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Ranching: FG’s double-dealing unacceptable

We are worried by the Federal Government’s recent release of funds to Katsina state government for cattle ranching in the state. Ranching is a private business and if anybody (a state government inclusive) wants to run a ranch, let the person acquire (lease or buy) land and establish his or her own ranch with personal funds.

It is incontestable that the establishment of ranches would go a long way in ending the unrelenting massacre and displacement of farming communities by armed herdsmen across the country. However, the Federal government should not use the meager resources at its disposal to fund ranching anywhere in the country, including President Buhari’s home state. Doing such would amount to a misplaced priority in the face of mounting financial challenges occasioned by factors like: the COVID-19 pandemic, high rate of inflation, poverty, unemployment and fluctuating crude oil prices.

Read Also: Ranching: Ball in your court, Nigerians tell FG

The 2021 federal government budget is premised on a total projected revenue (inclusive of revenues from GOEs) of N7.99 trillion, with the budget deficit at about N5 trillion. The estimated budget deficit accounts for about 3.9% of the GDP, above the 3% stipulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA). The deficit is to be financed through borrowings of N4.9 trillion from the domestic and foreign debt markets. As at the end of last month June, Nigeria’s external borrowings amounts to over N3.4trillion.

Federal government’s release of funds for ranching was recently made public by the Katsina state Governor, Aminu Bello Masari. He revealed that President MuhammaduBuhari has pledged the sum of N6.5 billion to kick-start the development of cattle ranch in the State. Of this amount, he said the sum of N5 billion had already been credited into the state government’s account. He spoke at an occasion where President Buhari commissioned the mult-ibillion Naira Zobe water project and a 50km road project in Dutsima, Katsina State.

Livestock farming (cattle ranching inclusive) being a private sector enterprise, means that those engaged in it should acquire the land, either through leasing or outright purchase.

The double standard adopted by Mr President on this is perplexing. How could hehave approved N6.25billion for ranching in Katsina State where he hails from, while encouraging open grazing and cattle routes in other parts of the country? We recall the vehemence with which the President opposed the resolution against open gracing by Southern governors.

All over the world, nomadic and open grazing of cattle is abhorred. In Nigeria for instance, the nomadic lifestyle of the Fulani cattle drivers is incompatible with the sedentary culture of other communities. Besides, the Fulani Herdsmen and their cattle, with the attendant cow dung, urine and human wastes do contaminate, defile and pollute the already degraded southern environments owing to decades of gas flaring and the concomitant acid rains caused by long years of crude oil explorations. These were part of the reasons the southern governors banned open grazing.

Come to think of it, Katsina state was not among the 10 states earmarked in 2018 by the National Economic Council (NEC) headed by Vice President YemiOsinbajo for the pilot cattle ranching scheme known as the Livestock Transformation Plan under which the Federal Government was to spend N179 billion over 10 years to establish ranches throughout the country. The 10 states are Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara.

Already, some of the states listed for the pilot programme, such as Ebonyi and Benue, have rejected it outright. Also, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, issued a statement rebuffing the proposal. These are clear signs that this manner of pursuing the ranching programme will not promote peace in the country.

Livestock farming (cattle ranching inclusive) being a private sector enterprise, means that those engaged in it should acquire the land, either through leasing or outright purchase. This is the practice all over the world. For instance, in the United States, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a variety of funding opportunities to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners finance their businesses. Similar agencies in Nigeria can equally do the same to those in need of funds for ranching; but certainly not the federal government.

However, if a state government which holds the land in trust for the citizens, choose to set up ranches, the state should regulate the terms and conditions so as to ensure peaceful coexistence and the creation of prosperity through that branch of agriculture

We therefore oppose any move in any form by the Federal Government to use public funds for the purpose of benefiting any special business or ethnic group. This will never bring the much-needed peace. Rather, it will lead to ethnic-based conflicts without end. Most landed property, especially in the South, belongs to families and communities. The Federal Government, acquiring them through government fiat will never go down well with the owners and indigenous communities. These relentless attempts to take people’s lands and give the herders must stop because they are sources of unhealthy passions which do the polity no good.

Nevertheless, we support any effort by the government or the private sector to upgrade livestock farming in Nigeria as well as any plan to transform livestock farming from nomadism to ranching and the government’s plans to assist all farmers to increase output through modern methods. If successfully implemented, such a plan will lead to food security, creation of jobs which in turn will boost the economy.

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