By Peter Duru, Marie-Therese Nanlong, Femi Bolaji, Nasir Muhammad Gusau, David Odama &Umar Yusuf
FOLLOWING the inauguration of the National Livestock Transformation Programme, NLTP, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, investigations revealed that five of the seven pilot states have concluded plans not to accommodate foreign herders in the programme.
They believe foreign herdsmen are responsible for most atrocities attributed to herders and are ready to accommodate only indigenous cattle rearers.
These came as Taraba State said NLTP is Rural Grazing Area, RUGA, in disguise, while Benue warned that it would not accept anything in conflict with its anti-open grazing law.
The two states maintained their earlier opposition to the creation of colonies for herdsmen, saying the Federal Government should key into their ranching programmes.
While inaugurating the NLTP at Mayo-Balewa Local Government Area in Adamawa, Vice President Osinbajo had said the programme is different from RUGA, adding that NLTP was approved by the National Economic Council, NEC, while RUGA was a project of the Ministry of Agriculture.
He said NLTP, targeted at supporting the development of Nigeria’s livestock sector, is to be implemented in seven pilot states of Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
However, when Sunday Vanguard felt pulses across the states, there were still suspicions over the real intention of NLTP, just like the sentiments that trailed RUGA settlement programme. Apart from Benue and Taraba, other pilot states have earmarked sites for the project, but are mainly at the teething stage of preparations.
ZAMFARA: We’re a step ahead of FG
In Zamfara, Sunday Vanguard learned that the NLTP has been included in the RUGA settlements project of the state government.
Director-General, Press Affairs, Malam Yusuf Gusau, said the state government had components of NLTP in its project, when laying the foundation of three RUGA settlements in the state.
He said Zamfara is one step ahead of the Federal Government on the programme, noting that the state is at the execution stage.
Also, Gusau said N8.2 billion has been earmarked for the establishment of three RUGA settlements across three senatorial districts, adding, “each settlement will cover 1,000 hectares of land and will also include a mosque, western and Islamic schools, livestock plan, grazing reserves, and hospitals.”
He further explained that Maru Local Government was selected in Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Maradun council in Zamfara West, while Birnin Magaji was picked in Zamfara North Senatorial District. He added that no fund came from the central government on the project.
Also, Chairman Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Zamfara State chapter, Alhaji Ahmad Husaini told Sunday Vanguard that NLTP was included in the RUGA project in Zamfara.
He also maintained that herders from foreign countries would not be accommodated, saying they are the ones fomenting trouble across Nigeria, as the project was designed to benefit only the indigenes of the state.
NASARAWA: Dissent as govt earmarks 7 LGAs for NLTP
Nasarawa State government said it has earmarked lands in seven out of its 13 Local Government areas for NLTP, to promote dialogue and reconciliation in the state, with Governor Abdullahi Sule saying 300 employment opportunities could be generated in each of the council area.
He said areas designated for the programme would have schools, clinics, as well as security posts, as his administration is concerned about security.
“The job issue is important, but for us in Nasarawa State, our interest is more in the area of security,” he stressed.
However, Sunday Vanguard discovered that most communities in the state are vehemently opposed to the programme, no matter the form it would take.
Speaking on the issue, Senator Suleiman Adokwe, whose community was earmarked for the programme, said the Presidency is only interested in creating colonies for herders.
He said: “No community has been consulted. I have not been called by my community or the Village Head. Considering my age and my standing in the society, I should have been invited to look at the proposal.
“The land is not just there. There is population explosion in Nigeria and most of the cattle routes are no longer available because human beings have occupied them. Also, it is erroneous to believe that it is only one ethnic group that has the monopoly of rearing cattle.
Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule
“If there is a policy of developing cattle, sheep or goats, it should be for everybody. There are fears because everyone is seeing it as a policy that aims at assisting a specific ethnic nationality.
“I hope our state government has the land to give people, because some communities will simply not accommodate total strangers. We know the Fulani in Nasarawa State. There are a lot of Fulani in Nasarawa State that have integrated with the people, even to the extent of inter-marrying. So what special scheme of resettlement are those behind the policy going to do?”
Contacted, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture in Nasarawa State, Naptali Dachor, declined to comment on the issue, saying he had not seen the NLTP documents.
TARABA: NLTP is RUGA in disguise
Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ishaku on Media and Publicity, Bala Abu, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, said Taraba State had made its position clear before now, explaining that the ranching law passed by the state House of Assembly would be implemented holistically.
He said: “We have a position that we have adopted a long time ago and it has not changed. We have our internal initiative which led to the passage of a law on ranching and it restricts the indiscriminate movement of cattle. It also allows us to use pilot ranches.
“We believe the NLTP is RUGA in another way and we are not going to change the position we have already adopted. We have a law and we are going to live by the provision of that law and make sure that the law is implemented.”
On the adoption of NLTP by Northern Governors Forum, Abu said: “Taraba government was also not represented at the meeting and we are not bound by the decision taken. We believe that any other policy on livestock or movement of cattle around the country that contradicts the law that we have passed is not acceptable to us.”
When asked if the state government had been contacted on NLTP, Abu said no correspondence had been received, neither is any committee in place for its implementation.
ADAMAWA: Programme at formative stage
Adamawa State Livestock Transformation Office has swung into action to actualise the NLTP, with five grazing grounds created in different parts of the state.
A top official of the agency, who pleaded anonymity, told Sunday Vanguard that the reserves are located at Gongoshi in Mayo, Nassarawo Jada in Jada council and Daushe in Song council. Other grazing grounds are Guyaku in Gombi and Sorau in Maiha.
He added that the implementation of the programme is still at formative stages, adding that some decisive decisions had been taken. One of the proclamations, he maintained, is that foreign herdsmen would not be involved in the programme.
He added that the proposed beneficiaries of the NLTP in the state have been shortlisted, pending the full take-off of the scheme.
PLATEAU: Programme to commence amid anger
In Plateau State, Governor Simon Lalong is putting modalities on the ground to implement the NLTP, while many indigenes fume.
However, to ensure that Plateau people understand what the NLTP entails and the plans on ground, Director-General of Plateau Peace Building Agency, PPBA, Mr. Joseph Lengmang, urged the people to be patient as the plan is being implemented in the two pilot local government areas of Kanam and Wase, adding that mapping had been done to demarcate the areas.
Lengmang, whose agency is involved in the implementation of NLTP, told Sunday Vanguard that the plan has the potential of improving the fortunes of the state. He acknowledged the controversy about land-grabbing and attributed it to lack of strategic communication, which would make the people understand and embrace the policy.
He reiterated that the sole aim of the policy is to ensure peace and peaceful co-existence between the herders and farmers, irrespective of where they come from, saying: “we have started discussions in the media about this. The NLTP is a response to the controversies generated by RUGA. We made it clear that we in Plateau State do not subscribe to RUGA. What we are subscribed to is the potential that abounds in NLTP.
“For Plateau, we are piloting the ranching system. It is a huge opportunity for us to deal with certain security challenges and at the same time provide multiple streams of opportunities for improving livestock through the modernisation of the processes of livestock production in our state. NLTP is done under the PPP framework. It is not only the Federal Government that is bringing money for the pilot phases, but there are also international non-governmental organisations and donors like the German Development Corporation, GIZ; European Union and USID among others.”
Speaking on the guidelines for the implementation, he said: “For us in Plateau, there is no concrete policy yet, until the outcome of this pilot project. If it proves to be positive, the policy will be implemented fully. Once ranching works and there is a guideline on how individuals can key into it, hopefully, it will lead to the prohibition of open grazing in the state.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State ansd Darius Ishaku of Taraba State
“The governor has already created State Steering Committee headed by Professor Ochapa Onazi and the Secretary is Professor John Wade. In that committee, we have experts from agriculture, the judiciary and media. The NLTP has already commenced in Plateau with what is happening at the moment, as resources are being mobilised and the modalities for operation are being put on ground. Garga in Kanam and Wase grazing reserves are the locations for the ranching. Mapping has been done, enumeration has taken off, while the technical work has already begun.”
Also, Professor John Wade, Director-General, Research and Statistics, and Secretary, Ranching Committee, said: “I am not aware of any fund released by the Federal Government. On the part of the state government, there is a budgetary provision of about N250 million.”
BENUE: NLTP must conform to anti-open grazing laws
The Benue State government said it is not opposed to the implementation of NLTP in the state, as long as it does not conflict with its anti-open grazing law, which bans open grazing of all animals.
Deputy Governor of the state, Mr. Benson Abounu, made the position of the government known shortly after attending and Northern Governors Forum meeting in Kaduna.
He said: “The programme would be acceptable to the state as long as it conforms with the state anti-open grazing law, which provides for the establishment of ranches and livestock administration, regulation and control.
“The fundamental thing about NLTP is that any state that keys into the programme is expected to have it as its programme, even if some help regarding the funding is coming from the Federal Government. With regards to Benue, whatever is going to happen in this area of animal husbandry has to be in conformity with the local laws of Benue that are in existence. Principally, that law says there should be no open grazing and there should be ranching of animals.”
On his part, Chairman of Benue Tribal Leaders, Chief Edward Ujege, urged the Federal Government to be fair in dealing with the challenges posed by the herdsmen crisis in the state.
Ujege said: “Why has the Federal Government not released the meager N10 billion it promised to release for the reconstruction of the communities destroyed by armed herdsmen? Look, our people are still languishing in internally-displaced persons, IDPs, camps. They are everywhere in Benue because their ancestral homes were destroyed by herdsmen, while our children cannot go to school; and they are talking of taking our land to implement NLTP for herdsmen.
“We have given an emphatic no to the plan when a team came from the Federal Government to introduce the plan to our people. We all stood up in one voice to reject the plan. Anything happening that does not comply with our Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law is not acceptable to us.
“We heard the Federal Government would provide 80 percent of the funding. For us, it is Greek gift. We are not going to accept it and if it means our people dying of hunger, so be it. Even if there is money tied to the plan, we do not want the money; let them keep their money. We are not giving any part of our land for that, because we do not have lands.
“Only a few days ago, a northern governor said in an interview that all these plans are being made to accommodate Fulani herdsmen of all nationalities, because they do not stay in one place but move around.”