Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the states of the federation reserve the right to decide whether to release their land for cattle ranches/colonies or not.
Mr. Osinbajo said at least 13 of the 36 states have released about 5, 000 hectares each for livestock production.
He made this known while speaking at the national security summit organised by the Nigerian Senate holding at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja on Thursday.
The summit is aimed at finding long-term solutions to security challenges in the country especially the perennial farmers/herdsmen clashes.
While speaking on the need for establishment of grazing reserves across the country, Mr. Osinbajo emphasised that no state ”will be forced to release its land for the purpose.”
“The federal government cannot dictate to states what to do with their land. This is so because the Land Use Act 1978 puts land under the control of governors on behalf of their states. Also, the Supreme Court in a case between the Attorney General of Lagos State against the Attorney General of the Federation in 2004 held that the use of land lies firmly in the hands of the governor. Even the use of federal land in the state, building and other permits must be sought from the state.
“Let me reiterate that on no account will any land be seized or forcefully taken to create ranches or grazing areas. All insinuations to that effect should be disregarded. Instead, it is in our view that states that are willing should cooperate even with willing investors into commercially viable government supported ranches or livestock production centres for commercial use.”
The Vice President said it is time the country moved away from the usual practice of moving cattle from one region to another.
“All stakeholders must agree that we must now develop new ideas to prevent clashes between herdsmen and farmers. In particular, enabling the herders and farmers to synergise. It is obvious that the movement of cattle, physically, in an endless journey must now begin to take a different shape. We cannot continue to have that situation, there must be other ways.
“We believe that where cattle are sedentary, it will improve the quality of cattle. Our beef cattle, Sokoto Gudali, adds 0.5kg per day, while the Brama in Brazil which is bred in a ranch adds 2.5kg per day. Our dairy cows produce one litre per day, whereas, in other parts of Africa, there is the production of almost 15 to 20 litres per day.
“The grazing reserves to operate effectively, should operate as ranches for livestock production centers on a commercial basis. The ranches would have adequate water from boreholes and pasture. The location would serve as centres for providing essential services to boost animal care, feeding and veterinary facilities and even abattoirs. Because the ranches are commercial ventures, cattle owners also care for the use of such places.”
He said the services of the proposed ranches will be billed.
“It is important for us to bear in mind that in consultation with all of the stakeholders including pastoralists, we agree that where adequate provision is made, on commercial basis, no one is saying that it should be free, then there is no reason why there should not be cooperation to use those ranches because they are both economic centres and also a social one for everyone including the herders.”
Tracing the genesis of recent security challenges, Mr. Osinbajo said the ECOWAS Trans human protocol which Nigeria signed in 1998 made its borders more porous.
He said, “Complicating our situation in Nigeria is the porous nature of our more than 4,000 kilometres of warriors which allows the easy flow of illegal weapons. To combat this, we are devoting increased resources to our customs and immigration agencies as well as upgrading the presidential committee on small arms and light weapons into a well-resourced commission able to account for all the movement of arms that go back and forth through our borders.
“Another issue worth taking into account is the ECOWAS Trans human protocol which Nigerian signed in 1998. This guarantees the free movement of pastoralists, herders across the sub region. As segments to that protocol, we were obliged not to restrict the movement of pastoralists and their cattle coming from other ECOWAS countries. Of course this has added a further complication to the problems we already have besides many of the foreign herders are exposed to firearms market noted earlier and are unknown to the local farming companies. What we are doing and what we must continue to do is to ensure the robust documentation of all entry and exit through our borders.
“And as we get new methods of cattle breeding, we must be able to get those who are coming from other countries to comply with the laws of Nigeria because we know that the security situation is only one dimension to a multifaceted issue. We are also working with the state governments and local communities,” he said.
He also shielded his boss from insinuations that he (President Muhammadu Buhari) was protecting the murderous herdsmen from facing justice.
“Every Nigerian is entitled to adequate security from government for their lives and livelihood. Government fails in that responsibility often but I must say never deliberately. Every killing demeans us as a people. Every killing undermines the authority of the state, this is why the suggestion sometime that because the president is Fulani, he has ignored the killings by herdsmen, it is both untrue and unfair. In any event, the herdsmen and farmers clashes resulting in deaths have been on for at least two decades.
“I have worked with him for three years now and I do not know of any one issue that has given him more concern (and) on which he has spent more time on as this particular issue,” he said.