Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki has said the state has no land for the Federal Government proposed Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen, suggesting instead that Sambisa Forest is big enough for the project.
The governor who spoke while delivering a lecture on the topic “Challenges of Pastoralism and International Migration for Sustainable Peace and Development: Edo State Experience” at the Department of State Services Institute of Security Studies (Executive Intelligent Management Course 12), in Abuja, emphasized that the narrative that pastoral movement and farmer/headers clashes are not related to the security challenges in Nigeria is untrue.
“In Edo State, we have found so-called herdsmen with maps in the forests, they clearly cannot be herdsmen who are dependent on their livelihood from their animal assets; that cannot be,” he said.
“I think it is important in the context of this discourse to make that distinction between conflict as a result of economic activities, separate from deliberate conflict that is related to other issues like insurgency and terrorism.”
“Our approach is, animal husbandry is a business just like we have poultry, piggery or what have you, so from that perspective, we want to now upgrade agricultural practices as it relates to livestock.
“During the era of General Babangida, he set up ranches in Edo; we have one in Igarra and several parts of the state. They are either privatized or left fallow, so we are talking to people who purchased them to see how they can be re-activated.
“For us, because it is business like any other private business, the state should not really have much to except we create an enabling environment for those people we want to invest in livestock business.
“So, the issue of giving state land for livestock, it won’t happen in Edo State.
“However, for individuals who have land and they want to go into livestock business like we are supporting people who are doing cassava and others, we as government will support them.”
Obaseki said converting Sambisa Forest in Borno State into a grazing reserve would go a long way in resolving the persistent herders/farmers conflict.
“The Sambisa Grazing Reserve (4800 ha) is an ideal and symbolic place to take-off by establishing a ranch run by the military. It would significantly improve the security situation in the zone and encourage cooperation between pastoralists and the military,” said.
“In the North West, the military should also be encouraged to create ranches in the Gidan Jaja Grazing Reserve (565,000 ha) for the same purpose of improving security and cooperation with pastoralists,” the Governor said.
He noted that violent extremism, recurrent herder-farmer conflicts, cattle rustling, armed banditry, violent cross-border crimes, insurgency, illegal migration and other forms of crimes have threaten the fabric of our country. ”
He regretted that peaceful coexistence in Nigeria is seriously threatened by the conflict “as many farmers and pastoralists have lost their lives and property in several orgies of violence.