The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on Wednesday warned governors to desist from pushing anti-open grazing laws in their respective states until they have ranches for livestock in place.
Mr. Idris’ comment, which is a reiteration of similar warnings for which he had been criticised the past, was delivered at a security meeting with northern leaders on Wednesday in Kaduna, according to a police statement.
“To reduce the incidence of clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria, state governments should endeavour to establish grazing ranches in their various states before enacting laws to prohibit open rearing and grazing,” Mr. Idris was quoted as saying in an e-mailed statement from the Force Headquarters.
The police chief has been an ardent critic of any legislation that targets herdsmen’s activities across the country, warning that the best approach towards a peaceful resolution of the farmers-herders crisis is to work out the modalities for livestock ranching first.
Establishment of ranches across the state would make the anti-open grazing statutes “acceptable by all the parties concerned and other critical stakeholders in that all-important sector,” Mr. Idris said.
Mr. Idris’ position clashes with the policy decisions of governors in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba States, where anti-open grazing laws are now in place.
In Ekiti State, the law, signed by Governor Ayo Fayose in 2016, prohibits open-grazing between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
Governor Samuel Ortom followed suit in 2017 with a law that places an absolute ban on open-grazing across Benue State.
The law, which went into effect in November 2017, has been blamed for the escalating violence which had left more than 100 residents killed in attacks linked to herdsmen across Benue since January 1.
As several other states across the south are weighing laws against open-grazing, Mr. Idris warned governors not to emulate their counterparts in the three states that have so far put the law in place in order not to worsen the security situation across the country.
“It will do us good if we avoid the hasty formulation and implementation of such laws across the country in the interest of peace and unity,” Mr. Idris said.
Lere Olayinka, a spokesperson for Mr. Fayose, disagreed with the police chief in a telephone exchange with PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday night.
“It unfortunate that this is coming from the Inspector-General,” Mr. Olayinka said.
“Cattle farming is a business like every other business. Governments don’t go about building poultry for poultry farmers. Governments don’t go about building fisheries for fish farmers. Governments don’t go about building piggeries for pig farmers.
Mr. Olayinka accused Mr. Idris of dishonesty because the recent attacks predated the activation of open-grazing laws.
An estimated 1,269 were killed in attacks linked to herdsmen between 2013 and 2016, but hardly had anyone been punished for the killings, a PREMIUM TIMES investigation found in August 2016, weeks before Mr. Fayose signed the first-ever law to curb open-grazing on August 29, 2016.
Herdsmen accused villagers of killing herders and rustling their livestock, with Fulani leaders telling PREMIUM TIMES in a 2016 interview that the massacre in Agatu was a reprisal attack for the alleged theft and the 2013 killing of one of their leaders.
The annual cost of the conflict between pastoralists and villagers across the country was placed at about $14 billion by the UK-funded global humanitarian agency, Mercy Corps.
Mr. Olayinka said the police should be an unbiased authority in the crisis.
“Whatever the opinion of the Inspector-General, the police must realise that they have no choice but to implement any law signed by a governor or the president,” the spokesperson said. “Mr. Idris does not have a choice in this matter.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has come under pressure to address the crisis since Nigerians entered the new year with reports of deadly attacks on villages across the north central, especially in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba.
Mr. Buhari, who had delegated Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to lead the efforts in devising policies that would end the crisis, ordered Mr. Idris to relocate to the region following the attacks, but the police chief did not comply with the order without publicly stating his reasons.