Written by Austine ELEMUE


Worried by the increasing audacity of open grazing in the city center by herdsmen and the alarm raised by residents, the Federal Cattle Territory Administration, FCTA, has read the riot act to the cattle grazers: you have two weeks to quit the city center.
However, the cattle herders, mainly Hausa-Fulani, have said they have nowhere to turn to since the area reserved for their grazing, Guzape, has been taken over by real estate development.
The Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, the agency charged with environmental issues in the FCT, handed down the ultimatum in meeting with Fulani community leaders on Friday in Abuja.
A source, who attended the meeting and asked not to be named because the meeting was not made public, said the officials of government were more or less begging the Fulani leaders to call their kinsmen grazing in the city center to order by asking them to move out of the city centre.
“The situation was tensed as the herdsmen were not very cooperative. They told the AEPB officials that they have nowhere to turn to since the area, Guzape, allocated to them for grazing has been taken up by real estate development.
“One of their leaders was adamant that since they started grazing in areas around the city center there have been no reported incident of conflict, and wondered why they are being marginalized.”
Our source said the herdsmen accused the media of bias as the narrative has been skewed against them, adding that they were now being blackmailed since President Muhammadu Buhari, their kinsman, came into office.  
After much back and forth, the Fulani leaders asked for a two weeks window for them to create the necessary awareness amongst their people on the subsisting ban of grazing in the city center. 
The community leaders also insisted that the FCT administration must provide ranches for them as contained in the Abuja Master Plan before normalcy could be restored. 
The spokesman of the Fulani herdsmen, Alhaji Sanusi, told the officials of the AEPB that the prevailing security challenges in the country do not allow them to go into the forest to graze their cattle.
He said that the herdsmen are compelled to come to the city center because of security reason. Secondly, the man said ranches as provided in original Master Plan of Abuja have been converted to other purposes. 
"He insisted that Fulani settlement in Guzape district has been taken over from them, and that the FCT Administration only pay lip service to their demands. The man equally accused the administration of not recognising the Fulani as a major ethnic tribe in the territory. Therefore, the herdsmen insisted that until such knotty issues are addressed by the FCT Administration, people will continue to do the wrong thing," the source revealed. 
However, the management of AEPB while agreeing to look into some of the issues raised by the Fulani herdsmen, warned that the board will not accept animal grazing in the city under any guise, and asked the herdsmen to abide by the two weeks ultimatum to stop grazing in the city.


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