GOVERNOR Babagana Zulum of Borno State has offered to make large swathes of Sambisa Forest available to Fulani cattle herdsmen so they can open livestock colonies there to breed cows and end the ongoing menace of open grazing across the country.
Over recent months, the political temperature in Nigeria has risen substantially after it emerged the federal government proposed that states make land available to Fulani cattle herdsmen to allow them create livestock colonies. Coming against a background whereby Fulani cattle herdsmen have carried out numerous murderous attacks against farming communities, the move has created tension across the country.
Within the last five or so years, heavily armed herdsmen have been attacking villages, particularly in the Middle Belt, murdering thousands of innocent villagers. Several state governors have suggested that herdsmen should establish private ranches to raise their livestock, to end the practise of them marching their animals across the country along grazing routes.
Faced with a mutiny within his own party, President Buhari has been forced to suspend the cattle colony programme known as Ruga until further notice. Coming up with an alternative, Governor Zulum has offered to make the former Boko Haram enclave Sambisa Forest available for these cattle colonies and has already mobilised the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), Agro Rangers and hunters to secure the large expanse of the forest and make it safe for the scheme.
Allocated area for the project covers six local government areas including Konduga, Bama, Gwoza, Chibok, Damboa and Askira/Uba. According to Governor Zulum, the deployment of agro rangers, vigilantes and hunters are to protect farmers and herders in their respective communities.
Revealing his plans to the Shehu of Borno during a Sallah visit, Governor Zulum told the monarch that the state government would also deploy an emergency rapid response team comprising of security personnel, to protect commuters and rural dwellers against Boko Haram insurgents and bandits. He added that the security response team, comprises 500 troops and hunters that know the terrain of the forest.
Governor Zulum said: “This administration is determined to strengthen the security architecture to encourage farming and herding activities across the state. We’re also distributing 80 patrol vehicles to the response team so that farmers, herders and commuters could move as well as travel within a radius of 30 to 40 kilometres of Maiduguri metropolis.
“About 75 trained agro rangers and 300 hunters will also be mobilised next week to enable farmers cultivate their farmlands that were prevented by terrorists’ activities. The state government is determined to address the root causes of insurgency through improved security, fight against drug abuse and enhance food security with increased job creation among unemployed youths.”
He revealed that the state government had also embarked on vegetation and bush clearance of the 187km Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu road, noting that the exercise would ensure safety of travellers and motorists to ease movements of goods and services in the state. Governor Zulum also directed the immediate demolition of illegal structures in the Maiduguri metropolis, adding that the structures are suspected to be used by prostitutes and illicit drug dealers.