By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA – Members of the House of Representatives at Tuesday plenary adopted a motion preferring the establishment of ranches for fulani herdsmen to the proposed cattle colonies.
To realize the objective, the members urged the Federal government to work out modalities of the establishment with States interested in ranches.
The members also urged the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources to liaise with State Ministries of Agriculture to speedily educate and encourage the herdsmen on the benefits of ranching while mandating its Committee on Agriculture Production and Services to its ensure implementation.
Titled “Need to Educate and Encourage Herdsmen on the benefits of Ranching instead of the Proposed Cattle Colonies in every State of the Federation”, the motion sponsored by Hon. Mohammed Ogoshi Onawo (Nassarawa State) was roundly debated by the members.
Moving the motion, Onawo recalled that most of those clashes so far witnessed between the herders and farmers especially in Benue State stemmed from the practice of herdsmen roaming in the wild across the length and breadth of the country in search of grazing pastures for their cattle and as a result, trespassing into, and damaging crops in farms.
He said: “The House notes the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers that have presented serious security challenges in Nigeria;
“Aware that the grazing practice of the herdsmen is not only exposing them to danger as they fall prey to cattle rustlers and kidnappers, but also results in conflicts with farmers whose crops are trampled upon by the cattle;
“Also notes the Federal Government’s proposal to establish cattle colonies in every State in Nigeria to cater for the herdsmen and their cattle as a lasting solution to the continuous clashes which, in most cases, result in senseless and avoidable loss of lives and properties;
“Concerned that the decision to establish cattle colonies in each State could be in violation of Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Land Use Act as those colonies will remain the exclusive reserve of the individual State governments and as such, would not guarantee total freedom to the herdsmen;
“Observes that cattle rearing is not an exclusive reserve of the Fulanis as other tribes also engage in the business;
“Determined to provide a lasting solution to the incessant conflicts between herdsmen and farm owners, hence modern breeding practices should be encouraged;
“Convinced that ranching will offer longer lasting solution to the recurring conflicts between herdsmen and farmers, if the herdsmen would be fully sensitized and educated about the benefits of the program, as it would enable them assume full ownership of those ranches”.
Contributing to the debate, Hon. Ezikiel Adaji (Benue State) stated that ranching was the best practice the world over.
He said: “Ranching is the best practice all over the world. We cannot continue to witness these incessant killings.”
Also speaking, Hon. Peter Akpatason (Edo State) intoned that “cattle rearing is purely a business.”
For Hon. Femi Fakeye (Osun State), “There is need for cultural shift. The herdemen need to be enlightened on the benefit of ranching.”
Fakaye’s position was corroborated by Hon. Joan Onyemachi Mrakpor who said that cattle business stood the chance of dividing Nigeria if quick solution was not found to the challenge.
“Until we come to make ourselves know that this is a business ..cattle business is going to divide this country. When there is a challenge in the homes, the best thing to do is to find solution. All over the world, the solution is ranching. We travel abroad, we see it. I don’t think ranching is the problem. It is the willingness to do ranching”, he said.
On his part, Hon. Nasiru Ahmed from Kano State however opposed the motion, arguing that ranches would be more expensive for the herders as prices of feed are high.
The Committee was given 8 weeks to conclude its assignment and report back to the House for further legislative action.