By Ikeugonna Eleke
The Bishop of Ihiala Diocese of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Prof Israel Okoye, has warned that the insistence of the Federal Government to support open grazing may lead to food shortage in Nigeria.
Okoye, a professor of Political Science at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, before he ascended to the seat of bishop, stated this in a presidential charge he read during the second session of the Fourth Synod of the Diocese of Ihiala last Monday.
The former academic who read a very lengthy charge said the controversy about open grazing in Nigeria had become an unfortunate distraction from some fundamental issues on the economy, education, justice, equity, leadership and others, that needed to be addressed.
He said: ‘Although cattle rearing is a key feature of animal husbandry, its politicization and seeming treatment as national obligation have attracted objection and resentment.
‘The assumption that the constitution confers on cattle the right of movement along Nigeria’s roads and communities is untrue. Another erroneous stance is that cattle rearing is supported by the Federal Government, such that herders must be allowed to traverse any part of the country with their cattle as a guarantee for peace.
‘Armed cattle herders now migrate with their cattle to any place of their choice, occupy forests without the consent of the government in charge, to graze their cattle in people’s farms where they kill, maim and rape women with impunity.
‘The widely held foot-dragging of the Federal Government in arresting the fast spreading dastardly acts of the armed Fulani herdsmen engendered ill feelings among the affected populations.’
Okoye said if this continued, it would hinder Nigerian farmers from being productive, and also lead to food shortage; even as he lamented that the activities of the Fulani herdsmen had totally corrupted the image of the Fulani people.
‘Today, farmers in many parts of Nigeria can no longer go to farm. If this continues, we run the risk of food shortage in Nigeria which may lead to starvation,’ he said.
Bishop Okoye urged the Federal Government to quickly rise and tackle the menace and also assure rural dwellers in all parts of the country that their safety also mattered, just as those of the Fulani.
Okoye also charged the seven southern governors in the country to stick to their promise of ensuring the passage of the Anti-Open Grazing Law, reminding them that as chief security officers of their respective states, they owed their people the duty of protecting them at all times.