Magnus Eze, Abuja
Despite the outrage that greeted the proposed cattle colony policy, the Federal Government has said it would not rescind its plan of developing cattle colonies in parts of the country.
While the Federal Government said it would not force any state government to provide land for the project, it was gathered that about 16 states; all from the north had provided not less than 5,000 hectares of land each. Sokoto, Taraba and Benue states as well as all the 17 states in the south have declined interest in developing cattle colonies.
Saturday Sun gathered that the sum of N5.30bn was proposed for developing grazing reserves in parts of the country in the 2018 Appropriation Bill under consideration by the National Assembly. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh who spoke in Abuja disclosed that government did not anticipate the backlash it got from the proposed livestock development policy.
Receiving report of the National Livestock conference held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, September last year, in which all key stakeholders in the Livestock sector participated, the Minister said the Federal Government was grieved and seriously concerned about the fatal dimension herders-crop farmers’ crisis had assumed and assured that it will leave no stone unturned in addressing the issue.
According to the Minister, the Federal Government’s proposal to set up cattle colonies and encouragement of ranches remained the best option to the killings and toxic hatred the current altercation had generated; saying the wanton loss of lives was not acceptable.
Ogbeh who harped on the need for necessary steps that will permanently stop the killings, protect the farmers, as well as secure modern way of livelihood for the herdsmen, also revealed that a sensitization programme to educate the herders, farmers and the communities including politicians was underway.
“We have listened to what people have said and we recognize people’s rights to freedom of expression: but let me reiterate once again that the government is not seizing land of any Nigerian to give to Fulani herdsmen for them to colonize. The programme is also not an appeasement of Fulani at the detriment of crop farmers either. If today, we as government and citizens don’t find a practical solution to the problem as quickly as possible, it will get worse tomorrow.
“We didn’t envisage how much high voltage emotion and politicking this issue has generated. It is one of our characteristics as a country that we live with. We needed to educate the herdsmen, educate everyone of us on the need to move away from what we were doing before that is bringing conflict for many reasons; avoiding crisis and making this industry more productive. I know that the average herdsman is more concerned about the number of his herds than perhaps the milk coming out, about the speed the cattle can grow and the value of the meat, which is why he needs education. More than this, we also have the leaders, the politicians, we all need education on this.”
Presenting the report to the Minister, the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, Dr Gideon Mshebwalla said the Committee identified lack of access to land, low productivity, old practice of open grazing, lack of access to finance, inadequate water provision, inefficient landholding, poor infrastructure and support facilities as well as low level of extension facilities as the major factors militating against optimal development of the sector.
The Committee recommended resuscitation of the grazing reserves, encouragement of private people to go into setting up ranches in addition to the Federal Government setting up of cattle colonies.
It also urged government to intervene in the provision of infrastructure and support services like roads, electricity, water, improved pasture and provision of extension services as well as empowering the Agricultural Research Institutes to invest on research that will be accessible to the end users.