Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Leaders of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and the Bayelsa Youth Movement (BYM) yesterday endorsed the establishment of a ranch to support cattle grazing in Bayelsa State.
The groups also described as “baseless” allegations that the state government was mortgaging the future of Ijaw children by its decision to earmark the Bayelsa Palms area for cattle business.
Specifically, the pro-Niger Delta groups noted that Ms. Ankio Briggs, Prof. Kimse Okoko and Mr. Claudius Enegesi who have opposed the setting aside of the land for cattle ranching, were talking from the point of inadequate information.
A statement by the IYC’s Chairman, Central Zone, Comrade Bobolaiyefa Owopiele, said the fears harboured by Briggs and others of north‘s domination of Ijaw land due to the decision were not only unfounded but smacked of scaremongering.
They argued that the ranch was necessary for the sake of security and boosting of the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Bayelsa.
“Their fear of annexation of Ijaw/ Niger Delta territories vis-à-vis acquisition of Ijaw lands on the pretext of cattle grazing are unnecessary and unfounded as the land is not donated or sold to anybody including her so much feared cattle herdsmen.
“The Bayelsa Oil Palms farm space is provided for cattle business just as the Ekeki Motor Park is provided by government for transport business in the state,” the IYC said.
The group argued that already, a Committee on Management and Control of Ranches comprising security agencies had been set up in December 2016 to oversee the activities of those doing cattle business in the state, including cattle herdsmen.
The IYC maintained that even Ijaw people are doing fishing business in far away places like Baro, Lokoja, Kaduna, Pategi and Yauri in Northern Nigeria and have not constituted any threats to their hosts.
“The fishing grounds and camps allotted to them by their hosts and where they have been doing legitimate business over the years have not become Ijaw land”, the group maintained.
It added: “If the Hausa quarters in Warri and Port Harcourt where Hausa/Fulani people have stayed to do business for decades have not become Hausa/Fulani land, how then does anyone come to the conclusion that the Bayelsa Oil Palms farmland meant for cattle ranches, abattoir and market will become Hausa/Fulani property.”
Also, the BYM yesterday called on the people of the state to hold the trio of Okoko, Briggs and Enegesi for any herdsmen, farmers’ clash in the state.
A statement by Comrade James Ere-Brown, president of the group, said any deaths arising from disagreements between the herdsmen and other residents of the state should be blamed on those opposed to the move.
“The people should put the blame of any death from clashes between herdsmen and any community on Briggs, Okoko and Enegesi and all those who are against the move by government to check the activities of the herdsmen.
In its own reaction, the INC accused those opposed to the idea, of misinforming and inciting members of the public without making efforts to know the facts of the government’s decision.
“ As it has been the case in many places in recent times. It is a decision taken to prevent injuries and deaths likely to arise in the event of any misunderstanding between cattlemen and farmers or farm owners in the state.
“The governor took the decision as part of his plan to reposition the economy of the state, a vigorous drive in agriculture and investment in livestock to increase the state’s scarce internally generated revenue (IGR).
An ex-Commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, Africanus Ukparasia, aka, General Africa, had also yesterday taken on Briggs and others over their stand on the cattle ranch issue.