President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to finding a lasting solution to the frequent clashes between herders and farmers in the country, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Audu Ogbeh, said Monday in Bleiswijk, in the western Netherlands.
The minister gave the assurance during an interactive session with Nigerian postgraduate students studying in Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR), Netherlands, widely regarded as one of the world’s top agricultural research institutions.
He was responding to concerns raised by the students about the security situation in some North Central States in the country, particularly the clashes between pastoralists and farmers.
Mr Ogbeh, the Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State and Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredeolu of Ondo State who are part of President Buhari’s official delegation to the Netherlands, had visited the Research Centre for greenhouses in Bleiswijk, operated by WUR.
After a guided tour of the Centre, Mr Ogbeh told the students that Nigeria was looking forward to their innovation, learning, expertise and knowledge to address some of the current challenges in the agriculture and food security sectors.
‘‘We congratulate you on coming here to pursue your studies, and we expect that when you get back, you’ll find a different situation in the country because we will need some of you to manage the ranches.
‘‘When you do return, it’s people like you whom we hope we can organise to manage the ranches. There will be water, there will be fodder, and there will be electricity and some accommodation for the herdsmen.
‘‘Believe me, after six months, when the herdsmen realise that this new life is better than roaming through the bush, you will have to force him to leave that place.
‘‘It’s going to be slow, it’s going to be a bit expensive but we must end the crisis. We have to stop it because the crisis is unnecessary. The killings are undesirable,’’ Ogbeh said.
The Minister also explained the Federal Government’s decision to encourage ranching in the States, following recommendations by the National Economic Council in March this year.
‘‘We want to have large ranches because we discovered in our research that we have 450 grazing reserves created from 1952 to 1966.
‘‘The entire land mass is 5 million hectares some of which has been encroached upon leaving some 4 million hectares. This is more than enough to keep 80 million cows, assuming if we have 17 cows per hectare.
‘‘So we have the land and we are committed to developing it by providing water and protecting livestock from rustlers,’’ he said.
On his takeaway from the tour of the Centre, Mr Ogbeh said Nigeria had a lot to learn, and replicate at home, on agricultural innovation from the Netherlands, which is the second largest exporter of food, second only to the United States.
Speaking to the students, the NSA encouraged them to consider the ‘‘security angle’’ in their agricultural research to improve the situation at home, in terms of diminishing water, shrinking of spaces, insecurity and others.
‘‘We have spent years from 1964 till now, doing feasibility studies on how to get water back into Lake Chad. Something is wrong if we keep going on and on in perpetuity without getting any result.
‘‘If we are able to solve the problem of lack of water in the Lake Chad, it will discourage people from migrating in large numbers to other places.
‘‘I think we also have to ask young people like you, young men and women, new generation to begin to interface with people in this environment, your colleagues from the Netherlands on how we can deal with this problem,’’ Mr Monguno said.