Recent announcement by the Federal Government of plans to establish pilot Cattle ranches in Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Tarabe and Zamfara states, have been greeted with mixed feelings.
Pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Pan-Igbo group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Southern and Middle Belt Forum (SMBLF) and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), have kicked vehemently against the proposed ranching project. In a statement jointly signed by Yinka Odumakin, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, Dr. Isuwa Dogo and Senator Bassey Henshaw respectively, they objected government’s decision. Although they welcomed ranching, they objected to the government decision to spend N70 billion on such, insisting that it is private business, which should be funded by the owners of such business.
The National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had recently approved a 10-year National Livestock Plan which will cost about N179 billion. N70 billion of the amount will be spent between now and May, next year. According to the Minister for Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, “the National Livestock Implementation Plan is a mediation plan stemming from meetings and recommendations of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and the National Economic Council (NEC) in 2017, as regards state interventions following the incessant pastoralist-farmer conflicts.
“We are going to have 94 ranches in 10 states. We have received 21 gazetted grazing reserves from seven states. Plan focuses on pilot intervention in the frontline states of Adamawa, Benue, Edo, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba, and Zamfara.
“A Ranch Design Plan has also been proposed in models of various sizes clustered in 94 locations in the 10 pilot states. We will have clusters of 30, 60, 150, and 300 cow ranch models in a location within the donated and gazetted grazing reserves.
“The total spending for the 10-year period is slightly in excess of N179 billion. Funding for the first three years of the pilot phase is about N70 billion”.
This was the decision frowned at by the aforementioned bodies. Apart from saying that ranching is private business, which does not warrant public fund expenditure, they insist that the issue of attacks by herdsmen has not been fully addressed as to warrant the citing of ranches in communities. Some other people insist that it was wrong for the federal government to have unilaterally appropriated community land from indigenous native people without any form of discussion with them or obtaining their consent and approval as required by law. The groups insist that the federal government is not the owner of indigenous land and so, are not in a position to lawfully cede such land to anybody. They also expressed fears that it would be suicidal to officially hand over their land to herdsmen, who have been attacking their communities, even without any show of remorse or recompense.
Plausible as the argument between the Federal Government and the various groups are, it is important to state that such issues needs further deliberation, with all the interest groups represented before a final decision is taken. It is important to bring all sides to a round table so that the nitty-gritty and rules of engagement could be drawn up and if possible, legislation guiding such business be well spelt out and properly put in place.
With the discordant tunes from government agencies on the real source of attacks on sleepy communities, and the threats by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the major cattle breeders association, to continue to support the breach of Anti-open Grazing Law already in place in some states and Federal Government’s tacit support to the body, it is important to once again draw attention to the fact that violence does not pay anybody and does not bring any positive dividend.
It is in the light of these that The AUTHORITY calls for caution in the implementation of the proposed Cattle Ranches project. Not only that all the stakeholders need to be carried along, it is important to clearly define the rules of engagement in order to forestall clashes in the future. If we aggregate the casualty figure arising from the nationwide farmers/hearders clashes, then the need for proper dialogue before taking a final decision becomes more appropriate.
There is no need making haste when before we come back to dissect the issues and build in appropriate mechanisms to eliminate unnecessary bloodshed and destruction of property. Fears being expressed could be said to be genuine, but it is equally important to call on those groups to dispassionately weight the pro and cons of cattle ranching. They can also make proposals on how such ranches could be run. Herdsmen and cattle owners on their part must be ready to accept truce and harmoniously work towards allowing the kite and eagle perch together on the same tree. Nothing can be better than shelving iconoclastic views on this issue. It remains one veritable way to move the country forward.