The National Food Security Council set up last month by President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that the persistent deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen could get worse next year if efforts were not intensified to create cattle ranches or provide better security against rustling.
It also appealed to the President to quickly approve the establishment and training of Agro Rangers as special unit to assist security agencies check the clashes between herdsmen and farmers, which have claimed hundreds of lives.
The Council, chaired by President Buhari, met at the Aso Rock Villa on Monday, April 9, 2018, but the meeting was presided over by Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, in the absence of Buhari, who was away to the United Kingdom.
The meeting was attended by Governors of Ebonyi, Lagos, Kebbi and Delta, and Plateau States, the Ministers of Agriculture, Finance, Trade and Investment, Interior, Environment, and Water Resources, and the Central Bank governor.
Briefing State House correspondents on behalf of the Council after the meeting, the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, said: “We have to move the cattle to the good old grazing reserves and we just have to create environment for them; clusters of ranches where they have water, grass and security against rustlers.
“For nearly 40 years, we didn’t do much about cattle, we also forgot that cattle contribute six per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The cheapest way of rearing cattle is by roaming around with them as you see now. If you go into a ranch it is not cheap and government cannot subsidise cattle rearing like they do in Europe, where they subsidise every cow with €6 which is about N2,400. We cannot afford that.
“So, the thing is to create those ranches and the herdsmen are prepared to pay tax to support the programme. If we don’t do it, next year will be worse than this year, I assure you,” Ogbeh said.
Governor Lalong also disclosed that “part of the recommendations we have made and we are working on, is the issue of Agro Rangers. And we noticed that if you are talking about farmers/herdsmen crisis, you have to train a specialised group of security personnel to handle the issues, it is not to concentrate on conventional security.
“So, there is a recommendation before Mr. President for the employment and training of Agro Rangers. What we are still appealing to Mr. President is to hasten the process so that it can help solve some of the problems that we have in various states on the conflicts between farmers and herdsmen,” he said.
His Ebonyi State counterpart, Dave Umahi, explained that there were other elements that needed to be addressed to bring down the high food prices. He identified them as better storage facilities, power, transportation, loans, and insurance policies. The Council also noted the need to dredge river basins, boost irrigation and reduce interest rate on agricultural loans to single digit.