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We’ll embrace ranching if govt gives us subsidy – Miyetti Allah

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The Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in the North-East, Alhaji Mafindi Danburam, tells JUSTIN TYOPUUSU that cattle breeders deserve incentives from government to make ranching work

The Taraba State Government said the implementation of its anti-grazing law, which started on Wednesday, will be a gradual process. What do you make of this?

As the Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in the North-East, who is also the immediate past Chairman of the group in Taraba State, I want to tell you that we do not accept the open grazing prohibition law being implemented in Taraba State. We don’t need it, we don’t want it and that is why we are challenging the law in a court of competent jurisdiction — the state High Court. The case is before her lordship, the Chief Judge of Taraba State, Justice Josephine Tuktur. So, we won’t do anything before the outcome of the case in court.

Nevertheless, critics of development are ignorant. If the governor had taken the steps he just announced, we won’t have been where we are today. This is a government that has been in power for close to three years, but nothing has ever been budgeted for livestock in the state. So, if the governor tells you that he will provide pilot ranches with all the amenities and subsidy from government which have not been budgeted for, obviously you will think twice. Cattle breeding in Taraba State is not a tribal issue. Over 75 per cent of the population in Taraba State are cattle breeders. So with this population, how does he intend to go about it? Agreed, he wants to implement the law in phases, what has he put in place at the moment for us to see that he is serious? We don’t have the land and the social amenities. He doesn’t know the number of cattle rearers and herds of cattle in the state. How can he then implement the law? He needs to have the necessary data, because, in the law of ranching all over the world, it’s three cows per hectare. Now, how many cows do we have in Taraba State? We have more than two to three million cows in the state.

But some people will argue that ranching is in practice on the Mambilla Plateau here in Taraba State.

They are not practising ranching. Only those who are not conversant with the system will tell you that they are practising ranching on the Mambilla Plateau because they to transfer the cows to other areas where they can get pastures during the dry season. The truth of the matter is that our geographical location here does not support ranching; that’s why we are crying. Our cows here are not like the species they have in Brazil; so, if the government wants ranching, let it copy the Kenyan model and make it optional. If I see your cattle in ranches doing better than mine, it will motivate me to go into ranching.

But this is an innovation. Are you against innovation?

No, I am not against innovation, but in this case, I am against the person that invented the innovation.

So, are you against it because of your personal problem with the governor?

I don’t have any personal problem with the governor. I am against it because the governor is not doing it in good faith. He is not doing it with justice. Okay, the governor is the custodian of all lands in the state. We have over 20 grazing reserves in the state. Let him establish the pilot ranches in these grazing reserves and allocate them to typical herders in the bush, so that those of us in the town, who have the money, can buy land and establish our ranches. But some of these poor herders have between 10 to 30 cows and you say he must ranch. Who will provide water for him? An average ranch costs between N700,000 and N3m and that would not be possible for poor herders to do. So, does such category of persons need to sell all they have to do ranching? Until government recognises that this sector is also contributing to the economy of the state and they begin to give us subsidy, ranching will not work.

Another aspect of concern in the law is that it prohibits selling of land to a typical herder until the governor gives approval. Okay, how many of us have Certificate of Occupancy in Taraba State? We are practising traditional method of land ownership in Taraba State and if my wife or parent is sick and I need to sell my land to take them to the hospital, does that mean that I have to get the governor’s approval?

Let me tell you the truth, this ranching system is the best system of cattle rearing, but the perception of the Taraba State Government on the law is what is giving us concern. The Taraba State Government just wants to send our men away so that they can achieve their political aim. You know this perception they have built around the law. Had they come out with the law with a good intention, we would have been the happiest people in the world. But you see, government said they are going to establish pilot ranches, which is a good thing. But when you establish cattle ranches for me to copy, where am I going to get the land when the same government has put in place stringent measures for land acquisition and invariably refuses to sell land to me. Where would I practise it, when I want to do ranching?

Are you suggesting that the aspect of the law that talks about land acquisition should be made more flexible?

Not just that aspect of the law. The entire law needs to be repealed, because we have a lot of issues with the law that needs to be sorted out. You see our problem in this country is lack of equity and justice. Government created grazing reserves for herders in this country, but because of continuous neglect of the livestock sector, all the grazing reserves have been encroached on and no one talks about them today. Government lacks the political will to address this issue and until we tell ourselves the truth, we shall continue with this serial lamentation.

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What then do you think the governor ought to have done?

If the governor had contacted us before taking the bill to the House of Assembly, what we would have told him would have been different from what he has done. We would have advised him to retrieve all the grazing reserves and establish pilot ranches there for people to see and copy. When people copy it, they would already have land in the grazing reserves where they can practise ranching. The remaining population that could not be accommodated in the ranch could then buy land to ranch their cows. We would have also advised His Excellency to provide all the amenities in the ranches. The governor just woke up one day and enacted the law like a military decree.

But this law passed through all the stages of lawmaking, including public hearing. Why then do you describe it as a decree?

Although we boycotted the public hearing, what we had in mind was presented by some people but they did not consider it? The Muslim Council of Taraba State presented our position. The Nigerian Bar Association raised some issues, even the Palace of the Aku Uka of Wukari made a lot of input that would have made the law better, but they did not consider their input. If you are doing the law with a good heart, then you need to carry everybody along. His Excellency is the governor of all and not a governor of a section of the people.

The Miyetti Allah group supported the law in Benue; we didn’t oppose it. The only area where there were issues was the implementation, because they started implementation like a decree. They woke up one day and announced that ‘by tomorrow, nobody should rear cattle’. That was not the best approach, and that was why the Fulani in Benue reacted by fighting back.

Ranching is the best, but due to the fact that the people are not educated and the system is coming from someone who they believe doesn’t love them, it’s difficult for them to accept it.

If not for what happened in Benue, by tomorrow, you would have heard that Taraba has banned open grazing. But thank God the governor is in the committee of the Federal Government saddled with the responsibility of finding a lasting solution to the crisis. He will tell them his experience of the Benue crisis and they will genuinely find a way of solving the problem.

What’s your take on the proposed cattle colony being planned by the Federal Government?

So, there is still colonisation in this country? You see, we know the plan of the Federal Government and I tell you that anything that infringes on our rights, we will go to court. Open grazing is our culture and you cannot wake up one day and stop me from practising my culture. Cattle colony is not our culture. We have our culture and tradition and we want to maintain it.

What is your view on the general insecurity in the country?

The government of the day must rise up to its responsibilities. All security chiefs in this country must be checkmated. Government should give traditional rulers in this country constitutional role to help check and maintain security in their domains. The indigenous Fulani are victims of circumstances. Our borders are too porous; everyone can come in unchecked. A lot of money is being voted for security yet there is no security of life and property. We need to have a rethink. The Federal Government must change its attitude towards the way and manner it is handling this crisis. Enough is enough! There is too much bloodletting in this country and God will ask all of us to give account of our action on judgment day. We must rekindle hope and trust in each other for the good of this country. We must go back to the drawing board and copy the model of our founding fathers. This country has collapsed. Let’s go back and see how our forefathers lived.

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PERSPECTIVE: How Senator Bwacha Distinguished Himself At The Eight Senate-Emmanuel Bello

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He is the Deputy Minority Leader of the eight Senate, but Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, representing Taraba South, is one of the most respected figures in the Nigerian National Assembly. And this appeal is bipartisan as both members of the green Chambers and the red of various political leanings are in unanimity when it comes to assessing the University of Jos trained lawyer.

Bwacha is the quintessential law maker who started from the very lower rungs as member Taraba state House of Assembly years ago. At the state’s level, he’s seen it all: Commissionership, member and insider back home before ascending the ladder in Abuja. It was indeed a powerful preparatory ground. So when, in Abuja, he started from the House of Representatives, he was, in the words of a popular hip hop song, “all way up”!

Bwacha’s colleagues attest to his unique style in the chambers: respect and friendship. His warmth and friendly disposition anchored on a deep sense of the value of humanity is one of his talisman confessed a colleague. Although, Sen. Phillip Aduda, for instance, is clearly a close compatriot of Senator Bwacha, the Donga born politician, is perhaps closer to many of his colleagues than is readily known. And this cuts across the age and status divide. There is practically no senator involved with Bwacha that does not feel he is with a special friend. And Bwacha knows how to be jocular with all of them, understanding their individual quality, even playful nicknames. So while he could laughingly tap the back of a Dino Melaye as a younger brother, Sen. Gemade, for instance, could easily relate to the courageous “Jukun boy” from Taraba state. The elderly Senators often pull the younger Senator Bwacha aside for commendations and for boldly speaking their mind.

Courage! This is one of the reasons Bwacha’s views are highly regarded in the Senate. Never scared of baring his mind on even controversial issues, Senator Bwacha would even tread on grounds seen as politically slippery. He once boldly made a case for decent dressing- an area many may want to avoid as not to offend the ever fiesty modern fashion scene. But once Sen. Bwacha is convinced about a matter, he chases it with unbridled zeal.

On security matters, Sen. Bwacha was very vocal when he condemned the weakness of the security agencies in tackling the herdsmen menace. He dropped the bombshell when he suggested the Federal Government admits its failure and seek for external help if it thinks the battle was too hot.

When Bwacha is on his feet, it is always pin drop silence on the floor as he brings deep perspective on issues. A delight of the Senate Presidents, Bwacha’s views always come in handy in unravelling knotty issues.

But it is behind closed doors that Senator Bwacha’s measure and stature is more pronounced when it comes to legislative business. That’s where he brings in his wealth of experience, his years in the minefield and his familiarity with power to weigh on matters of national development.

Decency also stands him out. A respected Christian leader, often leading the devotional sessions in the senate, Bwacha does not suffer fools gladly. Firm and principled, not for him the Epicurean preoccupation of powerful men in Abuja. Spare time goes to family and his constituents. Work and worship takes up the rest. A devote Christian of the CRCN hue, his convictions are deep and engaging. He believes in shunning materialism, while rejecting primitive accumulation. He says pride is the cardinal sin of man and so Sen. Bwacha strives to be humble at all times. Not flamboyant or extravagant, he cuts the image of a genial next door neighbor.

This has helped in shaping up his leadership qualities: honesty, plain talk, ability to easily forgive, compassion, kindness, meekness among others.

His understanding of how the Executive works is also an arsenal in his kitty. Being a former Commissioner and someone very close to several governors and ministers has helped. A receipt of the prestigious Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), Senator Bwacha is atop his game in this city of power, even as he retains his principles and sterling character.

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Let Anybody Lead This Country, Not PDP – Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari has again faulted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for allegedly mismanaging the nation’s resources.

He stated this at a meeting with a select group of South East leaders on Friday at the State House in Abuja.

The President believes that although the forthcoming elections should not be a do or die affair, he will never support the opposition party to rule the country.

“Let anybody lead this country but not the PDP,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.

President Buhari added, “They (PDP) were so reckless with the resources of the country. The state of infrastructure we inherited was terrible – no roads, the railway was killed and power.

“They lacked conscience because anybody with a conscience will not do what they did. We will report them to Nigerians.”

The President noted that the reported split within the Ohanaeze Igbo socio-cultural group over the purported endorsement of the PDP candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, did not come to him as a surprise.

He said the moment the said resolution was announced, he got calls from some leaders from the region asking him to disregard it as it was without any substance.

“From that moment, I knew that the resolution would not stand, and alas, there it was,” said President Buhari who added, “We have done so much. Given the chance, we will do more. Given every chance, we will tell Nigerians where we were in 2015 and what we have achieved up to now.”

He stressed further, “We will not get tired of speaking about the golden opportunity Nigeria lost during 16 years of the PDP. We earned money, which we didn’t use.

“If you ruin the economy, send your children abroad to get an education; won’t they come back? I said it 30 years ago that this is the only country we have. We must stay here and salvage it together.”

The leaders of the delegation, Mr Emeka Ekwuosa and the National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Mr Chekwas Okorie, promised to mobilise support for the President in the South East.

They informed him that his re-election would be a national consensus, adding the people of the South East understood the good things he was doing for the country.

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Saraki, Lai Mohammed in Battle for Supremacy as Kwara Holds By-election

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It will be a test of popularity and acceptance today for President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki as they battle for control of Kwara politics in the by-election for Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero federal constituency.

The seat became vacant following the demise of Princess Funke Adedoyin.

President Buhari had charged the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the state headed by Lai Mohammed to take back the state from Saraki who defected from the ruling APC to the main opposition party- Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Although, Lai Mohammed, being the highest office holder in APC from Kwara comes from Oro, Irepodun Local Government Area, which is within the federal constituency in contest, Saraki, who is highly influential in the state, would prove that he remains in control and could command followership even after dumping his former party.

Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has distributed sensitive electoral materials to all the four local government councils where the exercise will take place.

Thisday reports that tension has gripped residents of the state, following alleged arrest of some PDP officials and members in the constituency by men allegedly in police uniform. .

Besides, scores of the PDP members in Ajase-Ipo in Irepodun Local Government Area of the state had been declared missing in the wee hours of yesterday’s night ahead of today’s by-election.

However, the state police command has deployed 1,500 policemen to maintain law and order during the by-election, which will be a straight fight between Saraki’s PDP candidate Mr. Saheed Alatise and Lai Mohammed party’s candidate, Mr. Raheem Olatunji.

Both parties have been throwing barbs at each other resulting in the palpable tension in the state. Besides, there have been accusations and counter-accusations on plots to rig the election.

The PDP camp had accused the APC leader in the state of planning to “import” political thugs from Lagos and Osun states to manipulate the exercise with the state chairman, Hon. Kola Shittu also alleging plots by the federal government to arrest their party leaders so as to make way for the ruling party to muscle through and rob them of victory.

The APC leadership, on the other hand had accused the PDP of planning to use uncollected permanent voters cards to rig the election.

The state chairman of APC, Hon. Bashr Bolarinwa told journalists that the party advised the INEC in the state to check such illegal plot so as to have a free and fair bye-election.

Tension heightened Thursday over a reported attack on the campaign train of APC’s candidate, Mr. Olatunji by unknown gunmen though no casualty was recorded.

However, the state police command said that it was still “investigating the veracity of the claim raised by the APC candidate for the bye-election.”

The state police Public Relations Officer, Ajayi Okasanmi told journalists in Ilorin yesterday that “the report on the attack was being awaited from the reported area where the incident purportedly happened.” He however assured the people of safety within the area of the by-election and the state generally.

Despite the tension, the two leading political parties campaigned across the federal constituency soliciting the support of the electorates.

Speaking at the campaign rally of the PDP at Omuaran, the headquarters of Irepodun Local Government, the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed urged the residents of the four local government councils that make up the federal constituency to come out en masse to vote for the PDP and its candidate, Alhaji Alatise.

He said that the people of the area should allow the good work of the later holder of the seat, Princess Adedoyin to continue.

The governor also urged the people not to be intimidated by the heavy presence of security men in their communities, but should feel free to go out and cast their votes for the PDP.

Ahmed said that the PDP would continue to win election in the state because of the transformation that every section of the state had witnessed between 2003 and now under the administration of Saraki and his own government.

The government in a statement condemned the alleged crackdown on members of the PDP and charged the people to fearlessly guard their votes.

Also at a mega rally of the APC at Omuaran, Alhaji Mohammed urged the people of the area to come out and cast their vote for APC candidate, Mr. Olagunju.

The minister, who condemned the alleged attack on Olatunji by unknown gunmen during his campaign tour of the area, said that the party would work with relevant agencies to ensure free, fair and credible election today, with adequate security before, during and after the election.

He said the election would begin a new chapter for the party and would be used to show the world that the APC was intact and the preferred party.

Meanwhile, INEC said that a total of 170, 918 ballot papers and other electoral materials were distributed to all the four local government councils where the by-election will take place.

Madami also said that “1,855 electoral officers would be involved in the election. A total of 125, 865 PVCs were collected from the four local governments where the election will take place.”

He however restated that the commission would conduct free, fair and credible by-election.

Ahead of today’s election, the police had banned the activities of vigilante groups in the affected areas.

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