The Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, has faulted the federal government’s approach to the lingering farmers/herders clashes that is fuelling insecurity in the country.
This is just as he noted that the issues may not end any time soon due to poor policies put in place by the government.
Senator Abdullahi who disclosed this while speaking with journalists in Abuja, said the underlying problem was the lack of sufficient livestock feeds and that instead of looking at the issue critically and instituting a constructive, participatory and transformative solution, the issue has not only politicised but also weaponised.
He said: “I am very concerned about the issue of farmers-herders clashes as veterinary doctors. I worked in a research institute for more than 12 years. I know that what is being done right now is not sufficient to address the issue. Even the livestock transformation system is not sufficient to address the issue. What is our livestock population? Currently, we have about 20 million herds of cattle and about 15 million of other animals like sheep and goats, according to the last census, which was in 1990.
“People are against open grazing and are canvassing for ranches but the problem is that there is no adequate feed for the animals. “
As far as I am concerned, until we tackle the livestock feed challenge, this issue will be here with us for a longer period. The moment the livestock is hungry, the owners won’t be able to control them. Nobody condones a situation where lives are lost but we know what open grazing and trans-human movements portend.”
According to him, most of the evils perpetrated in the name of herdsmen or cattle rearing, are the handiwork of foreign herders who have migrated this far in search of pastures for their stocks, adding that Nigeria must see cattle as a national asset, particularly judging by its contribution to the national economy.
“It must be placed on record that the bulk of the people who are hostile, who tend to attack farmers are herders from other countries. Those that are resident in Nigeria are peace loving. Many Fulani are still living with most communities in peace. Unfortunately many people had turned the issue to a political weapon.
“The livestock resources in this country are our national asset. The same way we see oil, and solid minerals and other natural resources as national assets is to also see livestock as one too. Rather than allow the current situation to cause disunity in Nigeria, we should look at a better creative and innovative way to address the challenge for economic prosperity.
“We need to establish farms where people will cultivate animal feeds and take them to the herders for sale. It will turn out to be a massive job opportunity,” he said.
According to him, rather than the federal government embarking on the establishment of farm settlements which are costly and unsustainable in most cases, it should work closely with the state governments through a market-oriented strategy.
He said: “The idea of farm settlement is not sustainable because of population explosion. It is time to marry our urban development planning with rural projects. There should be a policy that would make state governments interact more with agricultural rural land.
“When states designate some areas as agricultural land, it would be easier for the federal government to implement its policies. If we are able to get the feed resource management strategy right, we can maximise feed production from the entire country and it would be cheap.
“Establishment of grazing areas or ranch is not the solution because even when you have a ranch, the management of pasture areas is a challenge. What is the status of our livestock pasture and feeds? To the best of my knowledge, it is only the National Animal Production Research Institute that is running a programme that is researching livestock pasture and feed. Everything is in NAPRI as a programme. I guess it was some few years back that they started employment. At a point their youngest and oldest staff are professors because for so many years, nobody was recruited. It is the least of our priority areas,” Abdullahi said.
Speaking further, he called for the unbundling of the National Animal Production Research Institute and the establishment of a separate agency to deal with livestock feed production and management issues as an option to address the crisis.
“The National Animal Production Research Institute is supposed to be unbundled going by the vision 2020-20. There should be a federal agency dealing with the issue of livestock feeds. So that even the poultry feed too could be addressed. The issues are a very critical situation.”