By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The National Economic Council (NEC) has thrown its weight behind ranching, saying it is more profitable and the way to go.
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State who briefed State House Correspondents after yesterday’s meeting in Abuja, said that the movement of cattle from North to South has been creating conflicts in parts of the country and had to end.
According to him, the NEC meeting which was chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also decided that state governments should provide land for ranching.
His words, “Today we looked at three categories of herdsmen in Nigeria. We looked 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. This one category.
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 neighboring countries and traveling 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.
“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 give less than two liters of milk per cow per day.
“We condemn the issues of foreign invasion by foreign herdsmen and l am happy that the FG 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.
“In all we agreed that there is a more profitable and modern way of raising these cows which is by ranching.
“We have agreed that the states involved are going to give lands. Niger and Kaduna have given lands and Plateau is also giving land. Ranching in being practiced in Mambila, in Taraba states and they have success stories with regard to that.
“We also agreed that through the Agric Ministry, we have the need to introduce new species of cows. The Minister told us that there are new species that produce as much as 60 liters of milk per day per cow, and that the cows weight as much as 900 Kgs but our own weight less than 200kgs.
“So, we have agreed that we are going to work on these new species, while also working with our ranching. We also agreed that livestock production in Nigeria has not been taken care of.
“As we are taking care of the farmers by way of the Anchor borrowers 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. And it was discovered that most of these cows are not being herded by their owners.
“Big men buy these cattle and give them out to the herders. The children of the herders have nothing to inherit. They therefore, go into cattle rustling and other forms of criminalities.
“Through this policy and intervention in the 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 animals. 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.”
In his own remarks, the minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe said that in the last one and half years, agriculture has grown by 150 per cent making Nigeria a net exporter.
“We now export more than we import, which is why the foreign reserve is getting healthier by the week.
“The government’s objective is to transform agricultural economy of the states and make it more competitive and investor-friendly, so that there would be improved income for both farmers and processors along the value-chain.
“This will help in diversifying the economy of the states by creating more tax base and resources quite different from oil in the diversification drive.”
The accountant General of the Federation was also said to have given the council the figure of the Excess Crude Account which stood above $1.8 billion.