Kogi State has keyed into federal government Cattle Colony programme by offering 15,000 hectares of land for the pilot scheme.
The offer was made yesterday by Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, via a written letter he presented to Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh.
Bello said the people of the state had been sensitised and educated about the policy which was a combination of many ranches and a way of stemming strifes between pastoralists and farmers.
”I am here today to inform the honorable minister that the people of Kogi State have keyed into this programme 100 per cent. We are willing and ready to pilot the programme and our people are well informed about what it is all about,” Bello said.
He said consequent upon that, the state had secured and earmarked 15,000 hectares for the take off.
The two projected cattle colonies in Kogi are Ajaokuta and Adavi Local Government Areas.
About 10,000 hectares is earmarked in Ajaokuta while 5,000 hectares is proposed for Adavi, which adjoins Edo State in the south and the state capital Lokoja in the north.
He said the local communities had willingly agreed to offer land for the project. He added that compensation process was on going as those whose lands were taken over would be adequately compensated.
He said he was now awaiting response from the authority having presented the letter of offer to the federal government.
He expressed confidence that the creation of cattle colonies in Kogi State would enhance the economic wellbeing of the people of the state and the country at large.
The governor also rejected call for the enactment of the anti -open grazing law in the state against the herdsmen, saying that no law was required for any private business.
“The common law tackles those that carry arms and not those engaged in lawful business. We don’t need any law to ban open grazing. By the time the herders and the farmers see the value chain in it, everyone will be attracted into it. We don’t need anybody to stop somebody from moving around as in the long run, roaming about with cattle is not profitable,” Bello said.
Ogbeh, who lauded Bello for his courage, insisted that creation of colonies rather than setting up ranches was the solution to the herdsmen crisis.
He said with the population of cows in the country estimated at 19.5 million, 1,711 ranches would be required per state if there exist individuals keeping a ranch at average of 300 cows per ranch.
“This implies that 633,303 ranches will be required and that is where we will have the chaos because we can’t manage that. But if the cattle are held in a colony, the management, including water supply, fodder and cattle feed will be easier,” Ogbeh said.
He said cattle business accounts for six per cent of Nigeria’s GDP, stressing that though it is a private business, government will invest in it in same manner it has offered bail out to ailing airlines and banks.
“No one is happy that the herdsmen can enter a farm and kill the farmer. But the answer is control and organisation. If we don’t control this crisis the conflict will not stop. How many more deaths do we want? We have no intention of giving lands in the states to herdsmen to colonise. Under the arrangement, nothing says only Fulani will keep and rear cattle”, Ogbeh said.
The minister said that some of the Fulani herdsmen, recently confided in him at the Lamido of Adamawa’s palace that l they resorted to carrying arms about because of the spike in cattle rustling.
He said the herdsmen lamented that every night they lose between 200-300 cows to rouges who waylay and attack them in the night.
“In Paikonkore, Gwagwalada, we asked the herdsmen why they use guns and not sticks as is the tradition.They said when they stop at night, rustlers, kill them and make away with their cows. They said they had to buy guns to defend themselves. They said they use guns against farmers, because when the conflict comes and they find themselves along farm routes, it’s difficult to control the situation.”