We are perturbed by the Federal Government's recent announcement of its plan to establish ranches in some states, perhaps as its own idea of ending the unrelenting massacres and displacement of farming communities by armed herdsmen, especially in the central states of Nigeria.
According to the scheme known as the Livestock Transformation Plan, the Federal Government is to spend N179 billion over 10 years to establish ranches throughout the country. Ten states- Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara - have been selected for the pilot of the scheme proposed by the National Economic Council, NEC, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Already, some of the states listed for the pilot programme, such as Ebonyi and Benue, have rejected it outright. Also, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, has issued a statement rebuffing the proposal. These are clear signs that this manner of pursuing the ranching programme will not promote peace in the states where it is being rejected.
Since the killing spree was initiated by the armed herdsmen, we have strongly called on the nomadic herders to ranch their livestock businesses, as the primitive practice of open grazing will always pitch them against landowners and farmers. We believe that livestock business is just another business in the agricultural sector.
Those engaged in it should acquire the land, either through leasing or outright purchase. But if state governments, which hold the land in trust for the citizens, choose to set up ranches, the states should regulate the terms and conditions to ensure peaceful coexistence and the creation of prosperity through that branch of agriculture.
We are vehemently against any move in any form by the Federal Government to grab lands from the states for the purpose of benefiting any special business or ethnic group. This will never bring the much-needed peace. Rather, it will lead to ethnic-based conflicts without end. Most landed property, especially in the South, belong to families and communities. The Federal Government, acquiring them through government fiat will never go down well with the owners and indigenous communities. These relentless attempts to take people's lands and give the herders must stop because they are sources of unhealthy passions which do the polity no good.
We are fully in support of the upgrade of livestock farming in Nigeria. We are also solidly behind any plan to transform livestock farming from nomadism to ranching and the government's plans to assist all farmers to increase output through modern methods. It will ensure food security, create jobs and bode well for the economy.
However, we reject any attempt to deprive any Nigerian citizen or group of their family or communal patrimony for the benefit of favoured outsiders. It is impunity, inhuman and oppressive. It will never promote peaceful coexistence.