By Chinyere Ogbonna – The Federal Government has unveiled plans to set up colonies across the country to assist Fulani herdsmen in rearing their cows. This is in its effort to find a lasting solution to incessant farmers/herders clashes. The decision to establish colonies across the country was taken at a special security meeting with Governors of five dates of the Federation considered as epicentres of the farmers-herdsmen clashes and security chiefs in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The colonies apart from providing adequate water supply and pasture for grazing of cattle, would also have a shopping and supply centres for dairy products with abattoirs and meat warehouses for processing finished products. The federal government during the meeting, blamed the wanton killings carried out by Fulani herdsmen in parts of the country on failure of government to invest and provide necessary facilities for cow rearing.
It regretted that it had not been fair to livestock farmers as much as they had done for other aspect of farming. Saying “this killing is due to negligence for over fifty years”. The government acknowledged that the killings and bloodletting of hardworking farmers, if not stopped, would threaten the peace, stability and unity of the country and promised to measure up, having realised that the abandonment and absence of government support to herders and cow rearing was largely responsible for the incessant clashes and the resultant deaths.
Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd) and his Agriculture counterpart, Chief Audu Ogbe, made federal government’s decision known at the meeting. Ogheh said, “The federal government is planning a programme called cattle colonies, not ranches but colonists, where at least 5000 hectares of land would be made available, adequate water and adequate pasture would be made available.
“We also want to stop cattle from roaming the streets, farms and other areas as they will henceforth be provided with water and adequate security by the rangers, adequate pasture milk collection and even security against rustlers to enable them live normal life. This has been successfully done in India, Ethiopia and even Brazil.
“Over the years, government has not done much to look seriously into the issue of livestock development, though people often ask why government and not herdsmen should manage their own livestock. We are sad to tell you that in the last 50 years until recently, we may have done enough for the rice farmer, the cassava farmer, the maize farmer, the cocoa farmer, but we haven’t done much for herdsmen and that inability and omission on our part is resulting in the crises we are witnessing today.
“In Europe, every cow farmer gets a subsidy of 6 Euros per day. We have done next to nothing for the cattle rearers and thus its operation has become a threat to the existence of our farmers. That is what this communiqué will seek to resolve”.
Also, speaking, convener of the meeting and Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, said the meeting was to primarily share experiences among stakeholders and then agree on necessary measures to be taken against the menace.
According to Dambazau, “the current situation is very dangerous to Northern Nigeria in particular and the nation in general”. The minister warned that threats to peace and public safety in any form at any location in the country will not be tolerated.
He said, “It is the responsibility of government at all levels to provide, unconditionally, sustainable peace and public safety within their territorial boundaries. Against this background, the meeting is convened to primarily bring us together to share our experiences on the aforementioned security challenges. The meeting will then agree on necessary measures to be taken and apportion responsibilities.
“The immediate repercussion of this menace includes hunger due to acute shortage of food, diseases, criminal activities and deepening animosity between ethnic and religious groups. “Knowing that general election is fast approaching and considering the history of political and election violence in Nigeria, all necessary steps must be taken to ensure that the recently witnessed crimes and violent conflicts are curtailed with utmost dispatch”.
In attendance at the meeting were Governors of Niger, Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau States. Others who attended the meeting include the Inspector General of Police, Commandant General of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Director General of the Department of State Security Services (DSS), among others.
Meanwhile, after a closed-door meeting that lasted for about six hours, last night, the governors of Benue and Taraba states, Samuel Ortom and Ishaku Darius however rejected the proposed establishment of cattle colonies, insisting that ranching remains the best option for livestock rearing in the country. They made their position known in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting.
In a related development, the youth wing of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has called on the federal government to come to their aid and save the Fulani ethnic race from annihilation. At the end of its extra ordinary meeting in Kaduna, the association alleged that some farming communities had subjected their race to blackmail and intimidation across the country.
In a statement signed by the national youth leader, Modibo Abdulkareem Bayero, the association noted that thousands of Fulani youths who rear cattle as their occupational activities have been placed on a state of uncertainty in states such as Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Kaduna where their livestock are allegedly ransacked by local farmers. The MACBAN youth association also urged the federal government to declare a state of emergency in Benue State where the governor has allegedly recruited private security outfits to invade Nomads’ settlement and rustle their livestock.
The Association further called for the withdrawal of the open grazing prohibition law enforced by Benue and Taraba State governors. It also called for the creation of livestock ministry to cater for special attention on abundant livestock products owned by the Fulani race in Nigeria as the utmost solution to the incessant conflicts in the country.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the recent killings in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue state by the suspected Fulani herdsmen has risen to 71. This is just as the state governor, Samuel Ortom, has declared a 2-day mourning period for those killed in the attacks, beginning from Tuesday to Wednesday this week.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Terver Akase, noted that the mourning period, which would end with a church service for the victims at IBB Square in Makurdi, would be followed by a burial of the deceased. According to Mr. Akase, flags would be flown at half-mast within the mourning period, while work would close at 1:00pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday, which is the day for the church service and burial of the victims, has been declared work-free day in the State.