The  Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has expressed its surprise at the decision of the South East Governors Forum to oppose the federal governments plan to build ranches for cattle herders.

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.

After a meeting of the South East Governors' Forum 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.

In reaction, MACBAN's South-East zone leader, Gidado Siddiki, said the organisation has always enjoyed a cordial relationship with the region, making its decison to oppose ranching a surprise.

In a press statement issued in Awka, Anambra State, on Wednesday, July 11, Siddiki said the decision will frustrate cattle herders in the execution of their livestock rearing business and alienate them from nationhood.

He said, "It was surprising to us considering the cordial relationship that had existed in the zone between us and the state governments.

"It is our candid view that the South-East, whose citizens are the major bonding elements among the people of Nigeria, would provide exemplary leadership in accommodating other Nigerians in their midst.

"It is evident that our organisation's advocacy for peaceful coexistence among indigenous farmers and herdsmen is increasingly making successes in the South-East.

"This explains our surprise at the latest stand of the governors which would not only frustrate our people from carrying out our legitimate livestock rearing business in this part but might be suggestive of a kind of suspicion that might undermine the mutuality of the claim of brotherhood.

"We are mindful of the various negotiations and consultations still going on in respect of the contentious issues of ranching, colonies and grazing areas across the country, we are hopeful that these issues are considered dispassionately in the interest of Nigeria and the generality of its citizens."

ALSO READ: How FG wants to put a permanent end to herders-farmers crisis with N179bn plan

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.

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.