The Federal Government remains defiant in its decision to pursue the establishment of cattle colonies across the country in spite of the widespread criticism and pushback, stating that as from next week, work would commence towards attaining the goal.
Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, who disclosed this when he visited the agriculture and veterinary complex of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, made it clear that states which were not interested in the idea would be exempted.
Following killings by herdsmen in various parts of the country, the government had proposed the establishment of cattle colonies as the long-term solution.
But some states, including Benue, Ogbeh’s state, have strongly rejected the idea.
Defending the proposal, Ogbeh said it was part of the resolutions by the committee set up to find lasting a solution to the killings.
“One of the most topical issues we have today is that of farmers and herdsmen clashes.
“If we do not deal with it quickly, we run the risk of damaging the harmony and the co-existence of Nigeria as a country. The killings are getting too many.
“In our attempt to solve the problem, we have proffered certain solutions but perhaps we were not sensitive enough to Nigeria’s fragile sensitivities and suspicions.
“When we spoke of colonies, we were immediately greeted with reactions that this was an attempt to cease Nigeria’s land and give to the Fulanis to colonise.
“The intention is not for Fulanis or anyone to colonise any territory. It is to provide a haven for cattle to graze in peace under controlled environments to prevent the conflicts between farmers and herdsmen.
“Only yesterday, a committee was set up by the vice-president with members, most of them, state governors discussing this matter and resolving that states that are interested will begin work on this matter as soon as next week.’’
Meanwhile, a Niger-Delta youth group has reacted to the federal government’s cattle colony idea, requesting the establishment of an ‘oil and gas colony’ to balance things up.
Youths from Ijaw extraction in the nine states of the Niger Delta, while condemning the killings going on across the country by suspected Fulani herdsmen, called on the government to rise up to the challenge and also proposed an oil and gas colony for the Niger-Delta region.
The youths made their position known under the auspices of Niger Delta Youth Leadership Forum.
The National President, PANDLEAF, Richard Akinaka, expressed these positions during a press conference heralding the inauguration of the Bayelsa State chapter of PANDLEAF in Yenagoa on Saturday.
He said the issue of establishing colonies for herdsmen was wrong, insisting that it was the responsibility of herdsmen as private business people to shoulder the responsibility of advancing their business interests and not that of the government.
Akinaka said, “As a people, we have taken that position that herdsmen are private business people. Some of us who have private businesses, take private and personal responsibility to advance our business interests.
“If herdsmen want land and spaces to do their business, they should acquire them within any of the states and do their business as it demands the way it is done elsewhere all over the world where you have people get ranches for their cattle and people go there to buy cattle for consumption purposes.
“So, that is the best thing to do. Government does not need to buy land for a private businessman and all of that. But if that is what the government wants to do, we are asking for oil and gas colony for our people too.
“We should be given extra reserve right to take full responsibility of our oil and gas industry because that is our area, that is our environment.
“We suffer environmental problems. So, if they want colony for their cattle, we want colony for our oil and gas business.”
He also advised members of the Niger Delta Avengers to always engage in intellectual struggle in advancing their agitations rather than resorting to old-fashioned idea of armed struggle.
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