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‘Killer herdsmen not Nigerians, government to set up ranches’

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Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri

Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri

• ‘ Nobody can stop govt from acquiring land’ • Ekiti won’t give out land, says Fayose
• Tiv, Idoma, Ohanaeze, S’South, Fulani herdsmen disagree over grazing reserves

No! The herdsmen inflicting violence on their host communities in the country are not Nigerians, let alone being the usual Fulani known for cattle rearing and roving grazing in Nigeria. This was the position of the Federal Government yesterday.

The government also announced plans to establish cattle ranches ‎across the country as part of the solution to the perennial clashes between farmers and herdsmen.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, who spoke at a public hearing convened by the Senate as part of its investigation into the clashes, said that government believed that those attacking villages and killing people were still elements of the Boko Haram insurgents.

In the heat of arguments that ensued during the public hearing, the Chairman of the Senate Joint Committee, Abdullahi Adamu, had to shout down some stakeholders who spoke against the creation of ‎grazing reserve routes.

The minister pointed out that the ranches would restrict cattle in one place, a development he said would result in more productivity from the cattle.

Unveiling the plans of the Federal Government towards ending the crises at the joint public hearing organised by the Senate committees on agriculture, rural development and national security and intelligence, Lokpobiri, said not less than nine states across the federation had given 5,000 hectares of land each to the Federal Government for the establishment of the ranches.

He said the ranches, when created, would end the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farming communities.

“Available statistics in government show that contrary to media reports that these violent herdsmen are the conventional Nigerian Fulani, they are not, as none of those apprehended was able to speak any of the Nigerian languages, giving strong credence to the possibility of the violent herdsmen to be another set of terrorists in the mode of Boko Haram.

“The problem is not Nigerian but regional, more so, when the Nigerian Fulani man has always been known to be a peace-loving person,” he said.

The minister said though the country had 415 grazing reserves for the herdsmen to feed their cattle, most of the reserves, being in the Northern part of the country, were grassless due to the problem of desertification.

He explained further that ranches being the modern way of rearing cattle and achieving the best of productivity in animal husbandry, would make Nigeria have just 19 million cows with a population of 160 million people to measure up with Brazil which has 220 million cows with similar human population with Nigeria.

The stakeholders from various ethnic nationalities like Tivs, Idoma, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and South-South, through their representatives, supported the planned establishment of ranches, but kicked against continuation of the grazing reserve routes policy.

They argued that it would be wrong for the Federal Government to deploy public resources to establish grazing reserves for herdsmen.

On hearing this submission, Abdullahi Adamu said: “Nobody can stop the government from acquiring land anywhere. Government is government. If anybody thinks he is violent, ‎government has the monopoly of violence.”

Also, the Fulani herdsmen under the auspices of Meiyetti Allah insisted that grazing reserves routes should be sustained. They suggested some measures which include the establishment of a ministry of livestock.

The recommendations of the Fulani herdsmen as contained in a paper by the National Secretary of the Nyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Baba Othman Ngeizarma, which attracted support from the Sultan of Sokoto ‎and the Emir of Kano, are:

. That the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should work with the ‘Ministries of Water Resources, Environment, National Planning, Foreign Affairs, state governments, farmer organisations, pastoralists organisations and community leaders to preserve and demarcate trans-human routes and cattle resting points with support from technical and financial partners.

. Review of past interventions and reports, and work out a comprehensive livestock development action plan under the auspices of the National Council on Agriculture for a smooth transformation of livestock production, including all actors in the value chain from producers (pastoralists) to transporters, markers, consumers and dealers in livestock by-products.

. Establishment of a Federal Ministry for Livestock Development in Nigeria in line with the practice in most African countries that have large livestock populations like Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroun and Central Africa Republic.

. Provision of funding for grazing reserves development from the Central Bank of Nigeria intervention funds, and support from technical financial and development partners like the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (lFAD) and others; and

‎. Working in close conjunction with the ‘state governments in devising means that will provide for close monitoring and detection of trans- boundary movements, trans-boundary animal diseases, compliance with the international transhumance certificate, vaccination areas, livestock markets, health of animals, abattoirs, slaughter houses and marketing of meat.

Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, has declared that his government would not release any portion of the state’s land, as grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen.

In a statement in Ado-Ekiti yesterday by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Idowu Adelusi, he said the governor made the declaration in an interview programme on the local radio and television stations in the state.

He, however, said that Fayose would support a situation whereby state governments establish ranches for herdsmen in their local communities.

The governor said moving large ‎herds of cattle from one point to another is no longer fashionable, going by the attendant risks and conflicts being generated.

He declared: “By the powers conferred on me by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the Executive Governor of Ekiti State, I reserve the rights to allocate land in the state to people and we will not give an inch of our land to any cow breeder.”


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