Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has questioned the workability of a return to open grazing, practised during the First Republic as directed by President Muhammad Buhari.
Mr Akeredolu, while addressing the audience at a June 12 Memorial Lecture in Akure, Saturday, said things had changed and creating cattle routes could dislocate already established developments.
While fielding questions from Arise TV journalists on Thursday, the president said he had asked the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to begin the process of recovering land from persons who had converted cattle grazing routes for their personal use.
The implication of the president’s directive is that herdsmen would use designated grazing routes to move their cattle to several parts of the country.
“What I did was ask him (Malami) to go and dig the Gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws,” Mr Buhari had said.
“There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, north to south or east to west, they had to go through there.
“If you allow your cattle to stray into any farm, you are arrested. The farmer is invited to submit his claims. The khadi or the judge will say pay this amount and if you can’t the cattle is sold. And if there is any benefit, you are given and people were behaving themselves and in the grazing areas, they built dams, put windmills in some places there were even veterinary departments so that the herders are limited. Their route is known, their grazing area is known.
“But I am telling you, this rushing to the centre…so I asked for the Gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into the cattle grazing.”
But in his address, Mr Akeredolu, who did not mention the president during his speech, said cattle grazing routes do not reflect the demands of a 21st-century development in cities and states.
“Where we are now, the Dome, something was here before, so now are we going to bring it back and reinstate what was here before?” Mr Akeredolu asked rhetorically.
“Or where the Deji of Akure’s Palace is now, you say that it is a grazing route and we have to remove the palace for grazing route? We can’t do that now.
“Things are changing and there has to be a paradigm shift.
“Ethiopia has about 200 million cattle and you won’t see them on the streets. They are located in the hinterlands designated for grazing.”
According to the UNDP, Ethiopia has 57 million cattle as of 2017, the highest cow population in Africa. UNIDO put the figure at 59.5 million, as of 2016. A more recent survey – 2019/2020 livestock survey – by StatEthiopia, Ethiopia’s central statistics agency, estimated the cattle population in the country to be 65 million.
Mr Akeredolu also made a vague reference to the Twitter ban by the Federal Government, saying, “there is youth unemployment everywhere and we are hearing the banning of Twitter and banning that, where do you want them to go?”
Mr Akeredolu called for multilevel policing, where states would be allowed to have their own police outfits, adding: “Amotekun will grow to be the Ondo State police by the grace of God.”
He also reiterated his call for restructuring where states would be able to harness their mineral resources and develop at their own pace.
The governor has sent a bill to the Ondo State House of Assembly seeking to create a livestock agency that manages the acquisition of lands for grazing in all the 18 local government areas.
The bill would also outlaw open grazing and underaged herders in the state.