From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, has pushed for commercialization of ranching in communities that have the land, noting that although herding cattle is a business, it’s not the state’s responsibility to get into that business.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after a meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, at the presidential villa, Thursday, he said he did not renege on ranching but explained that states cannot unilaterally cede land for ranching.
According to him: “I said a state government is not in the business of ranching or of providing grazing lands. However, there are communities that have lands, which have, as at today, accommodated herders under some arrangements.
“What I suggested was that these communities should look at making lands available where and when herdsmen come in. They can grow grass and charge them to herd in specific areas and avoid getting the herdsmen to trespass into other people’s farm lands because that is what causes crisis.
“These are all commercial transactions between either individuals, communities and pastoralists. That is the point we made, that herding cattle is a business and it’s not the state’s responsibility to get into that business.”
Obaseki stated further: “They actually do it now because what we found is that in most communities, when the pastoralists come in they usually have an arrangement or an agreement with community leaders before they can graze in those communities. That is what exists today. But in some cases that arrangement breaks down when some very young herders are not able to control their cows and they stray into other people’s farmlands.
“That is the situation in many communities today and we are saying why not formalise it properly by designating areas with water and grass so that when they come, you’ll ask them to go into those areas, charge them whatever you need to charge them, by that we’ll restrict them there so that they will not go and trespass into other people’s farmlands and eat up their crops.
“I think it is a reasonable thing to do and these are relationships that have spanned hundreds of years. So, we can’t wake up today and say all of you go away, we don’t want you. How are you going to get the protein?”
The governor blamed the tension in the state over the idea of grazing lands on those he referred to political opponents he defeated in the last gubernatorial poll in the state.
He was reported to have promised to give grazing lands for herders, but he accused the political opponents of deliberately misrepresenting the position of government for selfish reasons.
Obaseki said: “If you will just go through some blogs and some of the narratives and messages sent around online and on social media, you can see a correlation. For instance, the people who are pushing the message that I have given grazing land in Edo, if you see them, they are the same blogs, the same people who were sponsoring opposition messages throughout election. So, clearly, if you were in my position, what will be your conclusion?
“Apart from that, the people who have been pushing the narrative are just trying to create scare, trying to create trouble. These are people who we defeated during the last election.
“So, clearly, we are not saying we don’t have challenges, we have security challenges, but leadership or people who have aspired to leadership, should not be irresponsible. You don’t inflame already tensed situation. That’s what we are saying.”
Speaking on the purpose of his visit, Obaseki said he is seeking the intervention of the presidency on the activities of illegal loggers in Edo forests.
According to him, the activities of illegal loggers was affecting the wildlife in his state, hence his request for President Muhammadu Buhari to deploy the military to help in protecting the state forest reserves.
He said: “I actually came to rub minds with the Chief of Staff. We’ve been having challenges with, not just only bandits in our forests, but illegal loggers. It’s been an invasion of our forests, with armed loggers coming in to indiscriminately cut logs from our forests.
“I’m sure you would have seen this news about the Okomu National Park, it’s one of the last pristine rain forests we have left and the amount of logging by armed loggers in the last couple of months have been really troubling.
“They are also affecting the wildlife. You know that reserve hosts some very rare species of animals and with this avalanche of loggers, we are losing them and it’s something of concern.
“So, I’ve come to rub minds with the Chief of Staff to see how the federal government can assist with the National Parks Guards, with our local guards and see if the military can give them backup.”
He said he got a positive response from the presidency.