No Land for Ruga in Edo, Obaseki Insists

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Godwin Obaseki

•Says grazing reserve appropriate in Sambisa Forest

Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, yesterday ruled out the state making available land for the federal government to set up its proposed Ruga Settlement for herders.

He said in a lecture titled: ‘The Challenges of Pastoralism and International Migration for Sustainable Peace and Development in Nigeria: Edo State Experience,’ which he delivered to participants at an Executive Intelligence Management (EIM) Course 12 in Abuja that the federal government could create a grazing reserve in the Sambisa forest for the herders.

“The Sambisa Grazing Reserve (4800 ha) is an ideal and symbolic place to take-off by establishing a ranch run by the military. It would significantly improve the security situation in the zone and encourage cooperation between pastoralists and the military.
“In the North-west, the military should also be encouraged to create ranches in the Gidan Jaja Grazing Reserve (565,000 ha) for the same purpose of improving security and cooperation with pastoralists (NWGPG, 2018),” he stated.

According to him, the approach of his government has been that animal husbandry is a business just like poultry, piggery or any other business in the agriculture sector and his administration will want to upgrade agricultural practices as it relates to livestock.

“For us, because it is business like any other private business, the state should not really have much to do except we create an enabling environment for those people we want to invest in livestock business. So, the issue of giving state land for livestock, it won’t happen in Edo State,” Obaseki added.

He, however, said under the administration of former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, the federal government set up ranches in several parts of Edo State, which are either privatised or left fallow, adding that “we are talking to people who purchased them to see how they can be re-activated.”

“Individuals who have land and they want to go into livestock business, like we are supporting people who are doing cassava and others, we as government will support them,” he said.
He dismissed claims that the herders could not be linked to criminality, saying there are some criminally minded herders who are engaged in nefarious activities beyond just herding.

He said: “In Edo State, we have found so-called herdsmen with maps in the forests; they clearly cannot be herdsmen who are dependent on their livelihood from their animal assets; that cannot be.
“I think it is important in the context of this discourse to make that distinction between conflict as a result of economic activities, separate from deliberate conflict that is related to other issues like insurgency and terrorism.

“You have issue of pastoralists or herdsmen who have come to parts of the South, Edo State, over the years using grazing routes, they have always interacted with the communities; they have always had economic arrangements with those communities and because of the socio-political structures when they come into the communities, the first thing they do is to go and look for the chief or the leader in the community, announce their presence and go into economic arrangement.

“Unfortunately, because of the breakdown of that socio structure within the herdsmen arrangement, we found out that some of the young men who they give the cattle; coming into the communities without respecting this arrangement that has been in place, they cause conflicts within those communities, they have always had conflict resolution mechanisms.”

Underscoring the need for Nigeria and Africa to plan towards the transformation of pastoralism into settled forms of animal husbandry, Obaseki stated that the establishment of grazing reserves would provide the opportunity for practising a more limited form of pastoralism and be a pathway towards a more settled form of animal husbandry.

Tracing the problems confronting Nigeria and other parts of Africa to dearth of quality leadership, he said: “The security challenges of pastoralism and international migration and several other problems that Nigeria faces as a country can only be solved by our political leaders and security officers with the citizens’ co-operation.

“This underscores the need for quality political and security leadership that is peace and development-oriented. Therefore, the efficacy and utility of leadership in the nation’s quest for sustainable peace and development cannot be over-emphasised in the over-all determination of the crisis of governance and leadership is further underscored by the need for us as leaders to explore avenues of development and concomitant financing that will make the difference and bring out the best options in tackling any of the problems that may raise its ugly head at any particular point in time.

“However, any nation-state in Sub-Saharan Africa, including our great country Nigeria, that is committed to having and maintaining sustainable peace and achieving a developmental pedestal, such a state needs to put in place a system of good governance.
“By good governance I mean a system of values, policies, and institutions by which a society manages its economic, political and social affairs through interactions within and among states, civil society, and private sector.”