Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong has said the anti-grazing law will not stop the incessant farmers herders clashes in the country. In an interview with State House correspondents, he said ranching has resolved some of the crises in the state. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH presents the excerpts.
On his visit to the president
I just returned from my vacation and I felt I should come and see Mr. President especially as my state celebrated Christmas and new year peacefully wish happy new year and brief him on the happenings in the state in the last one year. With the support I am getting from Mr. President we are having relative Peace. So I came to brief him especially when you see insecurity in neighbouring states so that if there are areas of improvement, we will also do the improvement so that we don’t have cases like we are saying.
Secret of the relative peace in the state?
I have said it a number of time, it is a matter of accommodating interests, you take everybody as your own. In Plateau state I did that because when I came I inherited a protracted crisis in the state and so my first priority was how to handle these crisis and ensure we have peace in Plateau State. Within three months we were able to achieve peace in Plateau State. Most of the lingering crisis were between farmers and herdsmen in Plateau but today in most arts of the state you will see beautiful relationship between herdsmen and farmers .
At the end of last year something smal happened but I’m not saying it was between herdsmen and farmers, it was as a resulting criminal activities and so we focused on fishing out those criminals. Most of the crisis that happened was not on the farm it was just pockets of people Christians and Muslims killing one another and so we addressed those issues, we are handling it.
Let me also say that plateau was one of those that embraced ranching. I had a lot of opposition initially when I said Plateau was keying into ranching. Some states said they don’t have land but I said whether I have land or not we have to provide land for ranching because that I see as solution to the conflicts. In Plateau we have gone far, we have donated land voluntarily, many people donated land for ranching.
Last year, I sent a 12 team to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, they spent almost a week there to study and the team was headed by former Vice Chancellor of University of Jos, Professor Onazi. We went round all the communities in Plateau, it took three months and Plateau people including the Fulanis accepted that we must embrace ranching.
Ranching as a concept is a policy and there are states realizing the importance of the policy. I cannot wake up like some people said last year that I should go and do anti-grazing law. And I asked anti-grazing law for what? We are talking about ranching, we are talking about development of livestock business and I cannot use the word anti to start driving people who are interested. It is for those who are interested to come and get involve in it.
Secondly, I can’t implement anti-grazing law. There are levels of implementation which will require government intervention, provision of ranchers and thirdly, when you are talking of ranching it is a component of agriculture business you will also require subsidy. Subsidy must come from federal and state governments and by the time we develop it and put every structure on ground, then we can bring laws to regulate the implementation. So, I don’t want to jump one step before the other.
You are talking about ranching and the federal government is now talking about ranching, what does that mean?
For me, anytime I hear anything about agriculture I don’t jump into conclusions, I go and study it. Yesterday (last week), I was at the federal ministry with my agricultural team, commissioner and others, we spent almost five hours because I said they must convince me and explain to me what colony is. So that when I go back just like I did with ranching I will go and tell my people that this is the concept. When I had the briefing with them I was convinced about colony.
They said the difference between colony and ranches is that one is bigger than the other. You get a very big field, you get investors, demarcate the area, somebody will ranch bees, somebody will ranch goats, somebody will ranch cattle but government will develop the place put grasses, water and anybody who is coming in must pay. And you cannot go and force any land, is voluntary land that government has. For me in Plateau we have two large areas already, that is the concept and my eyes is already going back.
So, they are saying they are going to visit the place as part of the solution to farmers/herdsmen clashes in my state.
When Plateau wanted anti-grazing law and I asked against who and they said against a particular tribe. And I said tell me who in Plateau who is not into open grazing. Seventeen local government we are all into open grazing. Is either you are grazing cattle, goat, sheep, or even chicken because the law will protect and restrict the movement of the all these animals, there are general livestock. If you are talking of this thing, we will take a wholistic approach in preparing for implementation. And when you do that with a lot of consultation like we are done in Plateau… when I got back I heard the Fulanis are moving from state to state sensitizing their people on the need to embrace ranching.
But people say providing colony is a way of pampering the herdsmen?
Let me tell you, nobody said ranching is only for Fulani herdsmen, like I said in Plateau I said ranching is everybody’s business. Many youths, thousands of graduates have registered ready to go into that business. It is everybody’s business. We must help the federal government to find ways of addressing issues because agriculture is not just agriculture now, it is now a means of diversification. And if you have to diversify it is serious business for everyone is not for a tribe.
So I said if we have to encourage people to go into ranching I will not use the word anti.
On the coming local government election?
I want to assure that sometimes when you see conflicts or problems in an election is when there is no primaries, when people engage themselves in carnivals.
In Plateau when you go and ask of the best primaries, they will tell you it was the last primaries organised by the APC. So if we had good primaries definitely you can be rest assured that you are looking forward to the best of local government election.
What was the President’s response?
He was very happy. Of course the president is always happy when he hears that number one your state is peaceful and two that you are paying salaries up to date. For me salary is no longer an issue. Last December I started paying gratuity. So I came to tell him that through his efforts, you can see what bailout is doing to compliments he efforts of what some state governors are doing so that we don’t start condemning governors anyhow.
In my state I inherited 11 months arrears and eight months of pensions and today I have cleared them. I am now into payment if arrears of gratuity and development projects. Let me not forget, part of the visit was to ask a shift of date in the president’s visit to the state from January to February and he has agreed and said I will come any time you want me to come.
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