Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said herdsmen in the country had voluntarily declared their readiness to pay appropriate taxes to support the establishment of grazing reserves.
Ogbeh took a swipe at past governments, saying animal husbandry which contributed nearly six percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was neglected for almost 40 years.
He said the development may have contributed to the current clashes between farmers and herders.
He disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the National Food Security Council meeting which held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently inaugurated the National Council on Food Security and gave the committee members the broad objectives of developing sustainable solutions to issues such as the farmers–herdsmen clashes, climate change, desertification and their impact on farmland.
The council was also charged to address issues of grazing areas and lakes, rivers, and other water bodies; oil spillage and its impact on Niger Delta fishing communities; piracy and banditry; agricultural research institutions and extension services, and the problem of smuggling.
Speaking on specific measures the committee had adopted to check the farmers-herdsmen clashes, Ogbeh said: “We have to move the cattle to the good old grazing reserves and we just have to create the 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 percent to GDP.
“The cheapest way of rearing cattle is by roaming around with them as you see now.
“If you go into a ranch, it’s not cheap and government cannot subsidize cattle rearing like they do in Europe where they subsidize 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 do not do it, next year will be worse than this year, I assure you.”
A member of the committee and Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, said the establishment of agro-rangers which the federal government had bought into remains a sacrosanct policy to end killings occasioned by herdsmen and farmers.
His words: “Part of the recommendation we have made, and we are working on, is the issue of Afro-rangers.
“And we noticed that if you are talking about farmers/herdsmen crisis, you have to train a specialized group of security outfit to handle those issues, it is not to concentrate on conventional security.
“So, there is a recommendation before Mr. President for the employment and training of Afro-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.”