Funmi Olaitan, Ibadan
Oyo State chapter of pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government not to use public fund to create cattle ranches because of the inherent danger such a move portends.
The group in a press release issued in Ibadan and signed its Chairman, Mr Gbola Adetunji and acting Publicity Secretary, Mr Jare Ajayi, said cattle ranching belongs in the realm of 'private business'.
"Why then should enormous public fund be devoted to establishing and promoting something that will be beneficial to some private individuals and endanger the lives of thousands, if not million others?", it said.
The group expressed dismay that government could come up with this type of policy without proper consultation and without a profound thought.
While declaring that government's action in this respect is tantamount to empowering a group of people at the expense of others, it expressed the fear that the action is likely to cause bloodshed and ethnic clashes.
It added that if government had considered the serious security breach such a step wil bring, it would not have contemplated it at all.
According to the group, trying to use billions of public fund to establish cattle ranches is almost like rewarding those who have been terrorising local farmers by the way they graze their cattles on farm lands.
On the realisation that Oyo State is among the ten states where the pilot ranches will begin, the pan-Yoruba body called on the state government to “reject the idea altogether!”
It recalled the courageous stand of the Ajimobi-led administration in April 2016 when it maintained that there was no land in the state for cattle colonies - the type being contemplated by the federal government.
To drive home its point, it quoted what the governor said on the issue in 2016:
“This is the time to call a spade a spade. Those clamouring for creation of grazing zones across the country should have a rethink. It is against the Land Use Act; it is against the law of natural justice to seize people’s land to cater for someone’s cattle.
“Grazing zones could be created for those who are traditional cattle rearers in their areas. I’m not against that. But, you cannot come here and tell me you want to occupy our land for grazing zones. The land exists in our respective states and as such the rightful owners should decide what to do with them.
“Anybody outside this zone willing to rear cattle here will need to approach the state to buy the land and we offer what is available with rules. There is no free land for grazing zones. We need to take this firm position. It won’t happen.”
According to the group, Ajimobi who made the above statement at Paago, Iseyin, added that it was illegal for herdsmen to destroy farmlands and attacks farmers under the guise of feeding their animals.
Afenifere then wondered why the governor who spoke as a true leader two years ago will now allow any land of the state to be carved as cattle ranches for people who may not be indigenes or residents of the state and people who may have little or no respect for the way of life of the people.
The release by Afenifere stated further that the group believes that ranching should replace open grazing or pastoralism.
"What we are saying however is that anyone intetested in ranching should approach relevant authorities and land owners properly - just as any other enterpreneur would do. There should be no spoon feeding anybody by a way of using commonwealth to gratify some people at the expense of million others", it said.
The group then advocated ban of open grazing and encouragement of livestock farmers to embrace modern ways of rearing animals which is ranching.
The socio-cultural organisation maintained that it stands by the position of its parent body on the issue as articulated at its last general meeting held last week Tuesday in Akure, Ondo State capital.
It would be recalled that Afenifere had, at the said meeting, not only called for the restructuring of the country, but went further to warn all governors in Yorubaland not to cede any inch of their states' lands for the type of cattle ranch being contemplated by the federal government.
"We in Afenifere Oyo stand by this position as experiences where cattle rearers have been given free reign in Nigeria have not been pleasant", the press release added.