By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
NATIONAL President of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Baba-Othman Ngelzarma, has revealed how President Muhammadu Buhari disappointed pastoralists despite publicly endorsing and supporting his reelection bid in 2019, saying he abandoned them after securing victory at the polls.
Ngelzarma, who briefed journalists in Abuja during the Weekend, also accused the Federal Government of neglecting livestock production in the disbursement of N500 billion spent on agronomy by the Federal Government in the past seven years.
According to him, “On the eve of the last election that brought in Buhari for the second term, we endorsed him. We showed the world that we are with him but thereafter, up till now as I speak to you, nothing has been done.
“Buhari has abandoned the pastoralists. This is very clear, whether Buhari or his lieutenants, the pastoralists have been abandoned by the government. In the last eight years, nothing tangible was done for pastoralists. While over N500 billion was spent on agronomy, nothing was spent on livestock, almost nothing.
“Go and check all the state government’s budgetary provisions including the federal government’s budgetary provisions. If you see what is budgeted for livestock, you will be surprised. Livestock is being neglected completely.
“How can a multi-trillion Naira business be left in the hands of literate without any form of organization? The government is getting nothing instead of benefiting a lot. This is next to oil. Livestock is next to oil. It can sustain the economy of this country with very good harnessing and organization. There’s nothing wasteful on the cow. Imagine the value chain – everything on the cow is money.”
Ngelzarma, a former secretary of MACBAN who was recently elected president, regretted that while the rest of the country perceived MACBAN members as criminals who enjoyed special support and protection from the government, they have been at the receiving end of extortion, kidnapping, farmer-herder conflict, cattle rustling and banditry.
He also said that there has been a general loss of sense of belonging among the pastoralists in recent times; adding that many of them were seeking to leave the country for more peaceful and saner climes.
Consequently, he blamed the menace on urbanisation and the high demand for land, which he said is not growing, on the encroachment of grazing reserves, national and international cattle routes.
“Pastoralists deserve protection and protection as well against cattle rustlers, kidnappers, bandits and so on. So, we are also under threat, Our trade is also under threat, but for somebody because of crime perpetrated by a few among us, to put us in one basket and say all Fulani are criminals is not fair. Cattle rearing is a business. We are a trade group doing our legitimate business. MACBAN is not a criminal group.
“We are open to attack by all sorts of thieves. We are at the receiving end of these crises including farmers-herders clashes and cattle rustling because pastoralists are the sole owners of the cattle. 98 percent of the cattle in this country are owned by the Fulani and they are victims of kidnapping too. There has never been a time when the pastoralists were supported or assisted after losing their means of livelihood. We also need protection from the government,” Ngelzarma said.
The Miyetti Allah leader explained that though MACBAN is happy about the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), it would do little or nothing to address the problems of pastoralists.
“Only recently the Buhari administration started implementing the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) where some states have accessed the N3 billion, N6 billion funding. Some states started it, the one in Yola has started but we see it as a project that cannot solve the problem.
“How do you think a livestock centre that can accommodate not more than 20,000 cows can solve the problem of the cows in Adamawa that are over two million? But as a model, it is okay, we appreciate it. At least the pastoralists will see how to modernise animal husbandry,” he said.
The MACBAN President explained that pastoralists were not embracing ranching because it is alien to them, adding that the lack of education is making the problem worse.
“Whatever mode of ranching that is being introduced into this country, these guys would hardly embrace it, the reason is it is alien to them as it is not capturing the reason they are rearing their cows. To them, quality does not matter much, what matters much to them is quantity. They also want to die and leave so many cows for their children to inherit,” he said.
While unveiling his four-point national agenda as a panacea to the age-long farmer-herder clashes in the country, he stressed that as MACBAN president, one of his goals is giving orientation to pastoralists to see the need of having an education and embracing ranching, as well as engage with governments at all levels to provide the necessary intervention.
He added that his leadership of the association would pursue the national agenda under the acronym CORE: Consultations, Orientation, Reintegration and Empowerment.