Following the directive by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for the reclamation of grazing routes in states across the country, senior officials in the Presidency and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have given a hint as to how they will go about the assignment.
Buhari’s directive on the reclamation of grazing routes has met with widespread pushback, especially in the southern part of the country, where the 17 southern governors have declared their resolve on promulgating anti-open grazing laws, as a panacea for the incessant farmers/herders clashes.
The Federal Government said tracing and reclaiming the grazing routes was the only way to put an end to the incessant clashes between nomadic herdsmen and farmers across the country and it was moving ahead with the plan.
Senior government officials in the Presidency and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development told Sunday PUNCH that the grazing routes were classified into primary, secondary and tertiary and the retracing process would take cognisance of these.
Sunday PUNCH also learnt that some federal structures were already constructed on grazing routes, with a tertiary institution in the Federal Capital Territory named as one of such structures.
The officials, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH on condition of anonymity, noted that several programmes had been developed by the Federal Government towards the exercise, while some were currently ongoing in various states to address the conflict occasioned by the movement of pastoralists from one location to another.
It was further gathered that the Federal Government was supporting Yobe and Katsina states in the development of grazing reserves, as Bauchi and Kwara had indicated interest.
The officials, however, explained that the government would be mindful of conflict zones as it moves to recover the grazing routes.
Commenting on structures located on grazing routes, during an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, a senior official at the Presidency, who pleaded to be anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the matter, said, “The University of Abuja is on the stock (grazing) route.
“I used to see monuments on the stock routes and these routes have been encroached on for a long time. So, retracing them will unearth a lot of things. In many states, farmers are farming on the stock routes.”
On whether it would not be possible to retrace the routes, considering the massive level of encroachment on them, the official replied, “There are some that you can still retrace.
“You will be surprised to know that even some Fulani are not after reclaiming the stock routes and the grazing reserves because they are farming there. Some of them now say that it (the farms) is what they are surviving on.”
The official explained that the stock routes connect one grazing reserve to another.
The source explained that the primary stock routes were routes that moved from one ECOWAS state to the other, while the secondary stock routes were routes that moved from state to state.
“The tertiary routes are the stock routes that connect grazing reserves within a state and cattle breeders know these routes and use the monuments on them as guides,” the official stated.
Also speaking on grazing reserves and routes, a director at the FMARD stated that the government in collaboration with Gombe State was currently developing a model grazing reserve in the state.
The source noted that a lot of programmes were being embarked upon by the Federal Government for pastoralists, adding that once the projects become functional there would be rapid livestock transformation in Nigeria.
The official said, “There is a model grazing reserve currently being established in Gombe and some media personnel were there. There is another intervention in Borno State.
“Apart from that, we also have within our capital budget, development of pasture in grazing reserves and settlements where we have pastoralists.
“In addition to all these, we are also desilting dams, particularly now that the rains have come and we have programmes that will encourage the pastoralists to settle down as much as possible.
“We are constructing solar-powered boreholes and systems to provide light within our Livestock Intervention Programme locations and some other grazing reserves that we have been intervening in, as located other states that have not been mentioned for the LIP.”
On July 24, 2021, Saturday PUNCH exclusively reported that the Federal Government had to introduce the LIP as a replacement scheme for the controversial Rural Grazing Area project, two years after suspending the RUGA scheme.
The report stated that the LIP was introduced to address the lingering farmer-herder crisis across the country.
The acting Director, Animal Husbandry Department, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Winnie Lai-Solarin, told one of our correspondents that the LIP was already being implemented in the six pilot states.
“The states are Adamawa, Kwara, Niger, Bauchi, Kaduna and Gombe,” Lai-Solarin had stated.
Meanwhile, a source at the agric ministry stated on Friday that aside from the LIP, the government had commenced another livestock project which had kicked off in Nasarawa.
“One of them is the Livestock Breeding Programme in Kano. Apart from that, we are partnering with the Feed and Fodder Association on the National Pasture Development Programme.”
Another official of the ministry told THE PUNCH that another project for livestock development in Nigeria was being planned by the Federal Government and the World Bank.
The source said, “We also have in the pipeline, a programme called the Livestock Productivity and Resilient Support Project. The World Bank is supporting that project and it is another commitment from the government to address value chain issues across the country.
“It is to look at the commercialisation of livestock and to also look at private sector participation and it is taking very seriously gender issues.”
The official noted that the Federal Government was also supporting states in the development of their grazing reserves.
“I will also like to add that so many states are being supported by the Federal Government to develop their grazing reserves, ranches and to also intervene in conflict resolution within the state. So the Federal Government is doing quite a lot to end this crisis,” the source stated.
The FMARD officials said the government carried out needs assessments in the states to determine what pastoralists and crop farmers actually needed before embarking on the various interventions.
They noted that the assessments were done to also ensure the sustainability of the projects, as there had been similar interventions in the past that were not sustainable.
On states supported by the Federal Government on grazing reserves, the official said, “I know of Yobe and Katsina, while Bauchi and Kwara have expressed interest in developing their grazing reserves.”
Meanwhile, the Director, Information, FMARD, Theodore Ogaziechi, when contacted to tell the number of states that had received funds for the development of ranches or grazing reserves, replied in the negative.
“We don’t have the details,” he stated.
He, however, noted that the government was working hard to resolve the conflict between farmers and herders through the development of programmes.
Gombe developing over 140,000 hectares for NLTP
Acting Surveyor-General of Gombe State, Rebecca Burkar, said not less than 140,000 hectares of land was being developed for the National Livestock Transformation Programme of the Federal Government in the Dukku Local Government Area.
Burkar, in an interview with our correspondent in Gombe, said that the 140,000-hectare settlement would comprise a human community clinic, a veterinary clinic, a micro pit dam, 10 hectares of pasture/fodder bank and two access roads.
Similarly, senior government officials in Katsina State, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed that over 7,000 hectares of land were currently being utilised for a ranch project facilitated by the N6.25bn special intervention fund released to the state government by the Federal Government.
The 7,000 hectares are part of the over 122,000 hectares of land Katsina had for grazing sites, they said.
It was also gathered that the Katsina State government intends to commence ranch projects in 10 local government areas.
Count Benue out, Ortom insists
But Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State is sticking to his guns and has told the Federal Government to count his state out of the proposed grazing reserves programme.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, on August 20, 2021, the governor reiterated that there was no land for grazing reserves or cattle routes in Benue State.
Our land is for cultivation, not grazing – Ebonyi
Similarly, the Ebonyi State Government, through its Surveyor-General, John Igbede, said no state in Igboland has a grazing site.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, in a telephone interview, in Abakaliki, on Friday, Igbede, said, “Ebonyi State is an Igbo state and as one of the states in Igboland, there is no grazing site in any Igbo state. Ebonyi doesn’t have any site for grazing.”
Also, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in the state, Chief Moses Ali, said, “Our land is for the cultivation of rice, maize, cassava and others and not for grazing.”
In Osun, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola said he was not sure if the state had grazing routes.
Speaking during a radio programme monitored by our correspondent in Osogbo on Friday, Oyetola said, “I am not too sure we have a grazing route in Osun State. I have not been able to confirm that. The position of the southern governors is a collective decision. So, I can’t say anything to the contrary as it is.”
His counterpart in Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde, also ruled out the possibility of reviving grazing routes in the state.
Makinde, who spoke to our correspondent through his Chief Press Secretary, Taiwo Adisa, said, “Oyo State has an anti-open grazing law which was signed into law in 2019. The law prohibits open grazing of animals. That rules out the possibility of revival of the said grazing routes. The state however has farm settlements that have the capacity to accommodate the entire value chain of animal husbandry.”