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11 Jan 2018

Don't isolate Fulani herdsmen, I cautioned Ortom, Says Governor Lalong

Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, said on Thursday he cautioned his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, on the anti-open grazing bill when the idea was mooted last year.

He said Ortom should have first explored the ranching system and make adjustments where necessary, rather than making laws to isolate some section of the society.

With implementation of the law, over 70 persons have been killed this year by Fulani herdsmen.

Speaking with State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Lalong said one of the things that sustained peace in Plateau State was his wide consultation with the people on the ranching policy.

He said majority of Plateau citizens have bought into the idea and have voluntarily donated free lands for the pilot scheme to take off.

He said: “At the end of last year something happened but I’m not saying it was between herdsmen and farmers, it was as result of 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 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 team of 12 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, Prof. 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 away people who are interested. It is for those who are interested to come and get involved 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.”

When asked why he did not advise Ortom about this, he said: “To be honest with you I did. I told the governor of Benue when he was doing the law, I said look, why don’t you tread softly, just be careful, take other steps before you start implementation.

“But you see states are different, his concepts are different and for us on the Plateau they are different. I said I will not do the law before implementation. I have not developed the ranching areas so I cannot go and say I put a law, to stop who? If I stop the people what is the alternative?

“So I said do consultations allow the people to understand and buy into the concepts.”

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