More states allocate land for grazing
James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, on Tuesday disclosed that federal government was planning to engage with key leaders of the Fulani tribe within the next few days to court their support towards the establishment of grazing reserves for cattle rearers across the country.
He said the move was aimed at effectively putting an end to the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
Speaking in Abuja at the opening of a retreat on livestock and dairy development in the country, the minister said though the issues around the herdsmen posed a real challenge, the present administration was exploring all avenues to resolve the problem.
He stressed that although many of the herdsmen hitherto arrested for their involvement in clashes across the country were not Fulanis, a large percentage of Nigerian cattle rearers were from the Fulani tribe.
Ogbeh said: “We are in trouble. Every country gets into trouble from time to time, even the most developed. But that’s not an excuse for where we are. However, we are in trouble, our economy is down, our earnings are low, we have all kinds of conflict and we are also hungry. As Mr. President said when he signed the budget this year, he said, ‘I feel your pains,’ and we can truly feel it.
“The cost of food is high, it is difficult to pay school fees, power supply is epileptic because of destruction of gas supply facilities and there are many more concerns. But whenever you are in trouble, that’s the time to think. Lamentations don’t help, which is why organised programmes like this are meant to fix some of these problems we have.
“In the next few days we shall be meeting key persons among the Fulanis and we will talk to them to get their buy-ins into the programmes that we have as part of addressing these concerns.”
The minister’s statement came as the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, also called for constructive engagement between the government, herdsmen and herds owners, adding that most cattle owners were not Fulanis.
Nevertheless, Ogbeh added that the number of states which had provided land for the establishment of grazing reserves had increased to 13, from 11 which was announced last week.
Commenting on the necessity of the workshop, he lamented that the country spends $1.3billion annually importing milk and its related products, stressing that government had over the years failed to categorise cattle rearers as farmers, until the herdsmen began to wreak havoc in towns and remote communities.
He said:”We are facing a conflict, we have to end it and we will end it. Take my words for it! We’ve had enough killings of innocent citizens. No country can boast of how many of its own citizens that its own citizens kill everyday. It is not an achievement. Those perpetuating these acts should know that evil has a way of returning to its source. No wonder Shakespeare said, ‘upon horror’s head shall horror accumulate’. So we must do everything to stop the killings.”
However, Tambuwal, in his address at the gathering on livestock said:”We support and commend the policy initiatives of the Federal Government on grazing and grazing reserves. The roaming about of cattle is not the best way to raise them and it is not the best way to ensure that you have a healthy and more beneficial cattle. I believe that there should be a proper and a more constructive engagement with the herdsmen and herds owners; please mark my words, herdsmen and herds owners.
“Some of those herdsmen are people looking for or rearing the herds for some of us who probably are not even Fulanis, and in so many cases who are not Fulanis. So I believe that with the constructive engagement of the herdsmen and herds owners, they will get a better understanding and appreciate the policy of the federal government.”
He further noted that herdsmen basically roamed about with their cattle in search of greener pasture, adding that with the establishment of ranches and grazing reserves, there will be adequate pasture for the livestock.
According to him:”I therefore call on the herdsmen and herds owners to please, in the interest of peace and in their own interest, embrace the policy of the federal government to minimise the risks on their lives and on their livestock. Secondly, the grazing reserves will give you healthier and better livestock.”