• DAWN Commission states why the region should facilitate ranches
As the campaign against open grazing in the southern part of the country rages with legislative provisions being emplaced and advocacy for the establishment of ranching intensifies, ownership structures of cattle ranches have remained unclear.
The majority of Nigerians have harped on the best practice of cattle ranching, but arguments still rage on as the Federal Government insists on reclaiming grazing routes.
It will be recalled that the Federal Government recently said it would reclaim all grazing routes throughout the country and would only concede spaces for already building public infrastructures or institutions.
In contrast, a foremost human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), said there was no gazette anywhere in the country that established cattle grazing reserves, saying land constitutionally belongs to the people and held in trust by states of the federation.
Meanwhile, most private sector actors in the poultry/livestock industry have expressed reservations over using public funds and land for putting infrastructure in place for businesses of individuals, who, most of the time, do not pay taxes to the government.
Not only that, some individuals argue that no government in the country provides infrastructure for pig, poultry, goat, fish and other livestock farmers, and cattle farmers should not be treated differently.
However, some school of thought says that loans and other assistance as applicable to other farmers – crop and poultry – should apply to cattle farmers where they obtain loans and repay to the banks and other lending institutions.
Reacting to the positions, Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Institute of Animal Science (NIAS), Prof. Eustace Iyayi, said the ban on open grazing was a result of the criminality that recently accompanied the cattle grazing system in the country.
He added: “While I believe ranching can be a solution, ranching itself has to be properly planned.
“I do not believe ranching can be successfully operated by the government. So, that leaves it squarely in the hands of individuals or groups of people who want to operate it as an economic venture.”
Nevertheless, he added, the government should have a role to play by providing land either for lease or purchase, and social amenities, especially at the state level, as the land constitutionally belongs to the state.
Another animal scientist at the University of Ibadan, Dr Olufemi Adebiyi, is of the view that as much as most poultry, pig and goat farmers do their businesses without government interventions in land or infrastructure, cattle owners should establish their ranches and feedlots with private resources.
“Poultry farmers establish their farms privately. So, cattle breeders and herders should establish their farms too. The public should not bear the burdens of private businesses,” Adebiyi said.
Also, the President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Mr Ibrahim Ezekiel Mam, based in Maiduguri, Borno State, in an interview with The Guardian recently, declared support for a private sector-driven ranching system to encourage innovations and effectiveness.
He argued that most economies of the world making progress are private sector-led, and that all public-funded businesses in Nigeria had failed one after the other.
Mam said: “Public sector-driven businesses in Nigeria have failed. But private sector-driven establishments are better managed, innovative and creative.
“Can the government provide equipment and infrastructure for every manufacturer? Let the government provide enabling environment through adequate security of life and property and lower interest rate from financial institutions.”
However, the DAWN Commission has proposed a revisit of the abandoned regional ranching projects.
In a statement tagged ‘Case for the establishment of ranches,’ the commission said: “Nigeria is a major producer of livestock (cattle and goats) in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it is the largest importer of milk in the region, with an annual importation bill of $1.3bn. The country’s cattle population is estimated at 20 million. However, only 2.3 million cattle (11.5%) are utilised for dairy production.
“Clashes between nomadic herders and farmers have claimed roughly 7,000 lives over the past five years and cost the Nigerian economy $13 billion (11.57 billion euros) yearly, according to a report in May by the NGO Mercy Corps.”
It added that with over 200 million people and an emerging middle class, Nigeria was witnessing a boom in demand for meat.
According to the government estimates, Nigeria consumes 360,000 tonnes of beef each year, accounting for half of all consumption in West Africa.
The population of south-west Nigeria is currently estimated at 40 million and has the tendency to grow to over 60 million in 10 years, thus emphasising that there is a ready market for beef and dairy products in the region, a good reason for regional ranches.
It is estimated the value of cattle consumed in Lagos daily is N1.2 billion. Over 8,000 cattle heads are slaughtered at an average price of N150,000 per cow.
The commission listed benefits of the ranching programme to the South-West region as production of healthier animals thereby promoting the accessibility and availability of safe and healthy meat for consumption; commercial production of cattle for meat, milk and leather at cheaper and affordable rates and advantage of more carcass weight and milk yield.
“It would put a stop to the menace and ugly appearances created by herdsmen and their cattle on roads and streets of southwest cities.
“Ranching would curb/curtail cattle rustling and invariably put an end to incessant clashes of pastoralists and farmers, thereby promoting peaceful co-existence,” the commission added.
As part of efforts to tame youth restiveness and unemployment, the commission said cattle ranching established at regional levels would “Create enormous employment opportunities for the teeming population of Southwest Nigeria and enhance the proper documentation of livestock in the region, thus assist the government and other institutions concerned to make necessary policies.”