ANOTHER round of tension is brewing in the polity following the announcement by the Federal Government that it is remodelling “grazing areas” throughout the country into ranches.
This is coming after the RUGA policy was comprehensively rejected in all states in the South East, South-South, South West and majority of states in the Middle Belt areas.
This time, the announcement came through the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Nomadic Education, NCNE, Prof. Bashir Usman on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at a three-day capacity building seminar.
According to Usman, seven states – Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa and Zamfara – have been selected for the pilot of the “remodelling” programme which will eventually be carried out in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
He said 141 out of 416 “grazing reserves” measuring about 3.4 million hectares have already been carved out, demarcated and gazetted.
Usman also declared that these territories would be turned into “state-of-the-art” grazing reserves for livestock herders to end “farmers/herders conflicts” and also modernise livestock agriculture.
As with the suspended RUGA policy, we once again urge the Federal Government to exercise wisdom and caution in its efforts to modernise livestock agriculture in Nigeria.
If this so-called “remodelling” policy is enforced in the manner that Usman has portrayed it, it will not be any different from the discredited RUGA policy. In that case, it will not promote peaceful coexistence between Nigerians of different ethnic and occupational backgrounds.
It will sow the seeds of endless conflicts which could undermine the very existence of the country. The RUGA and Remodelling programmes can only be carried out in states and communities whose indigenes accept and desire them.
We hope that in gazetting any so-called grazing reserve in any state of the federation, the consent of the communities and governors (who under the constitution hold the land in trust for the people) has been obtained and the existing laws of the state on open grazing taken into account.
We caution that any attempt to forcibly gazette and commandeer the ancestral patrimony of any Nigerian community will worsen the already existing bloody conflicts rather than solve the situation.
It is difficult to imagine any community that will welcome the imposition of violence-prone ethnic strangers on their land without their consent.
The Federal Government should encourage the nomads who wish to ranch their animals to take advantage of the generous offers of land by many Northern states, such as Kano, Niger, Zamfara and others.
We call for the implementation of a National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, which will embrace all Nigerians wishing to invest in livestock farming rather than seize people’s lands and hand over to a particular ethnic group.
It will stoke fierce enmity and unending conflicts.