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Benue Kicks as FG Creates Herdsmen Settlements in 12 States

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Benue Kicks as FG Creates Herdsmen Settlements in 12 States
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By Chris Gaga, Markurdi

The Federal Government yesterday said it has begun works on the establishment of “Ruga Settlements” for herdsmen in 12 pilot states nationwide.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alh. Mohammadu Umar, made this known in an interview in Abuja with newsmen on the sidelines of a workshop on Regional Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and associated legislation in West Africa.

He said the farm settlements when fully established would address the incessant clashes between Fulani cattle rearers and farmers.

Umar explained that the pilot programme had already commenced on a 31,000-hectare in Kotongora, Niger state.

According to him, the required facilities for a basic life and treatment of cattle are being provided to enhance productivity, even as he noted that the government would replicate the programme in selected states as work “is ongoing in the 12 pilot states”.

He said six settlements will be established in each of the pilot states.

Umar, who added that the centres would be expanded and adequately equipped, and assured the beneficiaries that government would do all that was necessary to enlighten the herdsmen on how the use of ranches could make cattle rearing more profitable.

He said the government would sensitise the herdsmen to the social and political benefits derivable from such settlements.

The permanent secretary explained that various spots would be established for the pastoralists to be able to milk their cows.

He also said dispensaries would be established to prevent the misuse of antibiotics.

The “Ruga Settlement” idea was an initiative of the National Economic Council (NEC) presented under the National Livestock Transformation Plan (2018-2027).

It was an initiative to stop the age-long herders-farmers crisis and to massively develop the livestock industry.

The initiative seeks to promote ranching as the way forward for cattle rearing in the country.

According to the permanent secretary, nomadic livestock production in Nigeria is facing major challenges and is at crossroads due to declining availability of pasture, overgrazing, and expanding fatal conflicts between pastoralists and crop farmers.

He said the impact on food and nutrition security as well as ”public safety and national security are huge and far-reaching, therefore government is bent on making the plan to work as it has commenced.

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“Under the new plan, cattle herders are expected to be registered and recognise with cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme.

“These cooperatives will then be able to get rental agreements for land from state governments and also benefit from ranch resources on several terms including loans, grants, and subsidies,’’ he said.

Mr Suffyan Koroma, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Country Representative, said the workshop was organised to prepare the organisation’s representatives and respective countries and regions to work out ways to tackle the impending dangers of AMR and AMU.

“This is because the misuse of antibiotics in agriculture contributes to the spread of AMR and also undermines the efficacy of veterinary and human medicines. FAO is set to provide support to governments and stakeholders to adopt measures to minimise the use of antimicrobial and reduce AMR,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, the Benue state government has kicked the purported plans by the Federal government to commence establishment of RUGA settlements in selected local governments of Benue state.

In a Press statement by Terver Akase, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, reiterated that Benue does not have the land for grazing reserves, grazing routes, cattle colonies or RUGA settlements, but accepted that the State only has land for the establishment of ranches.

Ruga which is said to mean ‘Fulani Settlement’ in some parts of the states across the country is a directive of the federal government being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture Abuja. It is said to be implemented in Otukpo, Tarka and Ukum LGs of Benue State.

The Statement reiterated the firm stand of governor Samuel Ortom against grazing reserves and other policies rather than ranching, noting that the state government was ready to support any one who is ready to establish ranching in the state.

It maintained that Benue people were totally against the federal government’s RUGA and would not accept any imposition of any policy bothering on animal’s husbandary in their lands.

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“We find the approach of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture not only as a gross violation of the Ranching law but also as an insult to the sensibilities of the entire people of Benue State.

“It could be recalled that the people and government of Benue State rejected cattle colonies and still reject the policy in whichever robes it is disguised,” it reads.

The CPS explained the Governor’s resolve that ranching remains a lasting solution to the incessant herders and farmers crisis which the country ought to embrace.

“We wish to remind those pushing for Ruga settlements that the Constitution of the country gives states the right to make laws for the governance of their people. Any attempt to subvert such right is a direct attack on the Constitution. Those behind such a move are enemies of peace and progress.

“The Government of Benue State is willing to support cattle owners to establish ranches as stipulated by the law prohibiting open grazing.”

Meanwhile, the need to support the full implementation of the Anti Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law has been advocated as a stand point to possible return of peace in all communities of Benue State.

Also, the need for government to create jobs for the growing population of youths in the country so as to curtail youth involvement in cultisms and other crimes has been advocated.

These were the fallout of a one day Peace Architecture Dialogue (PAD) meeting on the theme; “Transforming the Farmer-herder Conflict and Promoting the Freedom of Religion and Belief in Nigeria’s Middle Belt” as organized by Search for Common Ground in Makurdi.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Orientation, James Agbo observed that if the Benue peoples open grazing prohibition law is faithfully obeyed as been implemented, peace will be inevitable in the state

Agbo encouraged the police and other security agencies to wake up to their responsibilities of ensuring that laws of the land are respected by all inhabitants, even as he urged ‘Search’ to take the sensitization to the rural areas too.

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The Ter Makurdi, Chief Sule Abenga employed NGOs such as ‘Search’ to adopt the Anti Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law as a stand point to their peace  crusade in Benue.

Chief Abenga expressed believe that the initiatives such as SEARCH would help sensitize the people and concerned agencies towards advancing peace in the society.

He challenged parents to see every youth as their wards by inculcating moral values especially when such wards are engaged in social vices.

The Chief assured of the cooperation of the traditional institution at ensuring that the NGO records success in their goals.

Representative of the Benue State Police Command, DCP Ibrahim Zakari, noted that for peace to be achieved, the causes of crisis must be highlighted and tackled accordingly.

He identified some of the causes to include increase in d country’s population, recklessness on the part of cattle rearers amongst other things.

In a presentation titled, “Distinction between Cultism and Miscreant Activities to Breach of Peace in the State”, representative of the DSS,

Benue Command, Austine Audu identified peer group influence, drug addiction, poor parenting, frustration and the like as major causes that endear youth to cultism and other vices.

Audu while commending the state open prohibition law, called on government to step up action in the creation of jobs so as to disenable the youth from constituting miscreants in the society.

He challenged the media to step up enlightenmenymt programmes on the need for peaceful coexistence, even as he called for reorientation of students in the tertiary institutions against social vices.

Some Stakeholders at the dialogue meeting including the Chairman of Miyethi Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria(MACBAN), Zakari Mohammed, representative of Benue State Planning Commission(BSPC), Mrs. Nambativ Helen, representative of the Benue State Vigilante Group, Dr Daniel Bo, AFAN and other stakeholders made various contributions bothering on the peace move.

Benue State Coordinator of ‘Search for Common Grounds’, Chorbe Joshua appreciated stakeholders for their various contributions at ensuring the possible return of peace, adding that the resolutions met at the meeting will  enhance the next action plan of the organization.

Agriculture

VCDP Holds 3-Day Enterprise Training for Agri-businesses

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From David Torough, Makurdi

In a bid to mainstream nutrition sensitive intervention and harness potentials along commodity value chain while empowering youth and women, the Federal Government, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Value Chain Development Programme (FG/IFAD-VCDP)  held a 3-day youth enterprise training for Agri-businesses at the IFAD-VCDP premises, Makurdi, the Benue State Capital.

The six session training equipped participants with practical knowledge on how to process Vitamin A Cassava to snacks (Combo-bite, bread, chinchin, queens cake, Cassa-flakes), Processing of rice flour as substitute for baking flour, Processing of cassava peels to animal feeds as well as de-stoning and packaging of milled rice.

There was also an intense training for some youths on knapsack application and calibration as well as an entrepreneurship class for establishing a One-Stop Agro input shop.

According to IFAD-VCDP Rural Institution, Gender and Youth Mainstreaming Officer (RIGYMO), Mrs Sandra Agber 41 male youths, 39 female youths and one adult female were beneficiaries of the training.

She revealed that, the need to engage and empower youths and women to be self-employed in a sustainable manner and to add value to agricultural produce was the primary justification for the training. 

Mrs Agber disclosed that though the training is a youth empowerment programme, women were prioritized in line with VCDP’s gender mainstreaming initiative hence the high number of female participants particularly in the rice and cassava processing trainings.

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In his remarks during the opening ceremony, VCDP State Programme Coordinator, Mr Emmanuel Igbaukum charged the participants to take the training serious as VCDP is poised to continually supporting its farmers to maximize output as well as harness all potentials along agriculture commodity value chain.

He disclosed that participants would be given start up kits to support their various enterprises.

Two participants, Babara Yaaya and Veronica Chigba, who were trained on rice processing  and  One-stop agro shop establishment respectively, in their separate remarks at the end of the training appreciated IFAD-VCDP for their unceasing support to farmers and agripreneurs in the state and prayed God to give them the strength and resources to upscale these interventions.

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Agriculture

NASCO Has Empowered Millions of Farmers in Nigeria – Lalong

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From Jude Dangwam, Jos

Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong has said Nasco Food Limited has empowered millions of farmers in Nigeria in the last 57 years of its existence as it targets to cover the West African Sub-region.

He said with the coming on board of a multi-billion Naira investment new Cornflakes Plant supported by the Bank of Industry through First Bank of Nigeria Plc is a positive indicator that Plateau State has indeed regained the confidence of investors as a viable destination for both local and foreign capital inflows in the country.

Lalong stated this yesterday during the inauguration of the new NASCO Cornflakes Plant, held at the NASCO Food Ltd Industrial Area, in Jos, the Plateau State capital.

He said the development cumulatively now integrates into the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s drive to develop the agriculture commodity supply chain, for which maize has been recognised as one of the most important commodities; adding that the overall goal of the initiative by NASCO is the creation of jobs and wealth for Nigerians.

“It is instructive to note that since NASCO began its operations 57 years ago, millions of Nigerians from the post-independence generation to young Nigerians today have all been able to share almost identical experiences from having used the different product categories which NASCO has come to be known for.”

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Governor Lalong further disclosed that “NASCO’s adoption of the policy of back-ward integration in sourcing maize as its chief input for the production of cornflakes had empowered thousands of farmers on the Plateau and across many locations in central Nigeria. This had directly impacted on the volume and quality of the maize that its suppliers were cultivating”.

He however lamented that Plateau State is not yet a highly industrialised State that can create opportunities for employment to the teeming youths which over the years are limited to “government MDAs, few NGOs and CSOs, a handful of Financial Institutions and the relatively small number of SMEs operating in the state.

“This means there is a great need to invest in companies that have the capacity to scale up in the way that NASCO has done, in order that we can increase employment opportunities and improve the revenue generating potential of the state,” Lalong added.

The Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Nasco Group in Nigeria

Attia Nasreddin said NASCO has been a household name not only in Plateau State and Nigeria, but across the African continent having been around for almost six decades and identified as an icon of quality.

He hinted that the new multi-billion naira plant is expected to double its production capacity by increasing its supply chain and extending as well as widening its reach to more households in Nigeria and throughout the ECOWAS sub-region of Africa.

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Agriculture

Nigeria Has Over 10,000 Species of Traditional Medicinal Plants — Mamora

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Minister of State, Health, Sen. Adeleke Mamora, says Nigeria is endowed with over 10,000 species of medicinal plants.

He also said the country had good arable land and climatic conditions for harnessing the potentials of the plants, for health, social, economic and other benefits.

Mamora said this in Abuja at the opening of a conference on Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM).

The conference was organised by TCAM, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the World Health Organization identified medicinal plant as the whole or part of a plant that contains bioactive substances that can be used for therapeutic purposes or serve as precursors for the synthesis of drugs.

Nigeria has a full-fledged TCAM Department in its ministry of health responsible for the formulation, review and implementation of policies and guidelines for research, development and regulation of herbal medicines.

The country launched the Traditional Medicine Policy in 2007, which has as its key objective, harnessing the potentials and economic benefits of TCAM.

The country also has a compendium of medicinal plants, the Nigerian Herbal Pharmacopeia (NHP), first published in 2008 and currently under review. 

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The compendium contained medicinal plants used for the safe treatment and management of various diseases.

Mamora said the conference should promote the cultivation and utilization of medicinal plants as raw materials for the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries.

He said this was to create short, medium and long-term value chain and attract agricultural and manufacturing loans.

The minister said this was important, as Nigeria and other African countries currently benefitted minimally from the global herbal medicine market projected at seven trillion dollars by 2050.

He said the market had been dominated by China, India, US, Germany and Thailand.

“Significantly, the cultivation of medicinal plants and commercialisation of herbal medicines will attract huge economic benefits to Nigeria.

“Especially in the following areas: increase foreign exchange earnings and wealth creation, alleviate poverty through the creation of job opportunities in areas of cultivation and conservation of medicinal plants in Nigeria,” he added.

He assured that the ministry remained committed to developing and promoting traditional, complementary and alternative medicine in Nigeria.

He said stakelders had initiated sensitisation programmes and activities to promote the cultivation, commercialisation and use of indigenous medicinal plants in the country.

It “facilitated the passage of the TCAM Council Bill into Law, to effectively coordinate and regulate TCAM practice in the country.

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The stakeholders also “inaugurated an Expert Committee that is currently working out modalities for the take-off of TCAM Institute for the training of TCAM practitioners in Nigeria”.

Prof. MacDonald Idu, a professor of Phytomedicine from the University of Benin, in a keynote address, said if properly harnessed, the value of traditional medicinal plants in Nigeria would hit N1 trillion by 2025.

He put the current market value of traditional medicinal plants conservatively at about N200 billion, regretting that not much attention has been paid to harness the sector.

“We talked about $200 billion. It is conservative. I’m serious. Other forms of literature that I have also read, we are going to hit about N1 trillion by 2025. I know what that means. That’s a lot of money” he said.

Idu said Nigeria must show commitment towards diversifying the economy.

“Nigeria I’m sorry, we don’t walk the talk. We talk a lot, but we don’t walk the talk. So my point of interest is to drag the hearts of our people to realise that we should diversify our economy.

“We don’t have any reason to be poor. That’s the real truth. We don’t have any reason to import everything that we need to survive. It’s already here. Why do you have them here?

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“So, I believe that if we’re able to set up that platform again, and then we’re able to organize ourselves and organize the traditional medicine practitioners and producers, we should be able to raise enough money for this country to move forward,” Idu added.

Earlier, the First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, expressed regret over the low level of utilisation of the over 10,000 species of medicinal plants in the country, in spite of its huge need for the production of drugs, cosmetics and other essential products.

Buhari expressed the present administration’s commitment to boosting the commercial cultivation of such plants for the health, economic and social benefits of the people.

She said it would also open new areas for wealth and job creation for the teeming youths of the country.

The Conference is expected to bring together experts and other stakeholders in various fields of TCAM to brainstorm on the importance of indigenous medicinal plants to healthcare delivery in Nigeria. (NAN)  

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