Some senators have expressed concerns over plans by the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to establish farm settlements in each of the 108 senatorial districts in Nigeria.
They noted that any arrangement to acquire land by the Federal Government at the moment without giving details of what it would be used for might face stiff resistance from various communities because all the effort is to create lands for heders.
The President had last month, directed the National Agricultural Land Development Authority to set up the integrated farm estates in 108 senatorial districts nationwide.
Already, the policy has been greeted with criticisms from the leadership of the various ethnic groups in the middle belt, and southern part of the country, describing it as an attempt in disguise, to create grazing areas for cattle.
The Senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, Matthew Urhoghide, said the Federal Government should give details of the project before approaching state governments for land allocation.
He said, “We are in the Senate to represent our people. I know what my people want
“What we quarrel against is open grazing; we are not against ranching. We are not saying that a Fulani man that has a herd of cattle cannot come to the South to do the business of ranching but he cannot come to carry out open grazing.
“Grazing has two effects. It leads to wanton destruction of farmland. You cannot use animal husbandry to destroy crop farming. There are also criminal cases associated with it including murder.
“If the Federal Government is coming to get land in my state for ranching, it is okay because we need beef, which would be richer when it is from the ranching system.
“However, the government should make its intention very clear on the policy to avoid major clashes and crisis.”
Similarly, Senator Abba Moro, representing Benue South in the red chamber said the government could make arrangements for herders to do the business of ranching but not at the expense of the farmers.
He advised the Federal Government to go to the drawing board and come up with a modern arrangement to make ranching the way to go.
He said, “When government policies are viewed with suspicion when citizens lack trust in government policies, then something is wrong.
“Until we address the root causes of conflicts between herders and farmers, and genuinely come out with the right way to go through the dialogue, any policy that is thrown at the citizens will be looked at with suspicion which would cause some level of tension.
“I believe that in the face of the current conflicts between herders and farmers, it is not appropriate for government to think of establishing ranches or cattle colonies in any part of the country.”
Also, the Senator representing Niger North, Sabi Abdullahi, said the establishment of farm settlements would not resolve the issue of farmers-herders clashes.
The veterinary doctor said, “What the government is doing right now is not sufficient to address the issue we are facing in the country.
“Even the livestock transformation programme, as far as I am concerned, is deficient because we don’t know our livestock population.
“The last census was conducted in 1990 to ascertain the actual number of cattle in this country. The number of cattle, by projection, is put at 27 million, while sheep and goats are said to be about 11 million.
“The concern is that nobody is talking about the feed needs of the animals. People are kicking against open grazing but where is the feed for the animals?
“Even when the land has been allocated for the feed, have we established the type of crops growing on such land? Is it what the animals need to eat?
“As far as I am concerned, until we tackle the livestock feeds challenge, this issue will always be there because no one can control hungry animals. They would find ways to eat whatever they see”