By BONIFACE OKORO, Umuahia
ABIA State Government has warned that it will dethroned any traditional ruler found encouraging open grazing by herdsmen in the State. Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, who gave the warning while interacting with newsmen at the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Press Centre, Umuahia, also hinted that the State would give a grant of N1 million to any Abians who venture into cattle rearing.
Kalu who was clarifying a statement credited to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu during a radio programme in Umuahia to the effect that Abians should find alternative to cattle meat, explained the Governor was speaking of sustainable measures being considered by Government to stamp out the menace of open grazing by herdsmen.
On allegations that some traditional rulers collect money from herdsmen to either harbour them or to allow them pass through their domain, the Commissioner said that if such allegations were proved, the Government would immediately remove such a monarch.
“If somebody will prove this is true, I don’t think we will waste one second in dethroning any traditional ruler involved in such kind of thing. I want factual corroboration that we have traditional rulers in Abia State who are working with herdsmen to destroy farm crops.
“We expect, at this stage and history of Nigeria, that the worst you can do is to use vehicles to transport these cows, otherwise, you can put them in ranches.
“One cow costs about N250, 000. Now, when a cow migrates from Uzo-Uwani in Enugu State to Isuikwuato in Abia State, it would have eaten more than N200, 000 worth of crops on the way.
“Please, let us motorise the movement of these animals to the location where they will be slaughtered,” he said.
According to him, stopping consumption of cattle meat was an option proposed to encourage Abians to invest in animal husbandry, adding that the State Government would provide such investors with financial support.
“We are going to solve that problem of illegal grazing and violence from Fulani herdsmen against our people in a sustainable manner. First, we are discouraging our people from consumption of the putative animal that led to these crises. Secondly, we are saying that as an alternative, our people should begin to establish their own animal husbandry facilities; thirdly, we are going to adopt conflict resolution practices and systems, to, as much as possible, solve the problems where they exist, to ensure that all Nigerians live peacefully wherever they are,” Kalu said.
Explaining that legislation against open grazing would be the last resort, the Commissioner said, “We are saying that if everything should fail, we will consider reviewing an anti-grazing law. And that in reviewing that law, we will also think about proper enforcement mechanism that will be local to us, that will not be dependent on those who are implicitly encouraging these herdsmen.”
The Commissioner argued that there were existing laws under which herdsmen suspected to have violated the law should be tried, if the Federal Government was committed to curbing clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
“The best solution would be for our people to establish cattle ranches within Abia State because it is profitable for cattle dealers to move their goods this far. If they transport it from Sokoto to this State and find that they are selling at N50, 000 and our people are selling at N25, 000, it will be left for them to be coming or to stop.
“It was on that basis that the Governor said, look, if you are ready to go into this, I will give you N1 million. And it is a challenge,” he added.