The South East Governors Forum has told the federal government that the South East region will not provide any land for herders to ranch their cattle in a newly-proposed initiative.
Open grazing has been publicly 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.
The federal government recently presented the National Livestock Transformation Plan, a N179 billion 10-year initiative targeted at putting an end to the agelong 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.
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.
After its meeting on Sunday, July 8, 2018, Ebonyi State governor and chairman of the forum, Dave Umahi, told journalists that ranching is not approved in the region. Even though he noted that the federal government is yet to request the donation of land for the initiative, the region has no plans of granting it nonetheless.
He said, "No land in the South-East has been donated for ranching. We have not donated any land; we have not been asked to donate and we are not going to donate. Ranching is not approved by the South-east governors in the South-East."
The governor further condemned the recent attacks allegedly carried out by herdsmen in Plateau State that led to the death of at least 100 people and requested an emergency meeting between farmers, herders and federal security agencies to discuss challenges being faced with cattle herding in the region.
He said, "The South-East governors forum commiserates with the governor of Plateau State and the people of the state for the recent killings. We condemn the killings and join other regions to demand justice for the Plateau people.
"South-East governors have noticed increased challenges in the movement of herdsmen from one state and region to another with the resultant effect of massive destruction of farmlands with attendant clashes with farmers.
"South-East governors have been spending huge funds in settling farmers whose farms and crops are destroyed - we, therefore, request an emergency meeting in the South-East with federal security chiefs, farmers and herdsmen to stop the movements and prevent clashes."
Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, an ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, was notably absent from Sunday's meeting and was not represented at all.
National Livestock Transformation Plan
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.
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.