.
“If they are not Nigerians, then they must be screened before entering Nigeria, because they have Nigeria Fulanis does not make Cameroon Fulanis Nigerian citizens. Killing is not the special reserve of the Fulani herdsmen, the government must defend Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Briggs said the controversial bill was dismissed in the National Conference of 2014, saying its reintroduction is criminal, adding: “This issue of Grazing Reserve Bill was raised at the National Conference of 2014, it was defeated, the South West, South South, South East and the Middle Belt rejected the proposal; it is against the rights of farmers in the South and Middle Belt of Nigeria; it is criminal and corrupt to bring it in through the back door of using the National Assembly’’.
She decried the continued danger posed by the herdsmen, who are reportedly moving into lands that does not belong to them, saying they “definitely have no constitutional rights to kidnap, rape, kill the indigenes or destroy the livelihood of other people to feed their cattle.”
“Cattle rearing is a private business and not a national affair, and will never be accepted in the Niger Delta, we will not be conquered either through the back door of controlling our natural resources by imposing a governor or politicians of APC choosing, nor will we be conquered by making our states ungovernable, or by any form of threats against us.
“The constitution does not allow the Federal Government or the National Assembly to pass laws that will forcefully take lands from state governments, since the states are the recognised owners of the land in a state. The Federal Government can’t forcefully take land from any individual owners or states.”
Briggs has a word for the North: “For years, the North has claimed to own 80 per cent of the land mass in Nigeria, so how on earth do they want to take our 20 per cent, shared by the South-South, South-East, and South-West, according to them. The small land we have in the Niger Delta is polluted, any little that is not polluted is not for sharing either willingly or by force of any bill.”
She also has words for Niger Delta representatives in the National Assembly, urging them “to put up a good opposition against the bill,” adding: “We are angry with them that they sat down and allowed the bill to go through a second reading, we know we don’t have the number to oppose it without the support of others, but we must see them putting up a fight against the bill.
“We don’t want grazing or cattle rearing ranch or whatever in our region, we will rather rear our cattle if we must eat beef, as we see the concept of grazing or ranches owned by non Niger Deltans as a form of land grabbing, it is actually a back door way of enslaving us as a people who are 99 per cent Christian’s.”
According to her, “we must be truthful to ourselves if we say we love Nigeria as country,” adding that President Buhari has not done enough to stop the crisis.
She said: “No, he has not done enough to stop the crisis that has been created by the AK-47 carrying herdsmen.”