The federal government has defined the colony, being presented to be a panacea to herders, farmers clashes, as “areas carved out for different species of animal whether by nature or by human design that is found in a large community sharing the same terrain”.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh made this clarification while receiving the governors of Kogi and Plateau states who were in his office to discuss how the cattle colony policy can be implemented in their domains.
He said, “We have big colonies in certain areas. If you go to the West Indies, crocodiles and alligators are bred in colonies where they harvest them for shoes and belts and ladies’ handbags. So, a colony is a much bigger thing than a ranch. They are basically about the same kind of thing.
“We are talking of colonies because 20, 30, or 40 ranchers can share the same colony. A ranch is usually owned by an individual or a company with sometimes very few. Some have more than 200 or 300 cows. In a cattle colony, you could find thirty thousand cows owned by different owners.
“The reason we are designing the colony is that we want to prepare on a large scale, on the economy of scale, a place where many owners of cattle can co-exist, be fed well because we can make their feeds. They can get good water to drink. Cows drink a lot of water. We can give them green fodder.
The minister went on to disclose that, “a team from ABU Zaria was here and one of the professors there produces cattle feed seed. The different kind of seed will go for cattle. We’ll grow this on a large scale, harvest and feed the cows. We’ll give them veterinary services and, above all, protect the cows against rustlers. By a special design, we have to make sure that rustlers can’t cross into the ranches and steal cows and walk away.
“That’s what we mean. We think that between governments, it’s cheaper to do this for herdsmen and others who want to rear cattle than for individuals to go and invest money because we know many farmers have difficulties raising bank loans. So between the ranch and the colony, it’s simply a definition of size and scope.
“Now, (the Plateau State governor) has started and the smaller ranches are working in Plateau. We intend to lend a hand to Plateau and the sixteen other states which have expressed interest in helping them to develop their colonies”.
As regards funding for the establishment of the colonies, he said, “the cost of setting up a ranch, that’s why he’s here, that’s why we wrote to the governors. We’ll join hands. First, you acquire land, they show us a place and our experts will decide whether the place is suitable or not. We push down a few trees, remove the stumps, and plant the right kind of fodder.
“I emphasise, again when we first came and talked about grass, Nigerians were very angry and they called us every kind of name in the book. But there is no way you can keep cattle if you don’t deal with the question of fodder and it’s not every kind of grass that cows eat. But our cows are so hungry now. So we plant the grass. then we have a small feed mill which converts agro-waste to livestock feed. Much of that cost is going to be borne by Federal Government and where the state can chip in something.
“However, when herders arrive, individuals who want to play a part in place will pay a small fee. By the way, the Fulanis have always told us there is a tax they pay called ‘Jangali’. They are willing to pay because nothing is as precious to the herdsman as fodder and water and security. So, they will pay. They are quite willing to pay because it totally changes their lives.
“The governor ( Plateau state) was explaining now what has happened to some of those in Plateau with whom they’ve interacted, who are now those urging them to, please, organise ranches because it saves them the trouble of marching up and down, getting into fights with farmers. So the strategy for us is to sit down with the herders and those who intend to go in, explain the modalities, (as) all of them are willing to take part.
“But we will look for the funds to begin the process. And in anticipation, we have even spoken to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. They are willing to give us some help. We are going to ask for help from elsewhere. We are going to get it and develop this. So, once it takes off, we’ll find that many of the big timers who might find it easier to work in these colonies than set up their own ranches. They will come along and do it. But it will work. Once they understand it, it brings in a lot of relief.”
Meanwhile, Ogbeh, who is from Benue state, spoke as his state governor, Samuel Ortom asserted that the people of Benue has rejected the suggestion that the state should create cattle colony or grazing routes for herdsmen.
He stated this on Thursday in Makurdi, the Benue capital, at a service to mark the mass burial of the victims of herdsmen invasion in the state. He argued that since the state did not even have adequate land for farmers, it did not have the space to give herdsmen for grazing.
Ortom insisted on ranching, stressing that “it is the best way to go and it is in conformity with global best practices”.
He stated that if the recent killings by herdsmen were meant to intimidate the state government to repeal the law, the herdsmen had failed woefully.
The governor blamed the killings of his people on the silence of the Federal Government and others responsible for the security of lives and property, an accusation he had made on Wednesday.
He lamented that if the Federal Government had acted on the reports he gave it concerning the threats of attacks by the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the killings would have been averted.
Ortom urged the Federal Government to arrest the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore because they had severally made inciting statements against the state.
He, therefore, stated that the recent killings were a pointer to the fact that they had threatened and executed their devilish threats.
The governor commiserated with the families of the slain victims and those that were injured as well as those that lost their property.