The leadership of Edo Civil Society Organisations, EDOCSO has implored Edo State government to suspend talks on the proposed ranching project under the National Livestock Transformation Programme of the federal government for lack of consultation with Stakeholders.
Recall that on October 11, 2021, the State government convoked a Town Hall meeting of Stakeholders on the proposed Edo State Anti-Open Grazing Law where key decisions were reached. But the traditional rulers at the forum implored the Governor to give them time to enable them brainstorm over the issues raised with their subjects at the grassroots before they would submit their memorandum thereafter.
Briefing journalists on Thursday in Benin City, the Interim TEC Chairman of EDOCSOs, Bishop Osadolor Ochei, wondered why the State governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki without the knowledge of the people, went to inform President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential Villa in Abuja the following day that Edo people have settled for ranching and asked him to fund the project when the traditional rulers who are the custodians of lands were yet to meet with their subjects and adumbrate on the issues at stake.
Ochei advised the Governor not to accept ranching funds from the federal government, which he described as a Greek gift, warning that the move portends danger to citizens of the State who are yet to recover from the menace caused by activities of farmers-herders clashes in search of liberation in the proposed fragile marriage of convenience.
“At that meeting, the traditional rulers were the first to speak and they requested for two weeks to meet within themselves and come up with a position paper so that another meeting can be scheduled…When the traditional rulers raised that issue, we agreed with them because some of them are the people who have given lands to these Cattle rearers at the various Communities where they are operating…So, if the demand is give us two weeks and the Governor said yes at that meeting on Tuesday and on Wednesday, he went to Abuja…he said.
He proposed that the State government should fund the project and thereafter transmit a Draft copy of Edo State Anti-Open Grazing Law to the State House of Assembly in order not to soil his integrity, having vetoed the unanimous resolutions of South-South Governors who converged on Asaba, Delta State Capital on May 11, 2021 to ban open Grazing or put in place Anti-Open Grazing Laws, which he had subscribed to, before the end of November 2021 not to incur the wrath of the masses.
According to him, “Edo State Governor should halt further discussion on the National Livestock Transformation Plan with the federal government irrespective of the monetary benefits as that was not the resolutions from the Governors of Southern Nigeria Forum meeting held in Asaba and Benin City respectively.
“Why are we advocating that there should be no further discussion with the federal government? It is because of the danger ahead. There is a tribe in Nigeria when you give them 10 feet, they will take 1,000,000 feet and drive away everybody in the Community. And we have recourse of them changing the name of them changing the name of the Community to suit their purpose.
“We will not allow that to happen in Edo State. That is why we are saying that Governor Obaseki whom we love so much should not bring us war that could destroy all of us and the generations yet unborn.
“Furthermore, Edo State government decided to hold a town hall meeting on 11th of October, 2021 for the delibration on the proposed Anti-open grazing law after pressures from Citizens and critical Stakeholders. It was agreed by all that, the ban on open grazing is a prerequisite to putting a total end to the herders/farmers clashes and other criminal activities associated with it. Never during the meeting did the Governor informed participants of his intention to meet with president Muhammadu Buhari for Edo State to key into the National Livestock Transformation Programme which was initially codenamed Rural Grazing Area (RUGA)”, EDOCSOs said.
Ochei who described the federal government plans to create reserves and ranches for Pastoralists that would serve as settlement for herders in states that subscribes to the plan is counter-productive and self-serving, urged the state government to train interested persons in the state on animal husbandry.