No plan to seize lands over cattle colonies, Audu Ogbeh clarifies
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has clarified that the Federal Government’s cattle colony initiative is not meant for the Fulani to colonise any territory, but rather provide a safe haven for animals to graze under a controlled environment and prevent conflict between farmers and herdsmen.
The Minister vehemently denied accusations that the programme was designed to seize local farmlands and hand them over to Fulani herdsmen, saying nothing could be further from the truth.
He made the clarification on Friday during a working visit to three agricultural institutes at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. “If we don’t deal with the herders-farmers conflict quickly, we run the risk of damaging the harmony and cohesive existence of Nigeria as a country. The killings are getting too many and frequent,” he said.
He noted: “When we spoke of colonies, we were immediately greeted with reactions that this was an attempt to seize land and hand them over to Fulani herdsmen to colonise. If any suspicion arises, it is unintended and regrettable. We never meant and do not have the intention to seize anyone’s land by force.”
He recalled that last year, 16 state governments affirmed their interest to participate in ranching and pledged to make five hectares available. He reiterated that the Federal Government would not force states to surrender their land.
“Only yesterday, the Vice President set up a committee with members comprising mainly state governors. We resolved that interested states would begin work next week. We are told that it is herdsmen’s custom to move around. But the current culture of open grazing is a posing serious challenge and is not too efficient. It does not allow the harvest of milk. The yield on milk in Nigeria is one of the lowest in the world, averaging one or half litre per day.”
He pleaded with Nigerians to take the current crisis out of the binoculars of ethnic sentiments and bias and called for a timely solution that is unique to Nigeria.
The Minister also said the Federal Government would engage the services of the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), to assist in the production of fodder.
The Director of NAPRI, Prof. Clarence Lakpini, said pastoralists in the country had no fewer than 19.7 million cattle and 113.8 million sheep and goats currently grazing.
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