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Ranching: Ball in your court, Nigerians tell FG

…Urge govt to enforce ranching option …Say Ganduje, Southern governors on right path

Despite the controversy being generated by the ban on open grazing by Southern Governors, many Nigerians have urged the Federal Government to key into the move to end open grazing, an anachronistic practice that makes Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of nations.

Observers who spoke with BusinessDaySunday urged those who play politics with everything in the country to put the interest of Nigeria first.

The fear by many is that the Federal Government in its usual ineptitude and late response to national issues, especially security matters, may not give listening ears to the recommendation of the southern governors.

“I see them politicising the recommendation because some enemies of the country will see the move by southern governors in a bad light forgetting that the northern governors have been meeting for a long time, and even taking some decisions, which are divisive yet the south only watched as events unfold,” Kunle Olabanji, a politician, said.

He insisted that there is nothing wrong with getting a united south, and that the recommendation for ranching was borne out of the huge loss of lives and farm resources by people from the southern states.

A public affairs analyst, Adelaja Adeoye applauded the decisions by all the Southern Governors demanding an end to lopsided appointments, restructuring, end to open grazing amongst other demands, saying that it was noble and courageous and commendable.

He, however, added that for the cattle ranching plan to succeed there must be greater synergy between the Federal Government and state which is lacking now.

According to him, “I think this government has not shown enough desire to resolve this conflict or crisis that we have at hand, open grazing is out-dated, but the question is who would be ready to give land to the Fulanis to do ranching? The issue of them wanting to take over the land is there; cattle rearing like every other business is a venture that the owners must invest into, such as acquiring landed properties where ranching can be set up.

“The state government can work with the Federal Government on how these ranching can be set up, to end the farmers and herders clashes”.

While the recent meeting of governors from the southern part of the country in Asaba, the Delta State capital, was long overdue and commendable, it might be sending signals to their northern counterparts, known for their united stand on national issue, that the south has woken up from their slumber.

Considering their consensus agreement at the meeting and ban on open grazing, which has been the bane of herders/farmers clashes and killings over the years, it seems the south is set to reclaim its territory from herders and other evaders.

The meeting itself is a threat to many, especially those who do not want a united south, like a strong and united north, yet, the recommendation for ranching instead of open grazing, and for the states that are interested may anger more people.

However, the governors have made their recommendations and the ball is now on the federal government’s court.

Though some northern governors are supporting the ranching recommendation, especially Abdullahi Ganduje, the governor of Kano State, as well as, Nasir El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State, there is fear that many will not as they are more concerned with the disruption of the herders’ nomadic life than peaceful coexistence of the people of Nigeria.

Recall that last year; El-Rufai took some herders and executives of the state to Netherlands to understudy their ranching system with the hope of replicating the model in the state. But nothing has happened since then as some observers think the governor’s good intentions might be opposed by powers within and outside the state.

Observers have said that the Southern governors’ position is not new and that it is the same perspective recently given by the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje who warned the Federal Government to enact a law banning the movement of cattle from the North to other parts of the country in order to resolve the incessant clashes between farmers and herders.

Ganduje had even moved ahead to stem the tide of insurgency and banditry, by building a Ruga settlement in Samsosua forest, which included many houses, a dam, cattle artificial insemination centre among others.

“So, we are building many houses, we are constructing a dam; we are establishing a Cattle Artificial insemination Centre; we are establishing a veterinary clinic and already we have started building houses for herdsmen.

“My advocacy is that we should abolish the transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the northern part of Nigeria to the middle belt and to the Southern part of Nigeria. “There should be a law that will ban, otherwise we cannot control the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers and cannot control the cattle rustling which is affecting us greatly,” Ganduje had said.

Speaking on the issue, Osainye Oketibu, a Jos-based veterinary doctor, noted that ranching is working across the world and can work here if government allows it as private business, and make legislations that will limit herders’ activities to ranches.

“I have over 10 private animal husbandry business outfits I consult for and they are all in the north. The cattle, goats and sheep are doing well and such business can be expanded to big ranches for sanity, regulations and peace,” the doctor said.

He also explained that meat and milk yield from cattle here are very poor because of the stress of roaming thousands of kilometers from the north to south in open grazing.

“From experience, the cattle in the farms I consult for are very big because they graze around restricted area, their meat and milk yields are over 70 percent unlike the ones in open grazing that offer less than 40 percentage yield, especially during dry season”, the vet doctor explained, noting that his clients supply cattle to top butcheries, big hotels and government houses because of the quality.

In the same vein, Elishamah Angwe, an agronomist and lecturer at Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umuahia, cited Obudu Cattle Ranch as a successful model, which the Cross River State government failed to sustain.

According to him, the ranch, which was developed in 1951 by M McCaughley, a Scot who first explored the mountain ranges, was at a time, a big source of raw materials for some dairy products makers until government took over the ranch in the 90s.

“At its peak, Obudu Cattle Ranch was supplying cattle, meat, milk and skin to related businesses in the country, but we failed to sustain it, especially when it was converted to a mountain resort. Today, they cluster grazing cattle on the plains and valleys. We can bring that model back, the template is still there,” he said.

Like Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of Ondo State, once suggested during one of the fatal farmers/herders clashes, the country should seek modern cattle rearing model that will improve the age-long system and keep the cattle and farms safe the owners.

As well, the southern governors also hinted during their meeting that ranching would help curb insecurity in the country, many observers agree with that position, noting that if herders’ attacks are curbed, it would reduce the insecurity burden of the country.

“If the cattle are moved to the ranches, the farmlands will be safe. It will encourage farmers to return to the farms, boost crop production and food security. It will also help in tracking hoodlums that roam about disguising as herders,” Angwe said.

Analyst Anthonia Akinola said that ranching was the way forward and should be embraced, stressing that apart from solving the problem of constant clashes between farmers and herders, ranching would also provide jobs for thousands of unemployed Nigerians if initiated.

“Ranching of livestock will take thousands of our people out of unemployment. There is more to animal husbandry than what the majority assume. People will be employed to feed, graze, herd, castrate and weigh the animals. There would be those to operate milking machines and maintain housing areas for the animals.

According to him, “Other duties may include administering medications to the animals as well as checking for diseases and injuries. There will be work for clerical staff and accountants. There could be shareholders and local farmers who would want to grow grass as feed for the animals. There are many useful products that could be derived from ranching cattle and other animals.

“Any state or group of states that have established a ranch, in my opinion, do so for the benefit of their own people. The bulk of the workforce will come from where such a ranch is established. In an ideal and civilised society, people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds should be able to live and work together peacefully, without any serious suspicions,” Akinola said.

For Emeka Obia, an Abia State former lawmaker, the ranch recommendation would only work if the Aso Rock supports it, which he doubts, it will.

“We are in the era of ‘body language’ and if you consider the actions and inactions of the presidency on insecurity, especially herdsmen attacks, you will tell yourself the honest truth, which is if ranching does not favour the power brokers in the north, it will not fly,” Obia said.

Recall that last February the Senate, while speaking on the activities of herdsmen and other criminal elements in the country, urged the 36 governors to implement the 2018 Federal Government’s National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) in a bid to curb the conflict between farmers and herders across the country.

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