In a bid to stem the tide of killings as a result of farmers and herdsmen clashes in the country, the National Economic Council (NEC) yesterday slammed a ban on open grazing in the country. This was disclosed by the Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, after the NEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja.
The National Economic Council (NEC) is composed of the vice president and the 36 state governors. Governor Umahi said the Economic Council had also outlawed movement of cattle from north to south of the country as well as their movement across the borders into Nigeria. NEC’s decision was sequel to the recommendations by its subcommittee on the incessant clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in some states of the federation.
The frontline states include Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau and Kaduna, where hundreds of locals have been mindlessly slaughtered in attacks attributed to herdsmen in the last few months. Benue and Taraba have recently enacted anti-open grazing laws in efforts to curtail the clashes between herdsmen and farmers with their attendant loss of lives and property.
According to the Ebonyi governor, the Council resolved that ranches should immediately be established along with all the accompanying necessary facilities such as schools and hospitals, especially in the conflict states. Umahi noted that, so far, some states, including Plateau, Kaduna and Taraba, had provided land for the establishment of ranches.
According to him, NEC had noted that movement from place to place as presently practised by herdsmen was not healthy for the animals, and that such “movements by nomadic herdsmen must stop. The most profitable way is ranching.” According to Umahi, NEC resolved that while movement of cows from north to south of the country is now prohibited, “we should not allow foreign herdsmen into the country.” Umahi said:
“Today, we look at three categories of herdsmen in Nigeria. We look at the foreign herdsmen that come in due to the treaty, and we continue to say that the treaty is not being properly implemented. For any herdsman to come into Nigeria from outside, there should be a kind of certification, there must be a letter; even though you are not coming in with a visa, you have to travel with ECOWAS
documentation. Animals that are coming into the country are required to be quarantined, but this is not being done. So, this is one category of them. Secondly, we have the nomadic herdsmen who, during the dry season, travel from up north to the middle belt down to the south. This creates conflicts. “Also, foreign herdsmen coming all through the way from neighbouring countries and travelling through the farm lands also cause conflicts.
Then of course, we have the migrant herdsmen who migrate for a very long time and settle with the villagers and even inter-marry with them. These are the three categories we have in Nigeria. “In all, we agreed that movement is not profitable to the herdsmen because they value the milk from the cow even more than the cow itself. So, the movement is not healthy for the cows as it dries up the meat and gives less than two litres of milk per cow per day. So, we condemn the issue of foreign invasion by foreign herdsmen and l am happy that the federal government is doing something about it.
“Today, there was a meeting of ECOWAS countries on the subject and we also agreed that these movements have to stop and occasionally by those who have settled and integrated from other parts of the country, like the middle belt, they sometimes go into conflicts with farmers.
“So, in all, we agreed that there is a more profitable and modern way of raising these cows, which is by ranching. So, we have agreed that the states involved are going to give lands. Niger and Kaduna have given lands and Plateau is also giving land. Governor Umahi noted that ranching was being practised in Mambila in Taraba State and said the herders have success stories with regards to that.
He revealed that the Council also agreed on the need to introduce new species of cows through the Ministry of Agriculture. He said: “The minister told us that there are new species that produce as much as 60 litres of milk per day per cow, and that the cows weigh as much as 900kg but our own cows weigh less than 200kg. So, we have agreed that we are going to work on these new species, while also working on ranching.”
Umahi further stated that it was observed that adequate attention had not been given to livestock production in Nigeria by the government. “As we are taking care of the farmers by way of the Anchor Borrower Scheme, of course, the farmers cry of the high interest rate on the Anchor Borrower Scheme. The rate of interest should be between 2% to 5%, so, we should extend those gestures to the herdsmen.”
The governor went on to highlight one of the root causes of cattle rustling. “It was discovered that most of the cows are not being herded by their owners. Big men buy these cattle and give them out to the herders. So, the children of the herders have nothing to inherit.
They, therefore, go into cattle rustling and other forms of criminalities,” he stated, adding that government intervention could reduce the menace. “Through this policy and intervention in livestock production, it will be possible for the herdsmen to own their own livestock and have something for the future. We also agreed that there is need for good lives for the herdsmen. Through these policies, their children will be able to go to school.
There will be nomadic education and medical facilities through these ranches for the herdsmen and their cows. “Grasses will be planted; irrigation and dams will be created for source of water. Lastly, we ask the public to begin to see livestock as another means of investment,” he said.
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