Cattle Colonies: Southern States Shun FG’s Request For Land

No state in southern Nigeria has volunteered to provide land to the Federal Government to set up cattle colonies in order to address the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

It was also learned that the 16 states that had volunteered to provide land for the establishment of the cattle colonies are from northern Nigeria.

They include Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Nasarawa and Plateau.

Others are Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Jigawa, Yobe, Niger, Kogi and Kwara states.

Further findings from the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Monday in Abuja showed that while there were dissenting voices in some of the documented states that had volunteered to provide land, the 16 states agreed to provide 5,000 hectares of land each for the establishment of cattle colonies.

Last week, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, announced that the establishment of cattle colonies in the states that had volunteered land would commence this week.

When contacted, senior officials at the agriculture ministry re-echoed what Ogbeh had said that the Federal Government would not force any state to volunteer land for the initiative.

The officials, however, stated that the 16 states from northern Nigeria had been documented as locations where the initiative would start, adding that the government was canvassing support from more states, particularly from southern Nigeria.

Ogbeh’s Special Assistant on Media, Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, and the Director of Information, FMARD, Tolu Makinde, provided our correspondent with various speeches by the minister which extensively explained how the Federal Government planned to go about the initiative.

In one of Ogbeh’s speeches, the minister recalled that early last year, letters were sent to all state governments to know who was interested in the programme.

He said a large number responded, but some said they had no land to give, while 16 affirmed their interest to participate and pledged to make land available for the initiative.

On states that had volunteered to provide land, Ogbeh had said, “We have agreed to work together to create a new culture of cattle rearing different from what we have today. We are told that it is a custom of the herdsmen to be moving around. The current culture of open grazing is posing serious challenges.

“It does not allow the harvest of milk, while the yield on milk in Nigeria is one of the lowest in the world, averaging one or half a litre per day.”

He said the initiative would put a stop to cattle’s tortuous trekking, lead to better feeding, quality meat, provision of good water for the animals, good veterinary services and the new environment that would protect the cattle from rustlers.

Ogbeh said the clashes between herdsmen and farmers were being politicised, adding that Nigeria had over 145 million hectares of land untouched but “yet we have no land to give for grazing.”

He said, “We have to end this fight between farmers and herdsmen. We have enough land and scientific knowledge to solve the problem except that there are too much politics and too little governance. Everything is politicised and there is too much suspicion; even with religion. Everybody is suspicious that you are about to play one trick or the other.

“Why should one set of people be in the bush because they are keeping herds and trying to give us meat when we can give them a better life, secure the farmers, secure the herdsmen from rustlers and give the Fulani man, the Ijaw, the Ibiobioo, or the Yoruba, our good attention?”

On funding for cattle colonies, the minister explained that the initiative would be funded by the federal and state governments, as well as herders who are interested in the policy.

Ogbeh said, “We will join hands. First, we acquire land; they show us a place and our experts will decide whether the place is suitable or not. We push down a few trees, remove the stumps, and plant the right kind of fodder.

“When we first came and talked about grass, Nigerians were angry and they called us every kind of name in the book. But there is no way you can keep cattle if you don’t deal with the question of fodder; it is not every kind of grass that cows eat.

“So we will plant the grass, then we have a small mill which converts agro-waste to livestock feed. Much of that cost is going to be borne by the Federal Government and where the state can, it will chip in something.

“However, when herders arrive, individuals who want to play a part in place will pay a small fee. So, they will pay. They are quite willing to pay.”

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