Herdsmen will obey Benue grazing law – Umahi

David Umahi

A ray of hope for peace in Benue State emerged on Tuesday as Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi, leading the National Economic Council (NEC) sub-committee on a fact finding mission to states troubled by herders/farmers violence, said herders in the state and its neighbouring Nasarawa had agreed to obey the law prohibiting open grazing by livestock.
He, however, said the herders requested more time to commence ranching as required by the law or move to states with grazing reserves even as they pleaded with the federal government to come to their aid.

The development coincided with the call by Nobel Laurette, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on states to raise volunteers to counter the menace of the herders.

Umahi, who spoke with reporters in Makurdi after consultations with the representatives of the herders, said herdsmen in Benue and Nasarawa States said they were ready to abide by the law but that they would need more time for ranching and support from the federal government.
“The herders requested for more time for them to move to grazing reserves with the support of the federal government,” he said.

The development, the governor said, was a good one, noting that given the willingness of the herders to obey the law, it had become easier for the conflict to be resolved.
The governor said existing laws and provisions for grazing reserves in the 19 states in the North would assist in finding a lasting solution to the problem.

He said: “We as a committee noted that there are over two million hectares of land across 19 Northern states, and over one million of them have already been gazetted as grazing reserves. This one million is already developed.

“There is a place in Gombe State that about 375 hectares is developed as grazing reserve. We have 74,000 hectares in Kaduna and there is another location that has over 150,000 hectares of land that have already been developed.”
Umahi said that there was need for the federal government to help in the development of the grazing reserves and to accept animal husbandry as an economic venture it could invest in by giving soft loans to owners.

According to him, “The federal government should begin development of grazing reserves. The CBN anchor borrower scheme that has succeeded in the agricultural sector should be extended to animal husbandry; animal husbandry should be seen as economic venture for government to invest in by giving soft loans.”
He noted that the federal government through NEMA needs to come to the aid of both states, saying no amount of the states’ resources that could assist the people in the IDP camps.

While stating that there were over 110,000 displaced persons in the seven designated camps in Benue State, the governor said children between the ages of four and eight constituted 70 per cent of the population, adding that the conditions they saw them in were not palatable.
“We owe it a duty to give better lives to these people,” he said.
Umahi said that the committee observed that both governors of Nasarawa and Benue States were committed to peace as identified by the security agencies.

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