Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has kicked against the plan of the federal government to begin rehabilitation of grazing reserves in the country next month.
“We find the move not only shocking and curious but also as a misplaced priority,” the governor said through his spokesperson, Terver Akase.
Mr Akase stated that at a time the country is worried about the worsening security situation, the federal government considers the reopening of cattle grazing routes as the only solution available to it.
“It is now clear that there is a hidden agenda which only the Presidency knows. Otherwise, all the regions of the country have accepted the fact that open grazing of animals is no longer fashionable and should be banned to pave way for ranching, yet, the government at the centre is insistent that grazing reserves/cattle routes must be created across the country.
“On February 9, this year, the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) met and agreed that the current system of herding mainly by open grazing is no longer sustainable, in view of growing urbanisation and (the) population of the country. The Forum consequently resolved to sensitise herders on the need to adopt ranching as the new method of animal husbandry.”
“The 17 Governors of Southern Nigeria rose from their meeting in Asaba on May 11 also this year, with a ban on open grazing in the entire region. The Southern Governors equally adopted ranching as the alternative method of rearing animals.”
The Benue governor said the Presidency is the only one supporting the continuation of open grazing and the return of cattle routes of the 1950s and 60s.
“The Presidency has, by its endorsement of open grazing, emboldened armed herders who lay claim to all lands in Nigeria as belonging to Fulani, hence their invasion of farming communities and killing of original owners of such lands.”
Speaking on the feasibility of the project, Mr Ortom noted that routes that used to be for grazing in the past have been taken over by airports, roads, schools, hospitals, amongst others.
He then suggested ranching, stating that the state will not be part of the federal government’s plan.
“The country’s land mass has also reduced to less than 923 square kilometers with the excision of Bakassi to Cameroon. Besides, the international best practice of animal husbandry is ranching; and that’s the stand of Benue State.
“We in Benue have embraced ranching as the viable alternative to open grazing and there is no going back on our resolve. Our ranching law, which prohibits open grazing, is Benue people’s reaction to the incessant killings, and it is also an instrument of development.
“The law was enacted by representatives of the people in the Benue State House of Assembly, in exercise of its powers as provided for by Section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Part 2 of the Second Schedule reinforces the power of the State House of the Assembly providing that “a House of Assembly may make laws for the State with respect to industrial, commercial or agricultural development.
“While we may not stop the Federal Government’s plan to rehabilitate grazing reserves or create cattle routes in other states, we wish to make it clear that no land in Benue State has been gazetted for grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colonies and Ruga settlements. Benue is therefore not part of the grazing reserves rehabilitation programme of the Federal Government.”
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, on Monday, announced Mr Buhari’s approval of the rehabilitation of grazing reserves, stating that it will commence in June.
The move is aimed at curbing the bloody clashes between herders and farmers across the country.
The president also questioned the legality of the recent ban on open grazing in the southern region of the nation, saying that his administration is working on other alternatives to bring peace between farmers and herders.