Ogbeh: Now is the Time to Solve Grazing Predicament

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• Says govt’s gesture to herdsmen shouldn’t be criticised

James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, on Tuesday said there was no better time to solve the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers, adding that the development had taken a huge toll on the economy.

He also said those who are criticising government’s good gesture towards the Fulani herdsmen, in trying to provide grazing reserves for them were being unfair because government had also made several interventions to farmers under its new policy on agriculture, noting that herdsmen constitute part of the agriculture plan of the present admiration.

Admitting that the currently situation was rather complex, given that conflict is not a one-way dimension, he stressed that the present administration was nevertheless, committing to finding a lasting solution to the problem.

“And I assure Nigerians that we will resolve the problem,” he said.
Speaking in Abuja at a Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum on ‘Holistic Land Management for Sustainable Crop and Livestock Production,’ the minister said government plans to expose the Fulani families to education as well as the process to better yield of milk, in what he described as a ‘win-win’ concept for Nigerians.
Appealing to Nigerians to slow their anger on the establishment of grazing reserves, he said 14 states had now offered land for grazing activities.

Ogbeh further gave reasons why the federal government may not be in a position to ban non-citizens from grazing activities across even though there were evidence that many herdsmen who were involved in clashes in Nigerian villages were non Nigerians.

He said: “The Nigerian constitution has given every citizen the fundamental right to freedom of movement in search of legitimate businesses; transhumance pastoralism is seen along these lines.
“For pastoralists from neighbouring West African countries, access to grazing rights in other countries in the ECOWAS zone including Nigeria, are guaranteed by the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol of 1998 and ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Goods and Persons in West Africa.”

Ogbeh stated that the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol allowed for herders to move across borders in search of pasture upon fulfilling the conditions laid down in the Protocol.

According to him: “So it is not strange to see a Malian, Burkinabe or Nigerien pastoralist grazing his cows, sheep or goats in Nigeria or a Nigerian pastoralist grazing his livestock in Benin, Togo or Ghana and by extension, transhumance pastoralists from other neighbouring countries.”
The minister noted that pastoralists who provide bulk of livestock and dairy products consumed locally, employ mobility as a production strategy.

He, however, regretted that the movement of animals within and across agro-ecological zones had precipitated resource use competition that had resulted in high incidence of conflicts between crop farmers and pastoralists across the country.

He added that the conflict, had taken a huge toll on the nation’s economy, stressing that “the present deadly conflicts reportedly occur mostly between the Nigerian transhumance herders and/or the cross border transhumance pastoralists on hand and the local crop farmers on the other.”

He said conflict between the groups and promote commercial livestock production, the minister stated that grazing reserves and stock routes development and utilisation had been stepped up in recent years.
According to him:”The grazing reserves are to settle transhumant pastoralists and reduce/eliminate crop farmer-pastoralist conflicts.”

Among other things, he blamed urbanisation which had encroached on dedicated grazing routes as partly responsible for the current situation.