Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has told President Muhammadu Buhari to count the state out in his resolve to revived open grazing routes nationwide.
Mr Buhari on Monday said the federal government was going to reactivate former grazing routes and reserves in June as a permanent end to herders and farmers crisis.
The president took the decision two weeks after 17 state governors in Southern Nigeria banned open grazing in their domains, citing heightened insecurity from the age-long practice.
In a statement by Terver Akase, his spokesman on Tuesday, the governor said lands initially used as grazing reserves have been taken over by development of various infrastructures and as such there is no land for the initiative, a similar position reiterated by the Southern governors.
Ortom who described the move to revive grazing reserves as shocking and a misplaced priority added that it appears the federal government has a hidden agenda, advising it to adopt ranching as the solution to end herdsmen menace.
“We find the move not only shocking and curious but also as a misplaced priority,” the Benue helmsman said. “It is now clear that there is a hidden agenda which only the Presidency knows. Otherwise, all the regions of the country have accepted the fact that open grazing of animals is no longer fashionable and should be banned to pave way for ranching, yet, the government at the centre is insistent that grazing reserves/cattle routes must be created across the country.
“On February 9, this year, the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) met and agreed that the current system of herding mainly by open grazing is no longer sustainable, in view of growing urbanisation and (the) population of the country. The Forum consequently resolved to sensitise herders on the need to adopt ranching as the new method of animal husbandry.
“The 17 Governors of Southern Nigeria rose from their meeting in Asaba on May 11 also this year, with a ban on open grazing in the entire region. The Southern Governors equally adopted ranching as the alternative method of rearing animals.
“The Presidency has, by its endorsement of open grazing, emboldened armed herders who lay claim to all lands in Nigeria as belonging to Fulani, hence their invasion of farming communities and killing of original owners of such lands.
“The country’s land mass has also reduced to less than 923 square kilometers with the excision of Bakassi to Cameroon. Besides, the international best practice of animal husbandry is ranching; and that’s the stand of Benue State.
“We in Benue have embraced ranching as the viable alternative to open grazing and there is no going back on our resolve. Our ranching law, which prohibits open grazing, is Benue people’s reaction to the incessant killings, and it is also an instrument of development.
“The law was enacted by representatives of the people in the Benue State House of Assembly, in exercise of its powers as provided for by Section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Part 2 of the Second Schedule reinforces the power of the State House of the Assembly providing that “a House of Assembly may make laws for the State with respect to industrial, commercial or agricultural development.
“While we may not stop the Federal Government’s plan to rehabilitate grazing reserves or create cattle routes in other states, we wish to make it clear that no land in Benue State has been gazetted for grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colonies and Ruga settlements. Benue is therefore not part of the grazing reserves rehabilitation programme of the Federal Government,” he added.