The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has disclosed that the Federal Government is working with the Miyetti Allah group to discuss how to end the activities of killer herdsmen.
The struggle for economic resources like land and water between farmers and nomadic cattle herders, usually of the Fulani extraction but not exclusively, has led to a lot of bloodshed in the country in the past year.
Nearly 1,700 violent deaths were attributed to Fulani herdsmen in attacks carried out between January and September 2018, according to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index.
The Buhari-led administration has come under fire recently after it was rumoured to be meeting with the Fulani group and offering them money in exchange for peace.
However, while speaking during an interview on Channels TV's Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, Shehu said nothing was offered to the Miyetti Allah group as payoff to stop killings. He said the most prominent topic of discussion was how the cultural group could help the government to retrieve weapons from its "errant members".
He said, "Nothing about money was discussed. All of the issues were about the involvement of the leadership of this group in getting them to prevail upon their errant members, and how do they assist government to recover weapons that are widely-owned by a lot of these elements."
The government's request is a contradiction of President Buhari's repeated public claims that herdsmen don't carry weapons that can be used to cause serious harm. He has also heaped most of the attacks blamed on herdsmen on foreign invaders who exploit Nigeria's porous borders to wreak havoc.
While speaking on Tuesday, Shehu said the discussions between the Miyetti Allah and the government is a "win-win situation" for everybody as they've also tabled their own issues for intervention.
"A lot of them, for instance, also had come forward to say that criminality is growing among some of their young people because they had been dispossessed of their livelihood, cattle. They've been dispossessed because of rustling.
"These things are being addressed. In states like Kogi, Benue, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, and Niger, they'll be talking to their governments so that they can help to control some of these things that are unfolding," he said.
National Livestock Transformation Plan
Open grazing has been roundly condemned and blamed as the reason why cattle herders clash with local farming communities over the control of land all over the country, with such clashes leading to the death of hundreds over many years.
In June 2018, the federal government presented the National Livestock Transformation Plan, a N179 billion 10-year initiative targeted at putting an end to the age-long herders-farmers crisis, and to massively improve the livestock industry. The initiative stipulates that ranching is the way forward for cattle rearing in the country.
Under the federal government's plan, cattle herders are expected to be registered and recognised with cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme. These cooperatives will then be able to get rental agreements for land from state governments and also benefit from ranch resources on several terms including loans, grants, and subsidies.
The funding of the plan from the federal government and state governments is expected to last for the first three years in the pilot phase for a total of N70 billion while private sector interests and investment between the third and tenth year is expected to be in excess of N100 billion.
The proposed ranch size models, according to the plan, is a cluster of 30, 60, 150 and 300 cows ranched in a location within the donated reserves.
Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba, and Zamfara have been selected as the pilot states to launch the plan, with 94 ranches to be established and operational in clusters of 4 ranches in 24 locations in those states.
Of the 10 states designated as pilot states, the governments of Benue State and Ebonyi State have publicly denied agreeing to provide land for the federal government's initiative.
While updates on the plan have been shrouded in mystery for months, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, announced in December 2018 that it will be implemented soon.