As rampaging herdsmen continue to wreak havoc on innocent Nigerians across the country, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has ruled out the option of establishing grazing routes as a solution to the problem. In an interview with a national newspaper, Ogbeh said the only viable option is ranching.
“The question is the (grazing) route is a passage leading to where? To grassland or to someone’s farm? Grazing routes are not the issues; ranching, yes, on the scale we are talking about now, spread across many states,” he said.
He further explained that already, 5,000 hectares of land have been acquired from nine states for the purpose. “We wrote and the governors gave us land but we have to farm them out to private sector investors who will prepare the land and make sure they can harvest grass six to seven times a year, dry or rainy season, and the cows have fresh grass to eat.”
The continuous movement of from place to place in search of food and water is responsible for the poor yield of milk and beef by cattle in Nigeria, according to the minister. He argued that the nation’s cattle were about the worst cared for and could not, therefore, give optimum yield in terms of milk and beef because of movement from place to place in search of food and water.
Ogbeh disclosed that the plan of the government is to keep herdsmen and cattle in ranches and then provide water boreholes and earth dams to ensure the cattle produced more milk and more beef for the nation.
Ogbeh condemned the escalation of attacks by herdsmen, saying that it is imperative for the military, police and other security agencies to immediately disarm them. According to him, herdsmen go about with automatic weapons and the nation’s security agencies must go after them wherever they are and take away the arms.
“It is very difficult now. One thing I am going to suggest, which we are putting into writing to Mr. President, is that we must disarm all herdsmen. The army and the police should find them wherever they are now and take all the guns from them, as the first step. They carry these AK-47s on their shoulders, they tie them around the bellies of the cows. They must be disarmed immediately,” he said.
He noted that the problem between herdsmen and farmers was more complex than it appeared, adding that only a well-designed government policy could bring it to an end as it had spread from as far as Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna in the far North to the North Central states of Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue and now to the Southern states of Enugu, Edo, Oyo, Ogun and others.
The minister also mentioned an angle which is not often mentioned. He said that sometimes community leaders collect cash and cattle from herdsmen and then give them permission to graze. “When they wander onto people’s farms and troubles start, such community leaders go into hiding or go silent and the Fulanis bring out a receipt of the agreement they have with these chiefs, claiming that they bought the land for grazing,” he said.