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 in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, before he ascended to the seat of the bishop stated this in a presidential charge he read, during the second session of the fourth synod of the diocese of Ihiala, yesterday.
The former academic who read a very lenthy charge said the controversy about open grazing in Nigeria has 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 are key features of animal husbandry, their politicization and seeming treatment as national obligations have attracted objection and resentment.
“The assumption that the constitution confers on cattle the right of movement along Nigerian roads and communities is untrue. Another errornous 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 concsent 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 feet-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, while lamenting that the activities of the Fulani herdsmen have totally corrupted the image of the Fulani people.
“Today, farmers in many parts of Nigeria can no longer go to farm. If these continues, we run the risk of food shortage in Nigeria, which may lead to starvation.”
He 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 matter, just as those of the Fulani.
Okoye also charged the 7 southern governors of 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 owe their people the duty of protecting them at all times.