Federal Government yesterday disclosed that it had settled for creation of ranches as against grazing reserves across the country as the surest way of solving the perennial conflicts between host communities and the roving herdsmen, which had led to wanton destruction of lives and properties in affected communities across the country in recent time.
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri who dropped the hint in Abuja, 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 ranches.
Lokpobiri unveiled the government’s plans towards ending the crises in his submissions at a joint public hearing organised by the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Rural Development and National Security and Intelligence on incessant violent clashes between herdsmen and farming communities.
He said the ranches, when created by the federal government across the country, would put to an end the incessant clashes between the modern day herdsmen and farming communities.
According to him, the herdsmen labelled in the media as Nigerian Fulanis are not, as none of the apprehended ones was able to speak any of the Nigerian languages.
The minister declared that herdsmen were only known for cattle rearing and roving grazing in the country.
“Available statistics to us in government show that contrary to media report that these violent herdsmen are the conventional Nigerian Fulanis, 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 form 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.
He said though the country has 415 grazing reserves for the herdsmen to feed their cattle, most of the reserves being in the northern part of the country are grassless due to 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 that has 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.
According to him, through ranches as the best way of rearing cattle, Brazil, United States of America, Saudi Arabia, are making the best of productivity in animal husbandry.
“While in Saudi Arabia where there is no cattle movement as we have in Nigeria but ranches, 4.7million litres of milk are realised on daily basis. Nigeria only manages to realise that on yearly basis,” he said, adding that due to long distances of moving cattle around in Nigeria, many of the female cows suffer infertility as against their counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Brazil and USA with high fertility rate due to being reared in a particular place called ranches.”
Though stakeholders from various ethnic nationalities have lent support to federal government’s proposal to establish ranches by kicking against continuation of grazing reserves policy, the herdsmen under the auspices of Meiyetti Allah insisted that grazing reserve routes should be sustained.
The national legal adviser of the group, Barrister Tukur Bello submitted to the committee that ranches being planned by the federal government had been personally created by some of the herdsmen in some parts of the country.
He said creating grazing reserve routes across the country for the herdsmen would be the best solution to the incessant clashes between the herdsmen and farmers, in addition to establishment of a Federal Ministry of Livestock Development in the country in line with what are available in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon and Central Africa Republic.
Other recommendations made by the group 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 to see to the problems of cattle rearing in the country.
“Past interventions and reports on previous clashes should be reviewed and Comprehensive Livestock Development Action Plan should be worked out from them.
“Funding for grazing reserves development should be provided from the CBN Intervention Funds, SDG funds and support from technical financial and development partners like the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, UN-FAO, the European Union, International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, and others.”
Meanwhile, the chairman of the joint committee, Senator Adamu Abdullahi sounded a serious note of warning to any Nigerian community that may want to take laws into their hands against grazing reserve for now by declaring that government alone could decide whatever it wanted to use land for.
Adamu, who sounded the warning when representatives of the Southern Kaduna people insisted that the Nigerian Fulanis were the ones killing their people and acquiring their lands under the cover of grazing reserves, said “nobody can stop government from acquiring land anywhere in Nigeria.
“Government is government; if anybody thinks he is violent, government has monopoly of violence.”
Representatives of the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. Abayomi Olonishakin, the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase and other security heads, along with elder statesmen like Profs Jubrin Aminu and Ango Abdullahi, also made submissions at the public hearing.