FG says proposed cattle ranches not for Fulani herdsmen alone as Benue, Ebonyi deny assent to plan

The Federal Government on Sunday said that the proposed cattle ranches it had agreed to set up with 10 states across the country is not solely for Fulani herdsmen.

According to the government, the scheme which will cost N70bn in the first phase (1 to 3 years) will be for any person who is interested in grazing his cattle in any of the facilities in the 10 states where the pilot scheme will start.

Last Tuesday, the Federal government announced it had entered into agreement with 10 states to create a nationwide cattle ranch to help bring to an end the herders and farmers crisis in the country. The states named are Adamawa, Benue Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara.

The 10 states are in the first phase of what the government describes as a national ranching project, which was disclosed at the National Economic Council’s National Livestock Transformation Plan as part of efforts to end clashes between farmers and herdsmen.

The Secretary of the NEC Sub-Committee, Dr. Andrew Kwasari, had stated that the Federal Government and states will spend N179bn over a 10 year period of the programme.

Since the announcement, some socio-economic groups have claimed that the scheme was a ploy by the Federal Government to seize land in states and give to Fulani herdsmen, a development that was refuted by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) on Sunday.

The Director of Information, FMARD, Tolu Makinde, said no land would be given directly to any individual.

Explaining further, he said “Of course, it is the state governments that will provide the land because the Land Use Act made it imperative that before you get the land, the state government has to give it to you. So, it is the state governments that will provide the land, but the modalities will be worked out between the federal and state governments.”

He added, “Now, this does not mean that the land will be given directly to individual herders. The way it is being conceived is that a facility will be provided in the states and whoever has needs to graze will take them there. People need to understand that it (the land) is not going to any individual, whether Fulani or not. If you are a herder, you can take your herds there to graze and pay whatever token is necessary.”

Meanwhile, the Ebonyi and Benue State governments have denied the claim by the Federal Government that they were part of the first phase of the ranching sheme. Both states denied they entered into any agreement with the Federal Government to provide land for cattle ranching.

Addressing journalists last Thursday, the State Commissioner for Agriculture in Ebonyi State, Ikechukwu Nwobo told the Federal Government that there was no vacant land for cattle ranching in the state.

The commissioner said the State Executive Council took offence at the news “that the state has directed or provided for a cattle ranch in Ebonyi State.”

“We were not gazzeted. There is no land for any ranching in Ebonyi State and we are not aware that we are among those mentioned as ranching states.

“The ranching programme being done by the federal government does not include Ebonyi State and it has been redirected to those states in the North where the farmlands have been gazetted and have ranching ground which they will now revitalize”.

Similarly, the Benue State Government has denied that it entered into an agreement with the Federal Government to cede a portion of land to the Nigerian Government for ranching.

The State Governor, Samuel Ortom speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Terve Akase, said that he did not at any point during his speech with the media at the briefing on the National Livestock Transformation Plan cede any land to the Federal Government.

Akase said that the state had no landmass for cattle routes and open grazing as the available land mass is used for crop cultivation to maintain the food basket status.

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