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The Federal Government has decided to use some of its own land in various parts of the country for the establishment of ranches in order to put an end to clashes between herders and farmers across the nation.
It was learned that the Federal Government’s decision was prompted by the continued delay of state governments in providing land for ranches.
Our correspondent gathered that the Federal Government would use its land as well as some identified grazing reserves for the establishment of ranches.
On July 14, 2018, it was exclusively reported by Saturday PUNCH that with the refusal of some state governors to give land for ranching, the Federal Government had decided to reactivate and convert about 177 out of the 415 grazing reserves across the country to ranches.
It was also reported that aside from Kogi State that had officially agreed to provide about 5,000 hectares of land, no other state had publicly announced willingness to provide land for ranches or cattle colonies, which the Federal Government favours.
Governors of the South-East states in July rose from a meeting in Enugu with a decision that no land would be made available for the establishment of cattle ranches in the zone, while other states have deliberately been delaying in acceding to the request of the Federal Government.
Officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, however, stated that the Federal Government was still making plans to establish ranches across the country despite the delay by state governments.
They told our correspondent in Abuja that the government recently realised that it had more than enough land for this purpose.
The Director, FMARD, Tolu Makinde, said, “The latest decision is that the government has more land than required, even as far as ranching is concerned. There are various pieces of land in different locations across the country that have been documented and gazetted, the Federal Government has decided that it is better to use them than ask state governments to donate land.
“So, the decision has been taken and the issue now is funding, but as soon as the release from the 2018 budget starts to come in, the government will come up directly with what it intends to do. So many options are being considered.”
Makinde noted that with the latest development, the government would not compel any state to donate land for the establishment of ranches or grazing reserves.
He, however, observed that a lot of people had encroached on some of the Federal Government’s grazing reserves, adding that the remaining ones and the available land were more than enough for the establishment of cattle ranches.
Makinde added, “The fact now is that the government has discovered that it has more land and it is not compelling any state to donate land for grazing reserves or for ranches.
“It may interest you to know that the number of grazing reserves that the government has; some of them have been encroached upon. However, the remaining available ones are more than enough.”
When asked to state where the Federal Government’s pieces of land were located, he replied, “Before Nigeria got independence, the colonial masters actually had land scattered from Maiduguri to Sokoto, up to Oyo. These were large expanses of land that were mainly left for only grazing.
“And so, when the herders are migrating with their cattle, they go to these pieces of land; they don’t go to the land of other people. But the problem started when we now decided to create states, as some of the land fell within some states. And some state governments decided to take them over.
“However, the ones that are documented and gazetted right now are more than enough for the Federal Government to use, instead of asking state governments to donate. So, it is the gazetted land that the government is trying to do something about as well as the identified grazing reserves.”
Another official of the ministry stated that the government would use the gazetted land as demonstration grazing centres.
“The government is going to use the gazetted land as demonstration centres, because it will have security there. There will be dams in these grazing centres to ensure adequate water supply,” the official, who pleaded to remain anonymous, said.
“This is because three things are required in these centres. There must be security, water, and fodder, which is grass for the cattle to feed on. So, anybody who wants to make use of the place will bring his livestock there and pay some token. This is against the earlier claim that the government is trying to take the land of citizens,” the official stated.
The ministry said it would commence public enlightenment campaigns to educate Nigerians on the need to create ranches and why the Federal Government would use its own land for the purpose.
“It is becoming clear now that we don’t have any vibrant alternative to addressing the clashes than the establishment of ranches. And this is because it is going to benefit the farmers and herdsmen. Also, the minister (of agriculture) recently revealed that there is going to be a programme for artificial insemination in some of these centres,” Makinde stated.
He noted that a number of state governments gave an indication that they would provide land for ranches, but only Kogi State had fulfilled its part.
It was also learned that about 15 other states had volunteered to provide land for the establishment of cattle ranches.
They include Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Nasarawa and Plateau.
Others are Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Jigawa, Yobe, Niger and Kwara states.
Findings from the headquarters of the FMARD in Abuja showed that while there were dissenting voices in some of the documented states that had volunteered to provide land, the 15 states had agreed to provide 5,000 hectares of land each for the establishment of ranches.
Earlier this year, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, announced that the establishment of cattle colonies in the states that had volunteered land would commence within weeks.
This, however, has not happened.
Senior officials at the agriculture ministry re-echoed what Ogbeh said, as they stressed that the Federal Government would not force any state to volunteer land for the initiative.
The officials, however, stated that the 16 northern states had been documented as locations where the initiative would start, adding that the government was canvassing support from more states, particularly from the southern part of the country.
Ogbeh’s Special Assistant on Media, Olukayode Oyeleye, and Makinde provided our correspondent with various speeches by the minister, which extensively explained how the Federal Government planned to go about the initiative.