CSOs, others fault livestock ministry as NRC resumes cattle transport by rail

• New ministry will ensure food security, end farmer-herder clashes, says minister
• Simon Ekpa: Move not welcome in South-east, South-South
• ‘President Tinubu has rewarded violence, terrorism’
• Settle herders with grazing reserves, Miyetti Allah tells govs

The creation of a Federal Ministry of Livestock Development by the President Bola Tinubu administration has continued to draw applause and condemnation from Nigerians.

On September 14, 2023, the National Livestock Reforms Committee had recommended that Tinubu create a Ministry of Livestock Resources to, among other deliverables, reduce the protracted conflict between farmers and nomadic cattle herders nationwide.

It formed part of 21 recommendations captured in a document submitted to the President to enhance the Federal Government’s response to ending the crisis.

Expectedly, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security, Aliyu Abdullahi, backed the move, explaining that the new ministry would ensure food security and forestall farmer-herder clashes, which have continued to threaten national peace and unity.

He said: “The move is part of the national livestock transformation programmes of President Tinubu’s administration, seeking to reduce cattle rustling and farmer-herder clashes, as well as engender peaceful coexistence in the country.”

He stated this in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, yesterday, at the launch of the National Animal Identification Traceability System (NAITS) for the state, organised by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.  

Abdullah said the federal government was working tirelessly to develop the livestock industry to satisfy local demands and exportation to foreign countries.
He explained: “Growing domestic and global demands for animal products is central to this administration. When we develop our livestock industry and we are able to satisfy our local demands, we should also begin to think of how to export to other countries. So, export is a long-term vision. But in the present, our interest is to organise this industry so that the owners would benefit from it.”

The minister further called on all key stakeholders to see NAITS as an initiative designed to bring benefits and not create discomfort for anyone.

HOWEVER, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) slammed President Tinubu for creating the new ministry.

In a statement signed by National Secretary, Chief Peter Ameh, CUPP described the creation of the new ministry as a financial misadventure.

He said the move was a waste of resources and a duplication of the existing Ministry of Agriculture, urging the President to rather strengthen the department under the Ministry of Agriculture and ensure proper supervision.

He said: “It is imperative to carefully analyse the rationale behind the creation of such a ministry and assess whether it aligns with the country’s overarching agricultural development goals.

“One must consider if the new ministry will indeed address the specific needs and challenges facing the livestock sector, or if its establishment is merely a political maneuver lacking substantial substance.

“Furthermore, stakeholders should closely monitor the functions and activities of the Ministry of Livestock to ensure that it complements, rather than undermine the existing Ministry of Agriculture.”

He noted that transparency in decision-making processes and accountability in resource allocation will be crucial in evaluating the effectiveness of the new ministry. According to him, the true test of the Ministry of Livestock’s worth will lie in its ability to positively impact the livelihoods of livestock farmers and contribute meaningfully to the overall growth and development of the agricultural sector.

He added: “The establishment of a Ministry of Livestock alongside an existing Ministry of Agriculture is indeed a topic of concern. The duplication of efforts and resources can potentially create inefficiencies and confusion within the government’s infrastructure.”

Similarly, Finland-based Biafra agitator, Simon Ekpa, rejected the new entity, saying it will not be recognised in the Southeast and South-South of the country.  

Ekpa said: “You can create a Ministry of Terrorists called (Ministry of Livestock) in Nigeria, not in Biafraland. If you create it in any Biafra territory, we will not allow it. Do not include Biafra territory in your so-called livestock. The Fulani called for the creation on June 23, 2024 and the President prioritised it by creating the ministry on July 9, 2024, in less than a month. We will not accept anything associated with it in the South.”

In the same vein, civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), berated President Tinubu for creating the new ministry.

It said the President had simply rewarded terrorists whose members killed and terrorised farmers, and destroyed farmlands all over Nigeria.

“Tinubu’s government has, by this action of illegally carving out a federal ministry for cattle breeders, granted a seal of approval to all the violence armed herders unleashed on farmers,” HURIWA said.

In a less confrontational tone, Laolu Akande, a former aide to ex-Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said Nigeria might not need the new ministry.

Akande stated this yesterday during an interview on Channels Television.

He said Nigeria already has the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development which might be the right vehicle.

He noted: “The plans were endorsed way back in 2019. Some amount has been spent for the final scheme. We don’t know how far that has gone. But on the face value of it, any attempts to implement these plans should be commended.

“As to the question of whether we need a full-fledged ministry to implement these plans at the time the Tinubu administration itself is talking on how to rationalise MDAs, we have to wait and look at the recommendations for the creation of another ministry.”

He added: “Part of the problems which have been articulated regarding the implementation of the plan, beside what I know to be insufficient political will in the past, is the problem of the right expertise in terms of implementing it. That is the reason why they are talking about a ministry. But I am not sure if we need a ministry. Based on what I know, I am not sufficiently certain that we will need a ministry to implement this. But let us wait.

“The national livestock development plan, if implemented, is going to solve the problem of farmer-herder clashes and modernise the livestock industry in Nigeria.”

IN a related development, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) asked state governors to “settle pastoralists” with grazing reserves that were designated for herders in the 1960s.

President, Baba Othman-Ngelzarma, stated this yesterday, while featuring on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily live programme.

Othman-Ngelzamar said the “preservation” and “protection” of grazing reserves, especially those in the 19 northern states, would address the intractable and internecine challenge of the farmer-herder crisis.

He said the livestock sector could turn around the economy of Nigeria if it is well tapped.

The MACBAN president said herders were not interested in land grabbing but rather settlements. “Talking about land grabbing, even in the northern part of the country where the pastoralists belong, they don’t have lands. They don’t care about land; they stay in the forests (and) when development reaches them, they move further into the forests,” he said.

Asked whether state governors would have to give herders land for settlement or ranching, the MACBAN president said: “Do they need the state governments to give them (herders) lands? We have areas that are dedicated as grazing reserves.

“We have about 415 of them, all located in the northern part of the country, covering about six million hectares of land. There are some encroachments on them. But if you minus the encroachments, you will still have about five million hectares of land that are dedicated for grazing.”

Also, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) said the movement of cattle from northern Nigeria to the southern region will soon resume operation.

Managing Director, Fidet Okhiria, disclosed this in an interview on Channels Television yesterday.

Okhiria said the movement of cows and other goods would resume with the Warri-Itakpe route.

Recall that NRC, known for passenger traffic, had in 2017 suspended the movement of cattle by train following technical hitches.

However, Okhiria said in one or two months, herders would be able to move their cattle on the Warri-Itakpe train services.

Itakpe is a town in Kogi State in North Central Nigeria while Warri is located in Delta State in the South-South geopolitical zone of the country.

He said NRC would modernise the movement of goods in the country “so that when they come by road from the north, they can move them by rail to South-South, Warri.”

Okhiria said NRC had brought in wagons that could convey livestock, and that these were being assembled in the Kajola area of Oyo State.

“We’ve built 15 wagons for livestock, and maybe in the next month or two, they will be deployed from Itakpe to Warri to drive the economy,” he said.

The post CSOs, others fault livestock ministry as NRC resumes cattle transport by rail appeared first on Guardian Nigeria News.

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