Plateau State Governor Simon Bako Lalong is the Chairman of the Northern State Governors Forum. He has been at the forefront of peacebuilding in Nigeria and has done much to restore substantial peace to his state since coming to power. He recently spoke to journalists on some national issues.
What is your reaction to recent developments, especially with regard to the ban on open grazing?
Good thanks alot. Last week I had an interview on the NTA Good Morning Nigeria program, where myself and the Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, His Excellency Governor Akerodolu, of Ondo State were also among other guests. .
Many of the issues raised by Southern Governors in their Asaba resolution are not new to us at the Northern Governors Forum, as we have raised them before, especially the issue of open-air grazing. On February 8, 2021, the governor of the North met in Kaduna on these issues and issued a statement banning outdoor grazing.
This press release even prompted us to organize an urgent Nigerian Governor Forum because we raised this issue. Here again, the ban on open-air grazing was adopted. And we have presented this resolution ourselves to the President to tell him that we are all against open grazing, the current herd system, mainly by open closure, which is no longer sustainable.
And given the increasing urbanization and population of the country, we have also decided to aggressively sensitize the shepherds on the need to adopt new methods of ranching, or other acceptable modern methods. We didn’t stop there at the Northern Governors Forum, we went ahead to start our outreach in the North. As I speak now, many of these states already have the Livestock Act in place. In Plateau State, for example, I sent a bill to the House of Assembly on ranching. Kaduna State is already doing this. Nasarawa is also preparing to do it, Kano is already doing it, in Zamfara they are already doing it. So when did we say we encourage open grazing? We condemn this, but we also said that yes, it has to be done gradually. And these are some of the incremental steps we are taking because you have to spend a lot. You got to prepare the minds of the people, so that they can all come in, so that we don’t have a problem with it.
Open-air grazing has caused many problems resulting in damage and destruction, especially in agricultural land, where cattle are grazed, resulting in clashes between farmers and herders. What is the lasting solution to this?
We had a solution for this, but the implementation is frustrated here and there. You remember the introduction of the National Livestock Transformation Program (NLTP). It was touted as a panacea.
This was presented as a solution to the pastoralist-farmer crisis, and also to deal with this issue of open-air grazing movements. A beautiful program, which was even introduced during the time of President Jonathan. When we came to power, we adopted it with some amendments and new governance, where we set up a committee with representatives from the six geopolitical zones with the governor of Ebonyi state as president.
But the general leader who led it is the vice president. I am a member of this committee. Now, if the NLTP had been well accepted and put into the field, now we will not talk about it, if you look at the document itself, it is very comprehensive.
Taking care of the safety aspect, even dealing with the commercial aspect and dealing with the conflicting aspects of open grazing, all of that was taken into account. In addition to this, many funding organizations, international and national, all came to provide support. But, along the line, there was a break because someone invented another program and introduced RUGA. This caused some conflicts, so we had to go back to start fixing the problem. We have now come to the point where we all agree that yes we are adopting the NLTP which adopts animal husbandry and prohibits open grazing.
In the implementation of the NLTP, what is the situation of our reserves in the country? How will this help to lastingly calm this persistent situation?
If you look at the NLTP document, everything is contained in that document. We have many reserves that have been overrun by criminals and some by powerful people. But some are still available. Why can’t we take some of them and use them for economic benefits? We have many forests that we can turn into parks. I am very happy that Plateau State is one of the beneficiaries, as the federal government recently published a list of 10 reserves that it will build and transform into national parks.
Now when those reserves are budgeted, they’re going to develop those places, turn them into parks, and then the states will take advantage of them rather than leave them like that, and then criminals will come and occupy them. Now, on top of that, like I said, when you want to take advantage of these reserves, you better employ more agro-rangers than even ordinary security guards. Agro rangers, if you go to Kenya, for example, the one that is very close to us, you see the forest like that. Everything is occupied by agro-rangers, people who have been trained in this case, in order to protect the farmers, and even those who will develop the ranches, because as it is one of our reserves, it is this. which we are going to make to use as a pilot program for a pilot program.
In this case, we will all need a lot of agro-rangers, as they will protect the ranch, those who are interested in making ranchers and also the farmers who are going to cultivate, as well as those who engage in the business of raising. the cattle. This is serious business.
Why does it appear that there is controversy or resistance to the grazing issue in Nigeria, especially with the position of the governors of the South?
I think people generally jump to the conclusion without reading such releases. For me, as the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, when the south governors statement came out, a lot of people were calling for feedback and I said, listen, a lot of things that are being said by the governors of the south. south, are not new. . At the Northern Governors Forum, we delivered them ourselves. People knew when we called a meeting in Kaduna with traditional leaders and heads of security organizations and we issued the statement. We have said that the open grazing issue is no longer sustainable. We all agreed, Miyetti Allah, we all sat down with them. That’s why I said, his awareness, we went back to doing awareness that they also accepted. If you see Macban’s position and they will tell you that we agree it is not sustainable.
But what will the government do for us, to get us out of this for now? And these are the processes. Because you don’t want to push people out of any place without any legal justification since the constitution guarantees that right. If you are a criminal there are different ways to deal with you. But at the same time, if you are a peaceful citizen, living somewhere, it will be unfair to say so, because someone did not commit a crime for you to ask them to leave this place. We have all worked against it in the North.