The Federal Government, at the weekend, said the intractable clashes between herdsmen and farmers may not end soon. It explained that permanent solutions to the conflicts required a lot of planning and funds, which was lacking at the moment.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who disclosed this in Abuja, noted that government was not leaving any stone unturned in its commitment to engender an ecosystem where everybody would live peacefully, devoid of clashes and killings.
He stated that the National Conference on the Transformation of Nigerian Livestock Industry, holding in Abuja from tomorrow, was one of the creative approaches to finding lasting solutions to the issue.
He pointed out that the situation became deplorable because of the total abandonment of the livestock sub-sector over the years.
“I can’t give you a date when the conflicts will end but I can give you a date when the conference will end. I can give you a date and I will, when implementation begins. And we will start as soon as possible.
“To solve this problem requires a great deal of planning and expenditure. You can’t think that after one meeting, then recommendations come, you want to solve the problem; you don’t have all the funds at once, because this is a problem that has been with us for quite a while, it’s just growing and getting worse.
“The budget we have can’t cope, the state governors must be involved. Other stakeholders who want to keep ranches, cattle must be here. If we don’t have the money, we ask the FAO, the World Bank or AfDB because that is their job- to help us out. Then, we draw our design, do a costing and pass it on to them.”
The minister stated that one of the major sub-themes of the conference would be access to land and land tenure security, expected to address farmers-pastoralists conflicts and implications on internal security; land tenure system, grazing reserves and mainstreaming gender issues in livestock production.
“The reason for this new approach is to put this matter before all Nigerians. It’s our problem. Quarrelling, hauling abuses at each other, raising suspicions, anger and all that will not help. We have a problem, we must solve it and solutions are not that difficult to find, which is why we have invited virtually everybody we think will help in providing solutions- state governors, experts, ministries, consultants, the World Bank, the FAO- we want to sit together and design a solution. A country which has at least 45 million hectares of empty land has no business allowing farmers and cattle rearers to fight,” he stated.
Former Lagos State Police Commissioner, Abubakar Tsav, backed the Federal Government on its claim that the clashes would not go away overnight. He argued that not even the anti-grazing law, already passed by both Benue and Taraba states, was enough to put an end to the incessant clashes.
“The anti-grazing law made by Benue and Taraba states will have no effect because the laws were made in a hurry an in violation of the rights of the herdsmen. The state governments ought to have carved out areas as ranches and provide water, veterinary clinics, nets, schools and so on before making the law.
“They ought to have consulted widely. Herdsmen have a right to movement under the constitution to carry out their businesses. By creating ranches, states will improve and expand their revenue base. A law which has ethnic and religious connotations can only tear us apart as a people in one nation. The current law without alternative grazing area is an indirect way of sending herdsmen out of the states.”
But former member of the House of Representatives, Bitrus Kaze said it was unfortunate that anybody in government, at whatever level, would contemplate such a pessimistic statement.