The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has maintained that the federal government will not forcibly take land from states to kick off cattle colonies.
Ogbeh made this known at the weekend when he refuted claims that the programme was initiated to seize farmlands and hand them over to Fulani herdsmen, saying it was not true.
According to him, the intention behind the cattle colonies was to provide safe havens for cattle to graze in peace, to be under controlled environment, prevent conflicts between farmers and herdsmen and not to give people's land to Fulanis.
He said: "If any suspicion does arise, it is unintended and regrettable. We never meant and do not have the intention to seize anyone's land by force. The federal government will not force states to surrender their land or force any of them to do what it does not like to do.
"We have agreed to work together to create a new culture of cattle rearing different from what we have today. We are told that it is a custom of the herdsmen to be moving around. The current culture of open grazing is posing serious challenge and not too efficient."
Meanwhile, the Taraba State Government has raised the alarm over plans by a militia group to carry out fresh attacks on villages in the state.
Bala Dan Abu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the State Governor, Darius Ishaku, who raised the alarm in Jalingo yesterday, said there are security reports that arms and ammunition are being brought into the state to execute the dastardly act.
Specifically, Abu revealed that a helicopter loaded with arms and ammunition was reported to have landed in Jibu village in Ibi Local Government Area of the state allegedly meant for a militia group planning to carry out attacks in the state.
According to him, "A helicopter suspected to be loaded with arms and ammunition is reported to have landed in a place called Jibu, a village located along River Benue, somewhere near Ibi, in Ibi Local Government Area of Taraba State. The arms and ammunition are allegedly meant for a militia group that may be planning an attack on Taraba villages."
The governor's spokesman further stressed that prior to the tragic attacks in Agatu in Benue State which led to the killings there, similar system of arms delivery occurred but nothing was done to trace and arrest the owners of the helicopter insisting that the development is suggestive of a planned militia attack on the state.
"This system of arms delivery was said to have happened prior to the tragic attacks in Agatu in Benue State last year which led to the killings there. Nothing was done to trace and arrest the owners of the helicopter. There may be another planned militia attacks in the offing," he said.
But the state police command has denied knowledge of the arms conveying helicopter and a planned militia attack on the state.
Speaking to THISDAY in a telephone interview, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), David Misal, maintained that the command is yet to be briefed of the development just as he promised to reach out to journalists whenever information is available on the matter.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives has expressed disappointment with the federal government over what is described as its "tactless handling" of the spate of killings across the country.
It said the current situation fosters possibilities of repeated mass killings by herdsmen in Benue, Taraba and other states, adding that the "prevailing spate of killings across the country now mirrors that of failed states."
The House Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, in a statement said the caucus emphatically blamed the All Progressives Congress (APC) government for gross failure to explore realistic and effective options towards ending such crisis and saving human lives, adding that too many Nigerians are losing their lives to insecurity nationwide while killers still roam free.
He said: "The first fundamental duty of any government is the security of citizens' lives and property, but it is deeply unfortunate, historically horrific and spiritually negative that under the APC government, the country is witnessing endless rounds of senseless killings of men, women and children in Benue, Taraba and other states.
"Within the past two years, unidentified herdsmen have displaced Boko Haram in terms of mindless killings; it is unfortunate that once again, just like they did several times before, rampaging herdsmen in utter contempt for Benue state's anti-grazing law wantonly descended on Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State in a new year attack that left scores of dead bodies.
"Herdsmen now rank high on the Global Terrorism Index and nationwide, mindless killings, armed robberies and dastardly kidnapping have increased under the APC government which now repays the overwhelming votes from the people with long conspiratorial silence and numb promises while the number of corpses mount.
"Security is one of the three major commitments that the APC government guaranteed the country at its inception but in the usual pattern of elevating deceit and propaganda above all else, it has woefully remained unable to rein in worsening insecurity across the country.
"Today, the result is that our gallant military personnel and other security operatives are immersed in tackling crises in all parts of Nigeria."
The caucus further bemoaned a situation whereby big farmers in the North now avoid their own farms for fear of kidnappers, stressing that "the APC has insensitively chosen a very wrong and unfair moment in history to announce plans for re-election campaigns."
Also, PDP lawmaker in the House representing Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu federal constituency of Kogi State, Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf, has cautioned Governor Yahaya Bello to tread cautiously and avoid taking unilateral decisions over the adoption of the federal government's cattle colony initiative.
He said: "Several groups and individuals, including members of the governor's party in the state may turn it into a combustible issue as they are already mobilisng to ensure a strong perception of the governor's moves on the cattle colony initiative as a colossal unilateral and insensitive decision."
Yusuf, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Capital Market and Institutions, said the "PDP will not support concession of any community's land for the cattle colony initiative, he also stated that PDP is the only hope for ensuring justice for all those unjustifiably affected by the ongoing sack of workers by the Kogi state government."
He told journalists: "This is beyond politics, I plead with our governor to please make adequate consultations because traditional rulers are not bona fide owners of land in communities in most, if not all communities across Kogi State."
The lawmaker emphasised that instead of despairing, many victims of Kogi State Government's recent sack may still hope for a better future as the next PDP administration in the state is bound to revisit all genuine cases.
He added that if voted into power, the PDP government would upturn the decision of the incumbent administration which sacked thousands of state civil servants recently.
According to him: "Between December last year and January this year alone, Kogi State Government which has been having prolonged difficulties in paying salaries sacked 1,774 workers, including eight Permanent Secretaries.
"All over the world, teachers are respected because they play a major role in shaping the destiny of future generations but regrettably, in Kogi today, a life of penury and gross uncertainty is their reward.
"In 2016, many voters in Kogi State made the mistake of voting for 'change' but they now feel gravely shortchanged; we sympathize with many Kogites going through various ordeals, including the recent sack of their family members.
"Without the absolutely stupendous billions of Paris Club refund, bailout and federal statutory allocations now coming into Kogi from Abuja, the previous PDP administrations in Kogi State were paying workers' salaries.
"While many critics of the APC administration have attributed the current situation to leadership deficit and blamed people's harrowing experience on past gullible acceptance of utopian-sounding propaganda and deceitful promises; we feel convinced that there is still cause ahead for hope."