Minister of Agriculture, Mr Audu Ogbeh, has revealed President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive for him to establish 50,000 hectares of grazing reserves within six months. According to him, this is meant to end the conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the country.
He was quoted as declaring: “We are faced with cattle grazing challenge now and the conflicts. A lot of people are getting killed, it is my business to solve that problem. The president has told me so. I have done my survey and I have taken my decision that we have to grass-up 50,000 hectares of land in the next six months across the northern belt before we move south.
“I’m bringing improved grass seeds. I will multiply it and I’m going to solve the problem of grazing. Whether critics like it or not, it’s my business”.
We find it dumbfounding that Ogbeh, an experienced politician who prides himself as being a democrat, will utter such words dripping with impunity and arrogant disregard for the heart-felt concerns of well-meaning Nigerians over the ability of the so-called grazing reserve policy to provide acceptable and lasting solutions to the conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers.
We firmly believe that this policy is arbitrary since the approval of communities, landowners and the various state governors who are constitutionally vested with powers over land under the Land Use Act are yet to be sought. It also smacks of a dangerous imposition, which could trigger off unforeseen consequences that could derail Nigeria’s nationhood when communities take matters into their hands to resist it.
We must remind Ogbeh and those pushing him into this booby trap of a policy that there is no credible alternative to the adoption of well-established best practices in modern animal farming which increase productivity, create wealth and offer opportunities for nomads to settle down and enjoy the benefits of modern life such as education and health facilities.
We strongly believe that instead of “grazing reserves” the Federal Government should partner with interested and willing state governors to unfold a policy of ranching for all animal husbandry practitioners. After all, livestock farming is business, just like any other business.
Those involved in it must make the necessary investments, including the purchase or lease of land to carry on their businesses, rather than people’s lands being forcefully confiscated for allocation to nomads in the name of “grazing reserves”. It is bound to be seen as an affront and a deprivation of the ancestral patrimony of indigenous communities, and this could lead to even more ethnic tensions.
We strongly advise the Federal Government to consult widely and secure the approval of Nigerians before dragging the nation into needless chaos.