The chairman of the Northern States' Governors Forum and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, has alleged that farmers in the country also carry AK-47 riffle contrary to the belief that only herdsmen are in possession of arms.
Lalong also explained reasons why he rejected the Rural Grazing Area Programme commonly referred to as RUGA from being implemented in Plateau State.
Lalong, who was speaking on Channels TV breakfast show, 'Sunrise Daily' from Jos, the state capital, said, "Today, we are now seeing the hazard of allowing people do open grazing here and there. But they (herders) also want solution. By the time you explain to them, they also want to stay in one place, they would also want to keep away from carrying AK-47.
"I'm not justifying anybody to carry AK-47 but don't forget that in the course of our deliberations and investigations, it was not only Fulani herdsmen that were carrying AK-47, even farmers were carrying AK-47."
He, however, condemned the act of violence perpetrated by herdsmen who bear arms and called for strong measures to end the ugly trend while lamenting that there were many non-state actors who were in possession of arms, a situation that must be addressed urgently.
A statement issued in Jos by the director of press and public affairs to the governor, Simon Makut Macham, quoted the governor as saying the RUGA initiative was a strange concept that came after the National Economic Council (NEC) thoroughly debated, scrutinised and adopted the National Livestock
Transformation Programme (NLTP) as a very comprehensive and inclusive idea to tackle herder-farmer clashes and other associated challenges.
Governor Lalong further said because the RUGA initiative did not have the buy-in of stakeholders and fell short of addressing the concerns of most governors, it was not possible to embrace it.
This, he said, further fueled the misconception around the NLTP which is neither for one ethnic group nor meant for land grabbing.
"I was one of the first governors to kick against the RUGA programme when it was introduced. To start with, the concept was literally sneaked in for reasons we did not understand. For me as governor of Plateau State, I just heard that they have erected signposts in some sites within some local governments. How can you earmark such a project without my knowledge and buy-in of the people in my State?
"I had no interest in it because it was far below the NLTP which was more robust and passed through series of engagements with critical stakeholders. Plateau State subscribed to the NLTP because of the fact that it will carry along many groups and individuals involved in livestock business and its associated value chains," the governor said.
He added that the state was chosen as one of the pilot grounds having earmarked the Wase and Kanam grazing reserves, noting that the implementation of the NLTP would go a long way in addressing many of the issues associated with the activities of herdsmen which have led to clashes with farmers and other crimes.
Lalong noted that in order to address the situation, deliberate efforts must be put in place to curtail the influx of light arms while other ways such as the NLTP must be embraced to take the herdsmen away from the old-way of farming and then introduce them to the modern system.