John Ameh and Okechukwu Nnodim, Abuja
With the refusal of some state governors to give land for ranching, the Federal Government has decided to reactivate and convert the country’s grazing reserves to ranches, as it strives to end the deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
It was also gathered on Friday that plans were being perfected to convert about 177 out of the 415 grazing reserves across the country to ranches.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the 177 grazing reserves had been gazetted already and that the Federal Government was still confident that some states would provide land for ranching.
Aside from Kogi State that had officially agreed to provide about 5,000 hectares of land, no other state had publicly announced its willingness to provide land for ranches or cattle colony.
On Sunday evening, governors of the South-East states rose from a meeting in Enugu with a decision that no land would be made available for the establishment of cattle ranches in the zone.
When asked what next step the Federal Government would adopt in order to establish ranches, sources at the lands department of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, as well as officials at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development stated that the option of grazing reserves was being considered.
“The ministry will do something about the establishment of ranches and we know that state governments were initially contacted to freely donate land because we realise that ranching is the best way forward,” an official at the lands department of the FMPWH, who pleaded not to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said.
At the FMARD, a senior official said, “Considering the opposition to the provision of land by states, I can tell you that right now the President has asked the ministry to find out which of the grazing reserves are still available. It was established that about 100 of the grazing reserves that have been gazetted are available.
“So between these reserves and what the state governments will offer, we will see how we can handle the issue, as something is being done to start up the ranches. Now, it is important to also state that it costs a lot of money to build a ranch and that is why individuals are not going into it (ranching). But the government has decided that the best thing is to reactivate and turn the grazing reserves into ranches.”
The source added, “The land available in the identified grazing reserves seem to be even more than what is required, but it is not going to be handed over to individuals. Whoever has cattle and wishes to graze them in the facilities that will be established will have seamless access and will be required to pay a token, no matter their tribe.”
On the actual number of grazing reserves in Nigeria, the official stated that there were about 415 of them across the country, adding that not all the reserves would be used as ranches.
The source said, “There are 415 grazing reserves and as I am talking to you now, we have 177 that have been gazette, which are still legal and open. The 177 of them are the ones the ministry is going to work with and some state governments are also willing to join in; but they have to sit down with the Federal Government to discuss all the necessary modalities.
“These grazing reserves that we are talking about are the ones that have already been gazetted and they belong to the Federal Government. Again, they are 177 in number and they are ready, while the others are not ready at the moment. Altogether we have 415 of them.”
The official said the government believed that once the ranches were established, herders would stop roaming the streets with their cattle.
“You are in Nigeria and you know the extent of damage that the clashes have caused. So it is in the best interest of the nation to come up with measures to address it. The President, minister, as well as the ministry are not happy with the clashes and so we need a solution that will allow farmers to do their farming and herders to carry out their business too.
“Once we develop the grazing reserves, the issue of roaming about with cattle will be a thing of the past. Meanwhile, in some other climes, it is only the female cattle or cows that are being reared, they do not rear bulls as such because they now adopt artificial insemination,” the source added.
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