By ABU NMODU, Minna, ACHOR ABIMAJE, Jos, DANJUMA JOSEPH, LafiaJAIYEOLA ANDREWS, Gombe, NAHUM SULE, Jalingo, HEMBADOON ORSAR, Makurdi, PATRICK OCHOGA, Benin City, ALO ABIOLA, Ado Ekiti, OKECHUKWU OBETA, Awka, OBINNA OGBONNAYA, Abakaliki
Several states across the federation which were earlier reluctant to key into the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) of the federal government have reviewed their positions and adopted it.
This, according to our findings, followed consistent clarifications from the government that the project is not a veiled re-presentation of the controversial RUGA.
Findings by LEADERSHIP Friday across the country showed that the project, which was launched by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Adamawa State in September 2019, have been accepted by states which earlier rejected it.
Apart from the 19 northern states that embraced the NLTP at its inception, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Anambra and Ebonyi states have joined the initiative.
Osinbajo had during the inauguration of the plan at the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve in Mayo-Belwa local government area of Adamawa State, said it was designed to run from 2019-2028 as part of the federal government’s initiative in collaboration with states under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC).
He said the plan, targeted at supporting the development of Nigeria’s livestock sector, is to be implemented in seven pilot states of Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
According to the vice president, the plan will be implemented in collaboration with state governments, farmers, pastoralists and the private investor.
“In this plan, the state government or private investor provides the land, the federal government does not and will not take any land from a state or local government. Any participating state will provide the land and its own contribution to the project, the federal government merely supports.
“It is a plan that hopes to birth tailor-made ranches where cattle are bred, and meat and dairy products are produced using modern livestock breeding and dairy methods.
“I wish to emphasise that this is not RUGA, because the idea of RUGA settlements launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development created a problem when it was perceived as a plan to seize lands to create settlements for herders.
“RUGA was not a plan designed and approved by the governors and the president rightly suspended the implementation,” Osinbajo said.
Apparently impressed with the presidency’s clarification, the states swung into action, unveiling locations where the project would be carried out.
From a review of the implementation of the project across the federation, Niger State comes top through a vibrant collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the development of the Bobi Grazing Reserve as part of the strategic plan to key in.
The Bobi project attracted collaboration with the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture as well as some business men.
Brazil, a leading country in livestock management, has pledged readiness to collaborate with the state government in animal husbandry, leveraging on the development of the Bobi reserve.
The reserve is being developed on 31,000 hectares of land, and some foreign companies are already participating in it. At present, the Bobi Grazing Reserve has five reputable international and national companies that are developing it, supported by the federal government through the CBN.
The reserve when fully developed, will change the system of cattle rearing and accommodate farmers, thus allowing peaceful co-existence between farmers and herders as well as providing avenue for value chain farming and increase the production of quality beef and milk.
Plateau Signs Deal With 2 Foreign Firms
In Plateau, the state governor, Simon Lalong of has signed a deal to start the project in the state.
LEADERSHIP Friday checks revealed that the deal was reached with two foreign companies – Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Ltd. and Integrated Diaries for the start-off of the program in existing grazing reserves in Kanam and Wase local government areas.
The plan, according to Governor Simon Lalong, was previously resisted due to “misinformation”.
“When the NLTP was initiated, it was erroneously misinterpreted by those who wanted to play politics and discredit it. I told my people that as their governor, I can never bring anything that will cause them pain and poverty.
“I was in the NLTP committee, I understood clearly that Plateau State will not only benefit from it, but will use it to create jobs and address the farmer-herder attacks which almost destroyed the peace of our people,” he said.
The governor said those who had taken over most grazing reserves in the state were behind the “incitement and lies” against the programme.
The take-off of the program followed wide consultations and enlightenment, Lalong said.
“After the engagement with stakeholders, people embraced it because it is business. It has nothing to do with ethnicity, religion or tribe,” he added.
Plateau, which is among the pilot states, will benefit from the N15 billion earmarked for the program.
Efforts to get Dr Hosea Istifanus Finangwai, the state’s commissioner for Agriculture, for his response on the level of implementation were futile at the time of filing this report.
Nasarawa Converts Grazing Reserves To NLTP Sites
Nasarawa State is one of the states that are ready for the full take-off of the project, but efforts by our correspondent to speak to the state chairman of NLTP who is also the state’s deputy governor, Dr Emmanuel Akabe, failed. The Commissioner for Agriculture, Prof. Otaki Allahnana and permanent secretary, Mr. Napthali Dachor, who are members of the committee, were also not on hand to give any information on the project.
But a source in the Ministry of Agriculture who pleaded anonymity said the state is fully ready for the take-off of the project.
According to him, before the federal government introduced NLTP, the state was already fully prepared for grazing reserves.
“Communities like Awe, Keana, Doma, Mankwar, Konva, Gitata, Kurudu and Loko which were initially designated for grazing reserves, have been converted to accommodate the newly introduced NLTP.
“All the necessary surveys and sensitization of the affected communities have been concluded, awaiting the official take off of NLTP,” he said.
The source further disclosed that the state has already provided an office complex for the project.
FG Votes N5bn For Project In Gombe
The Gombe State Commissioner for Agriculture, Muhammad Magaji, disclosed that the federal government had earmarked N5 billion for National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) in the state.
He disclosed this in an exclusive chat with LEADERSHIP Friday in Gombe.
The project is located in Wawa Zange, and cuts across Dulku, Funakaye, Nafada and Kwami local government areas of the state.
He said 141,000 hectares of land had been reserved for the take-off, adding that it is an international grazing reserve recognized by the World Bank.
Magaji noted that all arrangements had been put in place for its take-off, which according to him, will be in a few days’ time. On the challenges, he said the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the project from early take-off, and noted that the challenges were being handled.
Magaji said if the NLTP comes on stream, it would end conflicts between farmers and herders. He said the facility would accommodate over two million cattle and boost the state’s economy and that of the country at large.
Edo, Ekiti Set For Inauguration
An official of the Edo State government has confirmed that the Godwin Obaseki administration has keyed into the project. The state government interest is in fulfilment of Governor Obaseki’s promise and commitment towards implementing the plan.
The governor had also said that his administration was ready to partner with professional bodies that have knowledge and expertise in specific livestock production. The source who confirmed the state government’s involvement in the project said Edo is fully involved.
“What I can tell you right now is that we are part of the programme even though we are confronted with some teething problems. In fact, we have a meeting regarding it tomorrow. This is all I can say for now,” the source said.
The Ekiti State government also said it had keyed into the NLTP.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Mr. Olabde Adetoyi, said the state government was waiting for the federal government for the next line of action on the implementation of the project.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Friday in Ado Ekiti through director of Livestock in the ministry, Mr Anthony Alofe and NLTP team leader, Adedipe Olayinka, described it as a modern way of raising not just cattle but covers the livestock commodity value chain.
This he said involved poultry, piggery, goat and bee keeping, diary, etc with a particular instruction for beef producers to get involved.
Alofe revealed that the outbreak of Covid-19 affected the state government’s pace in starting the training and implementation of the project.
He said: “The government is to provide land and 20% counterpart funding. We have 10,000 hectares of land in Oke-Ako and over 450 hectares of land in Irele, both in Ikole local government area of the state for the project.
“Our expression of interest has been accepted, the state’s steering committee on the project headed by the deputy governor, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi, has been formed.
“We are only waiting for the people in Abuja to come and inaugurate the state’s committee to commence implementation of the project.”
Ondo Writes FG, Indicates Interest
Similarly, the Ondo State government Thursday declared that it had indicated its intention to implement the project.
The special adviser to the Governor on Agriculture and Agribusiness, Mr. Akin Olotu, said a business plan letter had been submitted in that regard.
Olotu said: “We have indicated our interest by submitting a letter to that effect. Not just only cattle, there is provision for piggery, goats, and other animals in our proposal.
“Everything cannot just be about cattle alone, it is all-encompassing. If you look at pig production in the country, it has not to be given the needed support.
“We have zero support in the area of pig farming from the federal government. We have our paper before the federal government and we are praying that it should be attended to. We are ready for it and our business plan has been submitted. If it is approved, we will have a meat collection center in each of the three senatorial districts while the main office will be in Akure, the state capital. ”
Anambra, Ebonyi Defends Adoption Of Programme
The Anambra State government has keyed into the National Livestock Transformation Plan.
The state’s commissioner for Agriculture, Chief Nnamdi Chukwuba who confirmed this to LEADERSHIP, said the government was determined to boost the enormous livestock potentials in the state.
“We have keyed into the initiative,” Chief Chukwuba told LEADERSHIP Friday in a telephone interview.
He, however, did not respond to inquiries concerning the detailed plan of his ministry to ensure successful implementation of the initiative.
Also, the Ebonyi State commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Chief Ogodo Ali Nome, yesterday said the state government had written to the presidency indicating its interest in the National Livestock Transformation Plan.
Chief Nome said the state government had indicated interest in the plan as Governor David Umahi is the chairman of the committee of NLTP.
He noted that the state had submitted its programme and costing for the implementation of the project, adding that about two months ago, the national livestock team was in the state to access the level of preparedness of the state towards the implementation of the plan.
He added that the team was taken to different possible locations for the smooth take-off.
Nome said since the visit, there had not been any further move towards its implementation and called for a concerted effort towards the actualization of the plan.
We’re Committed To NLTP – Benue
Similalrly, the Benue State commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Timothy Ijir, has cleared the misconception and misunderstanding about the NLTP where many Nigerians saw at it as RUGA settlements and cattle colony in disguise.
In an interview with our correspondent, Ijir confirmed the presidency’s statement that most Northern states are committed to the NLTP, even as he stated that he cannot speak for other 18 states of the region but that he is sure that Benue has keyed into the plan with all commitments.
He said that the state has critically looked at the NLTP and asked questions about its mode of operation and is convinced that it is the programme the state needs to adopt.
According to him, Governor Samuel Ortom has approved that the state should participate in the plan, and has written personally to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is the chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC) to confirm that the state government is willing and has decided to participate it.
The commissioner informed that the team from the national office of the NLTP was in Benue on a sensitisation programme with different stakeholders to explain the mode of operation of the NLTP and how the state also stands to benefit.
“So, we have formed the various steering committees in Benue State to work out the strategies on how we can key into this programme which is being supported and funded by the federal government and some donor agencies to develop livestock in Benue State.
“One good thing about the programme is that it is not going to take land away from Benue indigenes and give to any foreigner. That is one thing that our people were very keen to know.
“So the Livestock Plan is the development of livestock by Benue people for the benefit of the state. So, we have been allowed to domesticate the NLTP according to our needs and advantage of the livestock we have in Benue.
“So, we are focusing on animals like pig, sheep, goats and other livestock including cattle. We have keyed into the programme proper.
“As a government and people of Benue State, all the stakeholders from traditional rulers to farmers, civil societies and academics are all involved in the discussion and we all agreed that it is a programme that is beneficial to us so we are participating. We rejected RUGA, cattle colonies and some of these other programmes but we have accepted the NLTP,” he added.
On the level of implementation of the plan, the commissioner said that the state has kicked off the plan which he said is being tailored to suit the need of the state, adding that every state has the liberty to domesticate the plan; so we in Benue State have also tailored it to our own needs.
He explained that the state has engages the services of a retired director at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture who was involved in the drafting of the policy to work with the state director of Livestock Services in the planning of the implementation.
On how much has been spent on the project, the commissioner said that the NLTP expenditure is made up of different components, that is, the actual counterpart fund which states are expected to provide the percentage of the total projects, saying although Benue is yet to come to that stage, most of the expenditures that have been incurred are those that have been approved by the governor.
“We are yet to budget items to begin to say that this amount is earmarked for this or that for example, the Hilux van provided by the governor for the project, I learnt is over N22 million and not only this, there are other consultancy fees that the state government has paid, all these will be put together and the total expenditure will be made available in due course,” he said.
No Site Yet For Project In Taraba
The Taraba State government has not identified any site yet for the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan.
It would be recalled that the state governor, Darius Ishaku, had stated unequivocally that Taraba would not key into any program that would be carried out by the federal government for herdsmen.
He said he had noticed that the farmers/herders crisis was because of three things: cows, grasses and farm-crops. He therefore enacted the ‘Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law.’
The law, he said, admits ranching but prohibits open grazing and cattle rustling. What this means is that herders now have to restrict the movement of their cattle so that they don’t stray into farms. It has been implemented in Gembu, Sardauna and other councils.
This is despite being among the pilot states for the project. It was however revealed Tuesday that the state government would partner the federal government for the implementation of a model ranch and training centre.
This was revealed by the commissioner for Information, Barr. Danjuma Adamu.
Adamu who stated that to avoid the perennial farmers and herders clashes, the state government in collaboration with the federal government would establish a model ranch and livestock training centre in line with the open grazing prohibition law of the state.
“This administration has given priority to agriculture to ensure food security and increase income for farmers and rural dwellers. The administration has also encouraged mechanised farming through the provision of tractors and other inputs to farmers at subsidized rates,” he said.
Presidency Highlights Benefits Of Project
Meanwhile, Dr Andrew Kwasari, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture, has said that over 10 states are ready to implement the NLTP.
Kwasari stated this recently at a forum on “Experience Sharing and Learning Conference on Farmer and Herder Conflicts in Nigeria’’ organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Abuja.
He said it was important that the media explain to Nigerians that NLTP is a government brainchild to be implemented over 10 years collaboratively with all states.
According to him, the NLTP has six pillars that cover anything around justice, security, livelihood, peace, reconciliation and economic development in a systematic way that covers the interest of pastoralists and crop farmers.
“So far, all the 19 northern governors have solely committed to the NLTP and have found locations, they want to work to remodel the grazing reserves as areas for livestock production.
“Surveys have gone out, we are clear that surveys around specific grazing reserves are completed for Gombe, Adamawa, Nassarawa, and Plateau.
“Other states are on line; “Taraba will start soon, Niger and Benue have started too, all in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other partners.
“In other regions, I have seen Anambra and Ebonyi have written and are willing to go ahead. I have also seen Ondo, Ekiti, Edo and almost all the governors believe in the NLTP.’’
This, Kwasari said, is because it allows governors to implement in line with the realities of their own situations.
He added that what is fixed, however, is that all states should approach the implementation in a holistic manner not leaving out any of the six pillars to resolve the farmers/herders’ conflicts and restore peace in the communities.
Dr Chris Kwaja, the adviser of the project on farmers and herders of CDD, said the essence of the meeting was to take stock of the level of intervention in terms of the farmers and herders’ conflicts in Nigeria.
Kwaja explained that there was a security issue, a livelihood issue and a relationship issue all encompassed in the crisis.