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Of herders, farmers and Emefiele’s milk philosophy

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[FILE PHOTO] Godwin Emefiele

Gone are the days when farmers across the country could remember any farming season which ended smoothly without any challenge. Yes, farmers in this part of the clime are used to facing challenges of pest, weeds, wild animals, flood among others before a good harvest.

Since the advent of this administration farmers have been facing a new threat not only to their crops but to a large extent, their lives. This is because herdsmen have assumed the position of the dreaded ‘dracular’ through the barrel of the gun. They invade farmlands with impunity and reckless abandon while leading cattle across the country for grazing.

As it were, farmlands have become herdsmen ‘shoprite’ and death is payment while injury or rape is a lesson for any farmer who had the effrontery to complain or dare to challenge herders over his or her crops being damaged. In the face of all this, it is commonplace to say that Nigeria is at the moment lucky because, despite the herdsmen atrocities, insurgent attacks, kidnapping brouhaha and random killings on the highway and the countryside by bandits. Yet, the nation still remains one indivisible country.

However, it is hard to imagine the cold silence and the inability of the ruling government to call the herders to order or fight the Boko Haram menace like it was done against militants and illegal refinery operators in the Niger Delta as well as Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB group.

With this scenario, it is therefore difficult to agree with a particular government’s policy that is romancing the herders/farmers issue without considering the people’s mood. It is no longer news that the government is making sweeping and frantic effort to enforce RUGA being the new name twist, on the people as the best solution to achieve peace between herders and farmers. Of course, the whirlwind of rejection that greeted RUGA across the country saw the government retracting through a suspension order of the programme.

Indeed, whatever one thinks about the continued clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the country, they cannot deny the fact that poor judgment from government circles has helped to fuel the crisis. Apart from the self-appointed groups like Miyetti Allah, the Buhari’s administration seems charged with trying to husband the reputation of herdsmen as it has continued to write errors on pages of history over the issue. No doubt, the political poison among political parties now flows freely into the fabric of the society hence certain groups of people are given preference than others. It is naïve to suggest that cattle colony or RUGA will solve farmers and herdsmen clash. If the government had not been so busy pursuing some clandestine agenda through cattle colony or RUGA it would have found better ways to resolve the conflict.

Of course, that brings the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele’s philosophy to bear. The other day, while briefing journalists at the end of the July 2019 edition of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), the CBN governor hinted that it is time to implement forex restriction on milk importation so as to boost local production and investment on milk.

According to Emefiele, “We can no longer continue to spend close to $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, importing milk into the country, a product we can produce. To some extent, they, (milk importers) help us also to reduce the rate of herders, farmers conflict…..we have seen the importation of milk in Nigeria for over 60 years…” The CBN governor further stated, “Let’s ask ourselves the question, what does it take to produce milk? Get a cow, give it lots of water and food, position the cow in a place without it roaming around and milk it. The reason our cow cannot produce enough milk is that they roam around. They don’t have enough water to drink and consume whatever they find. As they roam from one place to another, they destroy farm and farm produce and this leads to clashes.”

A fantastic idea you may say. But one does not need to be a CBN governor to know that ranching will not only help Nigeria’s economy but, it will also immensely help and stop the Fulani herders from roaming the length and breadth of the country as well as put an end to herdsmen and farmers clash? On the other hand, will the government of the day buy the ranching idea? Ranching is the modern way of pastoral farming the world over.

However, it is up to the herders to think and know what is good for them and their business. But for those ‘big wigs’ behind the mask and especially the leaders in the North who according to Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu, Vice-Chancellor, National Open University (NOUN) in a recent interview, just to digress a bit “…Our leaders in the North don’t even care if the masses go to school, as far as their children are in Malaysia and other countries eating pizza. They don’t care about other people’s children….because if they go to school they would become educated and no one would worship them and there would be no political thugs around them…”.

Now, back to the CBN’s governor logic and reasoning that the big milk companies in Nigeria should support the pastoralists (herders) get them concentrated in one place instead of roaming around, provide the facilities like water, hospitals, schools and sell them grass among others and get milk from them to recoup their investments. An excellent business idea which is easier said than done. A behavioural attitude associated with the government and its officials towards programmes and projects in Nigeria. However, those facilities the CBN governor listed are not easy to come by. But if there is a political will they can be provided. Hence, some school of thought believes that Nigeria is not the cheapest place to do business because investors will provide for self, electricity, security and in most cases fix the road.

Nevertheless, Nigeria remains and it is definitely a very prosperous and business-friendly country for investors who venture to do business here.

Apart from cheap labour, the big market and abundant raw materials, the government usually give investors some waivers in the form of a tax holiday. Therefore, it is not true with the assertion in some quarters that Nigeria’s best days are behind it. In actual fact, Nigeria’s best days are yet to be seen if the government would do the needful and stop playing ethnic politics with national developments.


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