From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan, Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti, Laide Raheem, Abeokuta And Bamigbola Gbolatunte, Akure
The gruesome killings earlier in the week by armed men suspected to be Fulani herders in Ebonyi State and the attack on a female farmer on Wednesday in Ondo States are raising fresh opposition to the alleged plans by some governors in the South West to establish cattle ranches in their states.
On Monday, armed herdsmen reportedly gunned down about 25 persons in Egedegede, Obegu and Amauzu communities Ishielu town of Ebonyi State.
Also on Wednesday, suspected herdsmen attacked a rice farmer, Amaka Okafor, on her farm at Ogbese town, in Akure North Local Government area of Ondo State.
On Wednesday, 81 monarchs in Ekiti wrote the state government, to express their people’s opposition to the decision by the state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi to embrace ranching for herdsmen under the Federal Government’s National Livestock Transformation Plan. The letter was signed by the Chairman of the Majority Obas in Ekiti land, Olomuoke of Omuooke-Ekiti, Oba Vincent Otitoju; the Secretary, Onikun of Ikun Amure-Ekiti, Oba Olatunde Olusola and 79 other monarchs.
In February, Ondo State governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) sent to the state’s House of Assembly a bill to establish ranches across the 18 local councils of the state. But in the light of the incident in Ebonyi as well as the continued attacks on residents by suspected herdsmen in parts of the South West, many people yesterday expressed opposition to the establishment of ranches by governments in the area.
Last weekend, at an international webinar attended by over 1000 Yoruba persons from 174 groups across continents under the aegis of Yoruba One Voice, participants noted, among other issues, that “farmers and other stakeholders involved in farming should cultivate proper ranching structure using it as a private business.”
Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, said he was opposed to ranching and open grazing which, according to him, had become outdated. He said any ranching policy by the South-West governors should be a private business initiative as it is being done abroad. “The South-West should not be the target for the influx of criminal herdsmen that have infiltrated the region, causing various problems,” he noted.
National President, Soludero Hunters Association of Nigeria, Nureni Ajijola Anabi, also expressed the group’s opposition against the establishment of cattle ranches in Oyo State and other parts of Yorubaland. He called on the Fulani herders to rear their cattle in their home states and bring them to the South-West for sale.
Chairman, Steering Committee for Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS) and Treasurer of Ilana Omo Oodua, Otunba Folashade Olukoya, is of the same view: “What we are against is Fulani ranching. What we want is for Fulani to rear their cows in the North and bring them for sale in the South West. They should come, sell and go.”
Secretary-General of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide, who added that there would be no problem if the ranches would be owned by indigenes of the states, expressed his group’s objection to ranching by people from outside Yoruba land.
Convener of Yoruba Koya, Otunba Deji Osibogun, said a judgment delivered by Justice Adewale Thompson had already been banned open grazing in the Western Region. He called on South West governors to obey the law.
Vice Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Ekiti State chapter, Mr. Omoyajowo John, said establishing ranches in Ekiti State would be like creating another state out of Ekiti. “There is no ranching now, yet they go about killing people and destroying farmlands, once they have ranches, there will be more danger,” he noted.
A don, Prof. E.O Ogunleye, said that with what happened in Ebonyi earlier in the week, creating ranches in Ekiti or any other state in the South West would be suicidal.
Adeola Olakemi, a commercial farmer in Ogun State, said ranching should be a private business, and advised the governors against getting involved in it.
A Christian cleric based in Akure, the Ondo State capital, Pastor Adewale Giwa expressed his doubts about ranching stopping the killings and kidnappings by herders, and urged the state governors to be cautious.
But the Chairman, Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers, Oba Ajibade Alabi, Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, in a statement issued on Thursday noted that Governor Fayemi had no plans to cede an inch of Ekiti land to any group of people for ranching. He therefore urged the people of the state not to entertain any anxiety on the issue.