No state in the southern Nigeria has volunteered to provide land to the Federal Government to set up cattle colonies in order to address the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
It was also learnt that the 16 states that had volunteered to provide land for the establishment of the cattle colonies are from northern Nigeria.
They include Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Nasarawa and Plateau.
Others are Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Jigawa, Yobe, Niger, Kogi and Kwara states.
Further findings from the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Monday in Abuja showed that while there were dissenting voices in some of the documented states that had volunteered to provide land, the 16 states agreed to provide 5,000 hectares of land each for the establishment of cattle colonies.
Last week, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, announced that the establishment of cattle colonies in the states that had volunteered land would commence this week.
When contacted, senior officials at the agriculture ministry re-echoed what Ogbeh had said that the Federal Government would not force any state to volunteer land for the initiative.
The officials, however, stated that the 16 states from northern Nigeria had been documented as locations where the initiative would start, adding that the government was canvassing support from more states, particularly from southern Nigeria.
Ogbeh’s Special Assistant on Media, Dr Olukayode Oyeleye, and the Director of Information, FMARD, Tolu Makinde, provided our correspondent with various speeches by the minister which extensively explained how the Federal Government planned to go about the initiative.
In one of Ogbeh’s speeches, the minister recalled that early last year, letters were sent to all state governments to know who was interested in the programme.
He said a large number responded, but some said they had no land to give, while 16 affirmed their interest to participate and pledged to make land available for the initiative.
On states that had volunteered to provide land, Ogbeh had said, “We have agreed to work together to create a new culture of cattle rearing different from what we have today. We are told that it is a custom of the herdsmen to be moving around. The current culture of open grazing is posing serious challenges.
“It does not allow harvest of milk, while the yield on milk in Nigeria is one of the lowest in the world, averaging one or half litre per day.”
He said the initiative would put a stop to cattle’s tortuous trekking, lead to better feeding, quality meat, provision of good water for the animals, good veterinary services and new environment that would protect the cattle from rustlers.
Ogbeh said the clashes between herdsmen and farmers were being politicised, adding that Nigeria had over 145 million hectares of land untouched but “yet we have no land to give for grazing.”
He said, “We have to end this fight between farmers and herdsmen. We have enough land and scientific knowledge to solve the problem except that there is too much politics and too little governance. Everything is politicised and there is too much suspicion; even with religion. Everybody is suspicious that you are about to play one trick or the other.
“Why should one set of people be in the bush because they are keeping herds and trying to give us meat when we can give them better life, secure the farmers, secure the herdsmen from rustlers and give the Fulani man, the Ijaw, the Ibiobioo, or the Yoruba, our good attention?”
On funding for cattle colonies, the minister explained that the initiative would be funded by the federal and state governments, as well as herders who are interested in the policy.
Ogbeh said, “We will join hands. First, we acquire land; they show us a place and our experts will decide whether the place is suitable or not. We push down a few trees, remove the stumps, and plant the right kind of fodder.
“When we first came and talked about grass, Nigerians were angry and they called us every kind of name in the book. But there is no way you can keep cattle if you don’t deal with the question of fodder; it is not every kind of grass that cows eat.
“So we will plant the grass, then we have a small mill which converts agro-waste to livestock feed. Much of that cost is going to be borne by the Federal Government and where the state can, it will chip in something.
“However, when herders arrive, individuals who want to play a part in place will pay a small fee. So, they will pay. They are quite willing to pay.”
Herdsmen attacks’ll be brought under control, says Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday assured Nigerians that the killings by suspected herdsmen would soon be brought under control.
He said security agents deployed in affected areas would halt the killings in no distant time.
According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President gave the assurance while receiving the Board of Directors of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“The President assured Nigerians that the rising attacks on communities by herdsmen will soon be brought under control by security forces deployed in the vulnerable areas across the country.
“He said the unfortunate incident of attacks, which had resulted in loss of lives and property, had brought sorrow and hardship on many Nigerians, with the government deeply affected,” the statement read in part.
The President also said his administration remained resolute and focused on delivering on the three-pronged promise of “securing the lives and properties of Nigerians, halting the pillage of the economy by corrupt public officials, and creating employment opportunities for the youths.”
He said the initial economic challenge posed by recession was already dwindling, with the economy smarting out and posting better results on falling inflation rates, higher foreign reserves and better ranking on ease of doing business.
“If you look critically into the 2018 budget, we have already taken into account key issues of more stable electricity, construction of roads and rails, and the airport concession,” he said.
The President said the government would work more to accelerate and increase momentum in agriculture, power, gas, manufacturing and processing, while commending the Chinese government for its support in improving infrastructure in Nigeria.
“In some projects, the Chinese help us with 85 per cent payment, and soft loans that span 20 years. No country has done that for us,” he said.
In his remark, the Chairman of the NESG Board of Directors, Kyari Abba Bukar, commended the government for the “pragmatic approach’’ in engaging the residents of the Niger Delta region which had translated into steady rise in oil production.
“Your Excellency, we salute your courage in providing support to the states that have had fiscal challenges. We recognise that without the intervention of the Presidency, many state governments would have been unable to pay salaries last year,” he said.
Bukar said the outlook on the economy remained upwardly positive, projecting a 3.5 per cent GDP growth.
He urged the President to pay more attention to herdsmen attacks which could reverse the gains recorded in the agricultural sector.
Military deploys more forces in Benue
The Nigerian Air Force said on Monday that it had deployed “helicopters and other air assets” to Benue State to support the ground forces in containing the killings.
The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, added that the military were investigating a strange helicopter loaded with ammunition, sighted in Taraba State.
It had been reported on Monday that the helicopter landed in a village, Jibu, in the Wukari Local Government Area of Taraba State.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the state Governor, Darius Ishaku, Bala Dan-Abu, had confirmed the sighting of the armed aircraft.
But the air force on Monday, in a series of tweets on its handle, stated that it had deployed its helicopters to the area.
The NAF spokesman said the helicopter and other weapons sent to Benue and surrounding states were working “quietly behind the scenes.”
Adesanya, said, “The necessary action is being taken in Benue. The NAF has deployed helicopters and other assets to support other security agencies. The air deployments are working quietly behind the scene.
“We have radars in place. The report about the militia chopper in Taraba is also being investigated.”
When asked on Twitter about the purchase of $593 million fighter aircraft from the United States of America since the Boko Haram insurgents were said to be “technically defeated,” the air force noted that the allocation was to consolidate on the successes.
“The Boko Haram’s capability to operate freely has been decimated. The Super Tucano aircraft are required to consolidate on the successes recorded so far. The Boko Haram terrorists are in disarray and they are no longer in one location. As the air force identifies the terrorist cells, it strikes. We are not particular about US aircraft; the recent acquisitions included aircraft from Russia, Pakistan and China.”
Benue groups seek apology
Three socio-cultural groups in Benue State – Mudzough U Tiv, Idoma National Forum and On’yi Igede – have advised the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, and the state Council of Traditional Rulers to back out of all the activities of the northern region until other northern governors apologised to the people of the state.
Chief Ode Enyi, who spoke on Monday on behalf of the groups at a stakeholders’ meeting in the Government House, Makurdi, lamented that instead of the northern governors who paid a condolence visit to the state last Friday to condole with the state on the killings, they “displayed arrogance.”
He said, “We have decided as socio-cultural groups in the state to review our relationship with the northern Nigeria; we advise the governor and our royal fathers to tell other northern governors to apologise for the genocide on our land.”
The groups, which applauded the hand of fellowship extended to the state by the socio-cultural groups in the south, which comprise Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum and South-South Forum, said that they had thrown their weight behind restructuring of the country.
“We thank our brothers in the south who visited the state to commensurate with us over the death of our sons and daughters mercilessly killed by the senseless herdsmen; we have no faith in the country called Nigeria unless the nation is restructured.
“On our own part we have set up a committee on restructuring, I urge everyone to rise and defend our land; our forefathers bequeathed the land to us and we have to retain it for our generations yet unborn.”
Addressing the stakeholders, Governor Samuel Ortom insisted that he did the needful to prevent the New Year killings in the state.
Ortom blamed those “who abdicated in their responsibilities and allowed the killings of over 73 persons in the state.”
He said, “Our offence is that we make anti-open grazing law. Immediately the law was made, the umbrella body of Miyeitti Alla Kautal Hore challenged the law and threatened to mobilise to attack Benue.
“All those who failed to act at the time they ought to act which could have stopped the killings and those who perpetrated the killings will one day account for the blood of our lost ones.”
Only God can resolve crisis –Gbong Gwom Jos
The Chairman, Plateau State Council of Traditional Rulers and Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Gyang Buba, has said only God can resolve the crisis between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers which has led to the killing of citizens in the country.
He also warned against playing politics with security in the country adding that “if there is no security, there will be no politics.”
According to him, traditional institutions will be willing to cooperate with the government in resolving the issues.
Buba spoke on Monday during a ceremony marking the beginning of 2017/2018 Legal Year of Plateau State Judiciary.
Buba said, “We will pray to God; that is the best person who can resolve this issue. We will continue to pray and we all appreciate that no one has the right to terminate life which we didn’t create. And we appeal to the government and security agencies to be more proactive so that they can contain it.
“Traditional institutions all over the country are willing to cooperate with government in resolving these issues in a proper manner. And I hope we will get there.”
He scored the Nigerian Judiciary high saying the judiciary had been doing its best given the prevailing circumstances.