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No to FG Funding of Ranches

The Federal Government recently disclosed that the National economic Council (NeC), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has approved a 10-year National Livestock Plan which will cost about N179 billion. Under this plan, 94 ranches are to be built in 10 states that have been experiencing the unfortunate herdsmen/farmers clashes.

The Government sees the new measure as one of the ways of bringing the raging farmers/herders crisis to an end. according to the Government, about N70 billion of the proposed amount would be disbursed between now and the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure next year. The pilot projects are expected to take o in Benue and Nasarawa in a few weeks. The issue of herdsmen/farmers clashes have persisted over time and seems intractable, as Government over time, has not shown seriousness in solving this problem, with its ever changing narratives and policy ip- ops on the issue. Nigeria, according to estimates, loses about $14 billion (N5.04 trillion) annually as a result of the herdsmen- farmers’ con icts. The clashes among other challenges have resulted in shortages of meat and food, including milk. domestic annual milk production in Nigeria is only 400 million litres, resulting in supply gap of about 700 million litres, leading to importation of livestock products, with average of $480.6 million (N173.3 billion) worth of milk imports alone per year. This is a compelling reason for the Government to nd lasting solution to the problem.

Though the Federal Government maintains that the National Livestock Implementation Plan is a mediation one stemming from meetings and recommendations of the Federal Ministry of agriculture and rural development (FMard) and the National economic Council (NeC) in 2017, the announcement, expectedly, caused an uproar, with various groups, and individuals kicking against it. What this means, to us, is that the Federal Government has not been engaging and listening to the people as it concerns this

issue otherwise, how come every single method pro ered so far has been roundly rejected by the people?

We nd it quite remarkable that the Federal Government is nally beginning to have a rethink from its earlier stand on the use of grazing routes which it says were gazetted over 50 years ago, when the population of Nigeria was far less than it is today with urbanisation not on the scale it has attained as it is today. however, the Federal Government’s continued push for actualisation of grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colonies, or cattle ranches, under whatever nomenclature is not only suspicious, but shows insensitivity to the feelings of the generality of the people over a small group of private business men and women. The question is why is the Federal Government intent on using public funds to fund private businesses under di erent guises, despite the unequivocal stand of the Nigerian people against it?

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders, for instance, have opposed the use of public funds to set up ranches, a decision they described as vexatious, insisting that cattle rearing is a private business and the government should not spend N178 billion public funds to establish ranches for herdsmen who the forum said “are private businessmen without a record of paying taxes.” Similarly, in Benue, the people have queried the rationale behind the decision to spend a whooping N179 billion to establish ranches for individual business owners for massive pro t across the country. The tribal leaders in the state under the aegis of Mdzough U Tiv, MUT, Idoma National Forum and Omi Ny’Igede have expressed fears that the intent of the government could be a grand plan to grab and hand over Benue land to herdsmen in the name of ranches. The tribal groups said ranching is the global best method of animal husbandry, which has been its position in Benue State, but said it was not in support of the idea by the Federal government to use public funds to construct ranches for private business of cattle rearing.

according to them, “there is a law on Open Grazing Prohibition and ranches establishment enacted by the Benue State government and the law makes explicit provisions for those interested in the business of rearing cattle to come forward, acquire land and build ranches. These herders will also have to abide by the terms and conditions of the land acquisition and the host communities will also have a sense of belonging.”

as already alluded by the various groups who have spoken on this matter, our position is that there is an existing legislation which makes provisions for how the business of rearing livestock, including cattle should be done in Benue and that law should be the benchmark.

Cattle, and indeed, livestock rearing, in our view, is not a state enterprise and so, should not be funded from public co ers. Neither should the government get involved to the extent of providing land, especially as such businesses are not in ‘overriding public interest’ as envisaged by the Land Use act of 2004, section 28.

This policy as we see it, will only lead to a state of anarchy whereby other private businesses will begin to agitate for land and establishment of facilities to make it possible for them to carry out their business. The attendant consequences can best be imagined. The federal government should let the states, especially those who have laws in place, develop homegrown solutions to their problems, rather than attempt to impose their own solutions on them, no matter how impractical. In Benue state for instance, there are two existing government- owned ranches, which the state can resuscitate and operate in line with the law. We urge the Federal Government to turn its attention to public institutions such as schools, tertiary healthcare among others which are on the government exclusive list and are begging for attention, rather than delve into state issues it has no jurisdiction over.

 

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