Lekan Adetayo, Leke Baiyewu and Olaleye Aluko
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday stated that the Federal Government lacked the powers to seize land from states for the establishment of grazing reserves or livestock production centres.
Osinbajo also announced that herdsmen would pay for the services to be rendered by the proposed ranches or grazing reserves by the government.
He stated these at the opening ceremony of a two-day summit on national security organised by the Senate in Abuja.
Also in attendance are the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.); the service chiefs and senators.
Osinbajo said, “Let me reiterate that on no account will any land be seized or forcefully taken to create ranches or grazing areas. All insinuations to that effect should be disregarded. No one is giving land to herdsmen, as is being falsely alleged.
“Instead, it is in our view that states that are willing and have set aside land for development should cooperate with willing investors in commercially-viable, government-supported ranches or livestock production centres for commercial use.”
The VP however pointed out that some states, especially in the North, had duly gazetted grazing reserves.
According to him, a majority of these grazing reserves are degraded and without pasture or water, especially during the dry season.
He added, “There is also a clear sense which I think must be appreciated, that the Federal Government cannot dictate to states what to do with their land. This is so because the Land Use Act of 1978 puts land under the control of governors on behalf of their states.
“Also, the Supreme Court in the case of the Attorney General of Lagos State versus the Attorney General of the Federation in 2004, held that the use of land resources and permits for such use lie firmly in the hands of state governments. Even for use of federal lands in the states according to the Supreme Court, building or development control permit must be sought from the governors of the states.”
Osinbajo noted that grazing routes leading to these reserves must also be secured.
He said for the grazing reserves to be effective and operate effectively, they should be operated as ranches or livestock production centres on a commercial basis.
Osinbajo said, “The ranches will have adequate water from boreholes, salt points and pasture. The locations would serve both as forage points and centres for providing extension services to boost animal care, feeding and veterinary facilities, and even abattoirs. Because the ranches are commercial ventures, cattle owners will pay for their use.
“It is important to note that by and large, in consultation with stakeholders, all agree that where adequate provision is made on a commercial basis, there is no reason why there won’t be cooperation to use those ranches because there are both economic and social benefits for everyone, including herders.”
Osinbajo said apart from states that had gazetted grazing areas, 13 states had agreed to allocate 5,000 hectares of land for ranching or livestock production.
He also stated that decentralisation of the Nigeria Police Force and creation of state police were some of the ways to go in tackling the herdsmen and farmers’ violence in the country.
The VP said, “The first is that the nature of our security challenges is complex. Securing Nigeria’s over 923,768 square kilometres and its 180 million people requires far more men and materials than we have at the moment. It also requires a continual re-engineering of our security architecture and strategies. This has to be a dynamic process.
“For a country our size to meet the one policeman to 400 persons, the United Nations prescribed ratio, it would require nearly tripling our current police force, far more funding of the police, military and security agencies is required.
“Secondly, we cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go.
“Thirdly, we must intensify existing collaboration with our neighbours in the Chad Basin, especially border communities, to prevent the movement of small arms, and disarming armed pastoralists and bandits who go through our borders day after day.
“Lastly, we must avoid the dangers of allowing these conflicts to become religious or ethnic conflicts. This is the responsibility of political, religious and all other parts our leadership elite in Nigeria.”
Osinbajo dismissed the claim that President Muhammadu Buhari was indifferent to the killings by Fulani herdsmen because he is Fulani.
“Let me preface this by saying that every Nigerian is entitled to adequate security from government for their lives and livelihoods. Government may slip in that responsibility often but I must say never deliberately. Every killing demeans us as a people. Every killing undermines the authority of the state.
“This is why the suggestion sometimes that because President Buhari is Fulani, he has ignored the killings by herdsmen is both untrue and unfair. In any event, herdsmen and farmer clashes resulting in deaths have been with us for at least two decades. And I have worked with him for three years now, and I do not know of any one issue that has given him more concern or on which he has spent more time with security chiefs as this particular issue.”
In his speech, Saraki stated that the summit was convened as a matter of national urgency.
“We are here because in the face of escalating threats to the peace and security of our dear country, it becomes necessary to put heads together, share ideas and map out strategies to see us out of the current predicament,” he said.
The Senate President pointed out that what Nigeria needed was a leadership that would douse the tension in the country
He said, “What our country needs at this time is leadership that will work to douse the flames and reduce tension in the land. It is essential that we lower the barriers in our actions and rhetoric, and refrain from playing politics with a crisis situation in which Nigerians’ lives are being lost, tragically and needlessly, on a regular basis.”
Saraki recalled that the Senate on November 30, 2017, inaugurated the Ad Hoc Committee on Review of Security Infrastructure in the country as the Senate was “increasingly concerned at the spate of crises and insecurity in many parts of the country and knew that we needed to do something about it.” (Punch)