The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria has raised the alarm that politicians were using cattle businesses for money laundering.
The organisation also announced that it had tabled seven points agenda to the leading presidential candidates in the next political dispensation.
Among them were the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar; Labour Party, Peter Obi and New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
The new national President of MACBAN, Baba Othman Ngelzarma, stated this in a meeting with journalists in Abuja.
Many rich businessmen and politicians now use the cattle business for money laundering due to the cashless policy introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The government is leaving a multi-trillion naira business in the hands of illiterates with no form of organisation,” he said.
While clarifying that it had yet to endorse any candidate for the 2023 presidential election, MABCAN also accused the President, Major General Muhammadu Muhammadu Buhari of abandoning pastoralists after his victory in 2019, when he was re-elected despite their enormous contribution.
He condemned the continuous stereotyping and killing of Fulani in the country, saying despite billions of Naira budgeted for the development of agriculture in the country, little or nothing had been earmarked for animal husbandry.
Ngelzarma said neglect by the government and frustration were responsible for the criminal activities perpetrated by some herders, adding that Fulani in the country has continued to suffer from stereotypes orchestrated by political opponents of the president.
Speaking on the 2023 presidential elections, Ngelzarma said the association had tabled its demands before the four major candidates, adding that the candidates’ response to the demands would determine who its members will support during the poll.
He said, “I have presented our seven points demand on behalf of the pastoralists to the candidate. So we are looking forward to their responses before we decide on what to do. We have not endorsed any candidate for now. We are still consulting.
“On the eve of the last election that brought in Buhari for the second term, we endorsed him publicly. But thereafter, up till now as I speak to you, nothing has been done for us. Buhari has abandoned the pastoralists. This is very clear. Whether Buhari or his lieutenant, the pastoralists have been abandoned by the government.
“For the last eight years, while over N500 billion was spent on agro-economy, almost nothing is spent on livestock. Go and check all the state governments’ budgetary provisions, including that of the Federal Government, if you see what is budgeted for livestock, you will be surprised. Livestock is being neglected completely.”
He added that the National Livestock Transformation Plan would do little or nothing to address the problems of pastoralists.
The MACBAN President said, “Only recently, the Buhari administration at its tail end began to implement the NLTP where some states have access to the N6 billion funding to establish Livestock centres. Some have started it but we see it as a project that cannot solve the problem.
“How do you think a livestock centre that can only accommodate only 20,000 cows, can solve the problems in a state like Adamawa of over two million cows? Though we appreciate it as a model, this cannot solve the problem.
“We also think we are suffering because people think Buhari is for us and we are for Buhari. That is why we became battlegrounds for politicians. That is why we are being tagged criminals. This is because political opponents when they want to fight Buhari, they attacked the Fulani. We know Buhari is a Fulani man and when he came in first, he showed the world that he has cows. So we have become a battleground for politicians and victims of circumstance. This is because Buhari is the head of state but Buhari has done nothing for us.”
While recalling how the issue of farmers, herders clashes and cattle rustling metamorphosed into present-day banditry and kidnapping, Ngelzarma insisted that herders were being lured into criminal activities due to poverty and ignorance.
According to him, some pastoralists were already leaving the country for peaceful places where they can protect their lives and properties.
He said, “98 per cent of cattle are owned by Fulanis. They live in a vulnerable place where they are victims of Kidnapping. Before you see someone kidnapped on the highway, a lot of herders have been attacked in the bush. Some are trying to leave the country looking for a peaceful place where they protect their lives and properties.
“The biggest surprise is that the cattle business is a multi-trillion business that is left without any form of organisation. Instead of creating prosperity, the business has become an avenue of criminality and money laundering because the producers, transporters and dealers are illiterates. This is a multi-trillion naira business in the hands of illiterates with no form of organisation. This is next to oil and it can sustain the economy of this country with very good harnessing and organisation.
“Today with the cashless policy, people are laundering money by buying cows. This is because you don’t need to go through any form of scrutiny before buying a cow. You are not issued a receipt when you buy.”
He observed that pastoralists were not embracing ranching because it is alien to them, adding that the lack of education is making the problem worse.
“Whatever mode of ranching that is being introduced into this country, these guys would hardly embrace it, the reason is it is alien to them as it is not capturing the reason they are rearing their cows.
“To them, the quality does not matter much, what matters much to them is the quantity. They also want to die and leave so many cows for their children to inherit”, he stated.
While insisting that MACBAN is not a criminal group or a violent one, he observed that herders in the country deserve maximum protection from the government.
Ngelzarma said, “We are a trade group pursuing our cow-rearing business like any other trade group in this country. The small children we see roaming about with cows deserve protection against cattle rustlers, kidnappers and Bandits. Our trade is under threat. But for somebody to put us inside one basket because of crimes perpetrated by a few among us is not fair. We have respected traditional rulers and governors among us.
“Though we have criminals in our folds just like any other tribe, but there are some that went to criminality because of necessity just like the Niger Delta youths when they were offered amnesty, these guys also deserve some form of amnesty for them to be reintegrated into the system.
“When insurgency started in the Northeast, the pastoralists, Fulanis were the target of Boko Haram. Until when they finish rustling all our cows, they started ransacking and looting communities. At a stage, the Maiduguri cattle market which is the largest in West Africa was closed for three years because it became a market for stolen cows. We suffered more than any society in the Northeast. While all these are going on, there has never been a time when these pastoralists enjoy any form of support from this government.
“Some of our state branches who were seen endorsing a candidate have cautioned them against that. But as far as the national body is concerned, we have not endorsed anybody now. We have to consult widely and see who is interested to solve our challenges before we sit and decide on where to go.”