Governors of the 19 Northern states have abandoned the suspended controversial Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) policy for the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP).
Governor Simon Lalong, their chairman, explained that the National Livestock Transformation Programme offered a mechanism for peaceful dialogue and reconciliation in crisis communities toward a harmonious and mutually beneficial region.”
Besides, NLTP includes modernising pastoral activities, while encouraging states not included in the pilot scheme to endeavour to join.
The governors took the position at the end of their meeting in Kaduna on Thursday.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo inaugurated the NLTP at the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve in Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area of Adamawa on Tuesday.
Osinbajo said the plan is designed to run from 2019-2028 as part of Federal Government’s initiative in collaboration with States under the auspices of the National Economic Council.
He said the plan, targeted at supporting the development of Nigeria’s livestock sector, is to be implemented in seven pilot states of Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
According to the vice president, the plan will be implemented as a collaboration project between the Federal and State governments, farmers, pastoralists and private investors.
“In this plan, the State Government or private investors provide the land, the federal government does not and will not take any land from a State or local government.
“Any participating state will provide the land and its own contribution to the project. The federal government merely supports.
“It is a plan that hopes to birth tailor-made ranches where cattle are bred, and meat and dairy products are produced using modern livestock breeding and dairy methods.
“This solves the problem of cattle grazing into and destroying farmlands. It ensures a practical response to the pressures on water and pasture by forces of climate change,” Osinbajo said.
He noted that the plan was designed to provide modern meat and dairy industry and in some cases integrated crop farming.
According to Osinbajo, the unique feature of the plan is that any participating state will determine its own model.
“I wish to emphasise that this is not RUGA. Because the idea of RUGA settlements launched by the Ministry of Agriculture created a problem when it was perceived as a plan to seize lands to create settlements for herders.
“RUGA was not the plan designed and approved by the governors and the President rightly suspended the implementation,” Osinbajo said
Lalong said the Northern Governors Forum also shared the view that the NLTP will tackle regular clashes in the region between herders and farmers.
“On agriculture, the forum was well-informed about the NLTP and its disparities with the RUGA plan. It is expected that the plan would ensure resettling and addressing the dislocated populations in the key conflict zones to enable them become part of the agricultural modernisation process.
“In the same vein, it would provide a mechanism for peaceful dialogue and reconciliation in the affected communities towards a harmonious mutually beneficial future.
“The forum, therefore, adopted the National Livestock Transformation Plan which lays out clear path for modernising pastoral activities. It further encouraged other states not included as pilot states to endeavour to join the plan.”
The adoption of NLTP by the Northern Governors Forum cane with its own tinge of dissension, from Benue State listed in the pilot scheme of NLTP.
Benue State Deputy Governor Benson Abuonu gave a condition for the implementation of NLTP in the state.
The deputy governor, who represented Governor Samuel Ortom at the meeting, said: “One thing is fundamental, as far as the implementation is concerned, whichever state that has keyed into the programme will have it as its own programme, in other words it is going to be owned by the state even if some help regarding the funding is going to come from the Federal Government.
“Of course, it depends on whichever state is willing to key into it. But at this initial stage, there are seven states at the pilot stage but with regards to Benue, whatever is going to happen in this area of animal husbandry that thing has to be in conformity with the local laws of Benue that is in existence.
“Principally that law says there should be no open grazing and there should be ranching of animals that anybody is going to rear.
“Therefore, as long as the programme is in conformity with our laws then it would be acceptable to us.”
RUGA and NLTP were not the only issues discussed at the Northern Governors Forum.
Lalong had given hints about the issues at the meeting in his opening address.
On the security challenges, Lalong said: “The current challenges of insecurity which seems to be persisting despite the concerted efforts by all tiers of government was also deliberated based on insightful analyses and the best possible ways to address the menace which is currently bedeviling the region.
“Consequently the forum resolved to continue to adopt a sustainable and holistic approach towards tackling this challenge in the region.
“It is the forum’s unwavering determination to rescue the region and reposition it to meet the yearnings and aspirations of our people, especially in the areas of security, economy and social development.”
Lalong said the forum has received a brief on the almajiri phenomenon in Northern Nigeria, which he said, is not only endemic but pandemic.
“We noted the challenges of the system despite its conception on high religious and moral importance. Currently, many children are increasingly exposed to vulnerability and resultant exploitation, thereby making them susceptible to criminal activities.
“The forum after in-depth discussions, resolved to collaborate with experts in this field with a view to finding implementable recommendations to solve the almajiri phenomenon and take children out of the streets.”