Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has said that the country will be returning to 1st Republic cattle grazing routes. The President while speaking on Arise TV, confirmed that he has directed the country’s Attorney General to begin the process of recovering land from persons who have converted cattle grazing routes to their personal property – never mind that, in many of those so called grazing routes, are government establishments built with billions of naira.
There is no shortage of bewilderment at the pronouncement. It’s becoming painfully clearer, the dire consequences of cheapening and lessening the criteria for leadership in this country. At a time of serious interrogation of the credentials for leadership in 2015, the voting public had roundly adjudged then President Goodluck Jonathan, a failure and an option to be ignored on Election Day. Efforts to draw attention to Buhari’s, now obvious, lack of capacity was vehemently rebuffed as enthusiastic supporters of the APC presidential candidate (as Buhari then was), retorted that even if he had no school certificate, they would vote him – even with a NEPA bill, they assured. Such was the height in our cheapening of the credentials for aspiring to the highest office in the land!
To the crux of the matter.
Global trends are a policy guide for any serious country. To listen to Buhari speak of a return to grazing routes and still appear to think that, that sickening, totally archaic alternative, would take the country anywhere near the league of countries drawing huge foreign exchange through the cattle value chain, is as mind boggling as it is amusing.
Seeing the level of deforestation associated with open grazing of cattle and given that international players in the cattle industry are becoming increasingly environment conscious and hence, shifting away from cattle which husbandry impacts negatively on the environment, it becomes a giant step back, to suggest that the country adopt grazing routes. Never mind that it’s not even going to happen anyway!
In fact, even ranches that are not fully intensified have been associated with deforestation. Indeed, in 2009, JBS, Marfrig and Minerva signed an agreement to not buy cattle from any farms directly involved in deforestation of the Amazon or Cerrado biomes in Brazil. Brazil is the biggest exporter of cattle!
As well, last year July, a Finnish financial firm,“Nordea Asset Management”, dropped one Brazilian meat parker from her portfolio citing environmental concerns. Increasingly, institutional investors are adjusting their portfolios to reflect their regards for the environment. Even major cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, is suffering from this ESG concern. It is something global leaders who want their countries to be competitive, should be aware of.
I am, by my outing thus far, pretending that the pronouncement by President Buhari merits a serious engagement.
Away from the global trends in the cattle industry, let’s sway to picking more readily available loopholes in the President’s unfortunate and outdated preference.
The argument for how our population growth has made nomadic rearing of cattle no longer feasible, has long been made and continues to be made. The facts are glaring. Until this unfortunate outing on TV, it appeared to be a settled policy issue.
Policy proposals on the subject of cattle rearing have emanated from Buhari’s Federal Government and have had their dose of rejections as well as degree of acceptance depending on what each of the many proposals bandied around focuses on or what room for cherry picking it allows individual States.
Consequently, the National Livestock Transformation Plan adopted by the National Economic Council (NEC) in 2019 is at various levels of implementation across the country. The NLTP proposes ranching models that appeal to States like Benue State, a State that has consistently and very vehemently opposed and indeed banned all forms of open grazing including its euphemism – RUGA.
It is at these various levels of implementation including States that are at home with RUGA or the more RUGA leaning aspects of the NLTP, that the President, without regards for already adopted policy on the matter, made such shocking announcement. A policy emanating from his own administration and accepted by stakeholders as a way out of our current situation has had her implementers and partners thrown into definite confusion. The confusion is of kindergarten proportions. These are the sort of pronouncements that lower investor confidence in a country. It is also the sort of tendencies that fuel the suspicion in several quarters as to the existence of motives far removed from mere rearing of cattle to possibly, land capture.
Governor Ganduje of Kano State eloquently spoke in favour of ranching as the best alternative to not just the farmer herder clashes but also in terms of creating a more financially beneficial and lower risk business model. It is the same thing Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State has been championing for years and daring anyone with a better alternative to put forward. It seems some one has! A return to grazing routes is the answer as far as Daura born Buhari is concerned.
Predictably, the laughters and disapprovals will start right from his own party before reaching the (19) Northern Governors Forum which had released a hugely popular communique opting for ranching as against nomadic rearing of cattle. That position has long been seconded by the 17 Southern Governors. With no evidence of thinking on the matter, Buhari says, a return to grazing routes and grazing reserves holds the key. Land recovery to start in earnest. God forbid!
Raymond Bemseer Magen is a Principal Special Assistant on New Media To Gov Samuel Ortom