By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—MINISTER of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has warned that clashes between farmers and herdsmen might get worse in 2019, if nothing was done to intensify efforts to create cattle ranches or provide better security against rustling.
Chief Ogbeh raised the alarm while briefing State House correspondents after the National Food Security Council meeting at the State House, Abuja.
Members of the committee also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly approve the establishment and training of Agro-rangers as special unit to assist security agencies check the clashes between herdsmen and farmers, which have cost hundreds of lives.
The council, which is chaired by President Buhari, was presided over by Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, in the absence of Buhari, who travelled to the United Kingdom immediately after the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Ogbeh at the briefing said: “We have to move the cattle to the good old grazing reserves and we just have to create environment for them; clusters of ranches where they have water, grass and security against rustlers.
“For nearly 40 years, we didn’t do much about cattle, we also forgot that cattle contribute six per cent to GDP. The cheapest way of rearing cattle is by roaming around with them as you see now. If you go into a ranch it is not cheap and government cannot subsidise cattle rearing like they do in Europe, where they subsidise every cow. We cannot afford that.
“So, the thing is to create those ranches and the herdsmen are prepared to pay tax to support the programme. If we don’t do it, next year will be worse than this year, I assure you.”
He further said, “Today, we resolved that we must make agricultural lending cheap and we are looking at interest rate at the lower end of one digit. We don’t have any figures yet but we are hoping that by the time we meet again we can announce that.”
Also speaking, the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, said, “part of the recommendations we have made and we are working on, is the issue of Agro-rangers. And we noticed that if you are talking about farmers/herdsmen crisis, you have to train a specialized group of security outfit to handle those issues, it is not to concentrate on conventional security.
“So, there is a recommendation before Mr. President for the employment and training of Agro-rangers. What we are still appealing to Mr. President is to hasten the process so that it can help solve some of the problems that we have in various states on the conflicts between farmers and herdsmen.”
The Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, explained that there were other elements that need to be addressed in order to bring down prevailing high food prices; like better storage facilities; power; transportation; loans; and insurance policies.
The Council also noted the need to dredge river basins, boost irrigation and reduce interest on agricultural loans to single digit.
Present at the meeting were Governors of Ebonyi, Lagos, Kebbi and Delta, and Plateau States; the Ministers of Agriculture; Finance;Trade & Investment; Interior; Environment; Water Resources; and the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele.