OBASEKI AND FUNDING OF EDO RANCHES

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Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to provide funds for private business people to set up ranches in his state. The governor spoke recently after meeting with the president. Obaseki, while fielding questions from State House reporters, said Edo was yet to pass the anti-open grazing law as agreed by the governors of southern states because it wanted to be sure it could enforce the law.

The governor said he told the president that Edo people had resolved that ranching was a private business but since it is expensive, the federal government should make funds available to interested individuals under the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP). He said: “Principally, there were four issues I discussed with him. First has to do with the position of Edo State on the anti-grazing law. As you know, most southern states have passed laws relating to open grazing, but Edo has not, because we want to ensure that whatever laws we pass are laws that we can enforce….”

Governor Obaseki has not created ranches but ranches were created in Edo State since 1967, but not developed. Dr Samuel Ogbemudia was former military and civilian governor of the defunct Midwest and Bendel State from September 1967-1975 and 1983. He established Agbede Cattle Ranch (which came even before itinerant Fulani cattle herdsmen began clashing with farmers everywhere), he introduced Bufallo rearing for meat production and Agbede Mechanised Farm and Igarra Cattle ranch. Prof Ambrose Alli, former governor of defunct Bendel State established a ranch between Ubiaja and Ilushi in Esan South East local between 1979-1983. Edo State ranches are not developed despite the fact that some of them were created more than 50 years ago. Indeed, there are under-developed ranches in Okada junction in Ovia South West, Okada in Ovia North East, Akoko Edo, Esan South East, Etsako West and across the 18 local governments of Edo State, established by prominent Edo people.

Modern ranching is supposed to be an improvement over traditional livestock management. Commercial ranching is also supposed to become the focus of agro-pastoral development that would meet the minimum of 25 grams of mutton per cattle a day. When the British introduced commercial ranching in Nigeria, their aim was to boost the supply of milk, meat, butter, and hides to Europe and Anglophone countries of West Africa. Ranching was also supposed to transform the social and economic life of the Fulani. The policy on ranching continued after independence when the government of Nigeria tried to use ranching to resettle the nomadic Fulani

In Edo State, investors own animals. Cattle are the predominant agricultural product. It’s the way prominent Edo people make their money; it’s a very important part of our economy. Edo is blessed because we have millions of acres of pasture where the soil is ideal for growing grass. There is no temptation of ceding any land to the federal government for ranching because it started as a business since 1967. Private investors interested in cattle rearing have invested their personal money in ranching.

Why are those opposed to ranches silent on those that employed the service of Fulanis as herdsmen? Many Nigerians are not aware that people from Southern Nigeria own cows. I challenge Edo State indigenes who are cattle owners to speak out.

The terrorist Fulani herdsmen do not own cattle, they take care of cattle. Most of them are employed as “security men” whose job is strictly to protect the cattle. They are owned by prominent Fulani leaders in the country. Fulanis own some of the cattle in Edo; but the vast majority are owned by people from Edo State.

What seems to be common to all cattle owners in the country is the hiring of Fulani herdsmen to tend their cattle. So far, the people’s anger has been directed at these herdsmen, who are being blamed for the serial conflicts with local farmers, whose farmlands and entire villages are being plundered. It is high time the owners of the cattle were brought into the equation.

• Inwalomhe Donald, inwalomhe.donald@yahoo.com