The federal government has mapped out plans to end farmers/herders clash across the country.
Part of the plan is to shut Nigerian borders to prevent criminal elements posing as herdsmen from entering the country and infiltrate genuine Fulani herdsmen who go about their grazing activities without rancour.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, gave the hint yesterday during a media and communications briefing on the National Livestock Transformation Plan in Abuja.
Ogbeh said the ECOWAS treaty that allows the free movement of people across border countries might no longer be acceptable because criminal elements now take advantage of it to infiltrate Nigeria.
"The ECOWAS treaty says free movement of men and women but we will have to meet again and tell them roaming about is no longer feasible because we will have to shut our borders," he said.
The minister lamented that the half of the Nigerian border, which is about 437km plus the coastline, is open for people to wonder in and out.
He stated that the practice of open grazing is no longer feasible if the country must curtail conflicts between farmers and herders, adding that ranching is the only true solution to the crisis.
He explained that other countries of the world such as Argentina and America suffered the same fate but were able to overcome the challenge with the adoption of ranching.
"Open grazing is no longer viable; we may not end it in one day but it has to end and the answer is ranching. It happened in Argentina and America in 1920. This is what we should have started 20 years ago," he said.
Ogbeh also noted that nomadic education will become feasible since the herdsmen will be settled in a cluster.
The minister also quoted ECOWAS as saying there are 60 million cows in West Africa and half of them are between Nigeria and Niger, just as he noted that the federal government will have to work the line of the governors to solve the problem.
Responding to the fears that the federal government wants to seize lands for the ranching project, Ogbeh stated that the government has no intention of seizing anybody's land by force.
"The rumours that lands will be seized are not true. We have to end this crisis and whatever anybody says, we have to modernise cattle rearing. Open grazing can no longer be maintained. The Fulanis are losing and human lives are being lost," he said
On his part, the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom commended the federal government for the operation whirl stroke and called on security agencies to put more efforts in restoring peace in the state.
Ortom noted that ranching has remained global best practice, adding that the state has no plan to repeal its law prohibiting open grazing and giving room for ranching.
He maintained that the state has no landmass for cattle routes and open grazing as the available land mass is used for crop cultivation to maintain the food basket status.
The governor alleged that Miyetti Allah members are treated like sacred cows in Nigeria despite that they hired mercenaries to kill Benue farmers.
He reiterated that that laws were made out of desperation to stop the killings, adding that these killings started since 2011.
Commenting on the ECOWAS treaty, the Governor said, "The ECOWAS protocol has not been observed by any of the ECOWAS countries and basic documents and checks are not done on the herdsmen.
"The challenge for us in Benue state is that we have no land. As the food basket of the nation, we have no land. My state is not an industrial state; my state is a civil service state supported economically by the farmers. When I came in as governor, I encouraged even the civil servants to go back to farm. Whatever you are doing, your second office is farming and that is the only thing we are doing.
"The land is no longer there. What existed in the 60s when cattle rearers come around with sticks not guns was that we related very well. There was no problem; there was no fighting. I've paid for many cattle's but this has gone beyond me.
"The Miyetti Allah are responsible for hiring mercenaries to kill our people. The real herdsmen in Benue have no issues with our law. They were willing until Miyetti Allah told them otherwise."
Ortom reiterated that the country had grazing routes when the total population of the country was just 30million, adding that with the country's population estimated at over 200million today, the land is not expanding.
Describing the anti-open grazing law and ranch establishment as a win win solution, Ortom regretted that some sacred cows have vowed to frustrate the approach without being brought to order by the authorities.
Meanwhile, the Muslim community in Benue State has called on the federal government to deepen its support for ranching of livestock, especially cattle as earlier endorsed by the National Economic Council (NEC) as a panacea for sustained peace in all the affected states.
The Islamic body made the call yesterday at the Benue Peoples House Makurdi on the occasion of the Eid-el-Fitri Sallah homage on Governor Ortom.
Leader of the delegation and state chairman of Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Alhaji Garba Baba, who also represents the Sultan of Sokoto in Benue State described ranching of livestock as the only solution to farmers and herders crisis.
He also called on friends of Benue State at home and in the Diaspora to assist in canvassing support for the smooth implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
He said, "We want to appeal to friends of Benue at home and in the Diaspora to assist in canvassing support for the smooth implementation of the anti-open grazing law 2017. The law is meant to promote harmony and safeguard the wealth of both the herder and the farmer.
"Therefore, we Muslim Ummah wish to further call on the federal government to remain steadfast to the earlier decision taken by the National Economic Council that ranching of livestock is the only solution to farmer/herder crisis."
He lauded Governor Ortom's deliberate policies of ensuring unity and peaceful coexistence among the various religious groups in the state and the feeding of Muslims in the month of Ramadan, even as he prayed Allah to reward the governor.
Responding, Governor Ortom, represented by Secretary to the State Government, Professor Anthony Ijohor (SAN), appreciated the JNI delegation for their open support for ranching and efforts at ensuring peaceful coexistence among the various religions in the state.
ISIS: Sahel-Saharan Ministers Move To Contain Illegal Movement
Meanwhile, ministers of Defence of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States are making concerted effort to stop ongoing recruitment by commanders of the Islamic States of Iran and Syria (ISIS) by curtailing illegal movements.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Mrs Nuratu Batagarawa, who disclosed this yesterday said the ministers are aware of the report making the rounds of the ongoing recruitment by commanders of ISIS who are purportedly sneaking jihadist into Nigeria to train them for possible attack.
Batagarawa stated this at the Headquarters of Ministry of Defence Abuja while intimating journalists on the line up of activities for the forth coming 7th meeting of ministers of Defence of the Community.
She also said the community has the ISIS recruitment on the table as top agenda to be of Sahel-Saharan States, which will take place in Abuja later this week.iscussed during the forthcoming conference with a view to finding solutions to curbing this movement.
She added that concerted effort towards finding a lasting solution to contain the illegal movement and illegal association is in progress.
"Obviously, such movements are illegal and government has taken cognizance of this. The Organisation is already aware of it and it is making concerted effort towards finding a lasting solution to contain the illegal movement and illegal association".
She further said the aim of the organisation is to promote amongst the 28-member states, co-operation in the field of Defence and security as well as tackle the thorny issues of insecurity across the sub regions.