The declaration of the the governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello recently that the state was ready to key into the federal government proposed colonies in all the states of the federation, has been generating controversy. While the Government said that the colonies will be of immence benefits to the people of the state, someone stakeholders however expressed serious reservation. Our correspondent Momoh Ibrahim writes that the recently held security summit presided over by the Governor may have further helped to douse tension in the state.

Governor Yahaya Bello had recently expressed the readiness of his administration to adopt theproposed cattle colony arangement, noting that the state and its people will greatly benefit from it
According to Governor Bello , the policy was never an indirect attempt by the federal government to take and handover ancestral lands to herdsmen.
The governor maintained that the benefits far out weighed the fears expressed by those who are opposed to the arrangement. Allaying the fears of the people, Governor Bello added that necessary measures will be put in place to check-mate the excesses of the herdsmen.

“To ensure that everyone is carried along in this process, Kogi State through the Ministry of Agriculture will soon be embarking on a series of stakeholders engagement to sensitise the people, farmers, cattle breeders and other stakeholders on the implementation of the new policy.

“The traditional rulers, leaders of various communities, opinion leaders, religious leaders and the entire citizens will all be carried along in the course of the stakeholders engagement, so that we can collectively study the merits and demerits of the policy.

“This will enable us to jointly find solutions to the demerit and at same time improve on the merits to make it work for our state and for our people without any form of grievances.

“The insinuations and speculations from various quarters across the nation that the federal government is conspiring to take over communal land and give it to herdsmen is far from the truth. The planned cattle colonies is for the interest of our people; to ensure their safety, develop and boost agricultural production, in turn boost the economy and a better life for all.

“It is a Federal Government initiative and the Federal Government will fund the project, but we will need to contribute our quota to this laudable initiative at the state level by making land available for the project in Kogi State and ensuring proper implementation to ensure the goal is achieved,” the governor said.

He noted that most of the envisaged problems will not arise if the herdsmen are made to stay in one location stressing that this will bring them under the control of the government and law enforcement agencies.
Governor Bello reiterates his commitment and determination to ensure the safety of lives and property of the citizens and the entire residents of Kogi State through the implementation of viable policies and programmes that will improve their well being.

He reassure the farmers and the entire people of Kogi State that the proposed establishment of cattle colonies by the Federal Government in states across the federation and to which Kogi State wishes to key into will be of immense benefits to farmers and all the citizens and residents of Kogi State. Bello noted that the Federal Government took the decision as a measure to quickly curb the incessant bloody clashes between farmers and herdsmen. This move will also enhance the security of lives and property of the people of Kogi State.

However, this move of the governor seems not have gone well with the people of the state. Senator Dino Melaye representing Kogi West senatorial district in his reaction said “it was not a surprised that Yahaya Bello, will quickly but strangely meet with the Minister of Agriculture in order to make our dear Confluence State as a Pilot State for the proposed Cattle Colonies in the country.

Similarly, the Yoruba speaking Okun people of Kogi statehas also rejected the proposed cattle colony in the state, saying there was no land for such venture in the area.The people, who spoke under the aegis of the Okun Development Association (ODA), the umbrella body of groups in the area, said none of the six local government areas occupied by the Okun people was available for cattle colony.The people in a communiqué signed their national president, Chief Femi Mokikan and the national secretary, Pastor Ayo Abereoran, said the proposal was “repulsive and repugnant to equity, fairness and natural justice.”
The Okun people of Kogi state can be found in Kabba-Bunu, Ijumu, Lokoja, Yagba West, Yagba East and Mopamuro and Oworo land of Lokoja local government area.

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The people said the federal and the state government should bury the idea of using their land for Fulani cattle colony saying “any proposal to appropriate our land for the promotion of the private business interests of Fulani herdsmen would deny us our right to our ancestral land and would amount to an avoidable time bomb”.

But political appointees and government officials from okun speaking areas of kogi West in a swift reaction have unanimously denounced what they described as the unwarranted and unnecessary statement of Barr. Mokikan led okun Development Association,against the proposed Cattle Colony planned by the federal and kogi State Government. According to the group the Okun Development Association is known to be a non-partisan organisation,which binds every indigenes together without any ethnic and religious sentiments and also foster peace,unity and development amongst Okun people and their territory.

They therefore enjoined the new President of the Association to consult his predecessors and stakeholders widely on the activities of the association before arriving at a conclusion by personally making such unpopular utterances. “we are fully aware that many Fulani’s are born and bred in okunland and have never left the shores of okunland to any second home,these our brothers and sisters speaks our dialect even better than some indigenes,why then are we chasing away.
We say in strong terms there was no meeting of such as claimed by Mokikan led ODU to decide weather to accept cattle colony or not but been induced and arranged by his sponsor, Sent. Dino Melaye.

A group under the eagies of Save Kogi Project( SKP) has equally given 7-day ultimatum to Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello to reverse back his resolve on grazing colony policy or risk streets protest accross the state.

The SKP group whose membership cut accross the three senatorial districts of the state said in his statement that was made available to journalists in Lokoja at said that it has rejected the planned cattle colony on any land within kogi state, stating that the move is a new form of colonisation.

According to its Coordinators, Dr Umar Shaibu, Pastor Ugbede Sam and Hon. Shola Emmanuel, the proposed cattle colony for fulani Herdsmen by President Mohammadu Buhari is to bring the country back to the dark era of colonization for the second time.

“If they herdsmen who have been terrorizing various communities across the country endlessly with impunity are given back up by government in the name of cattle colony, it will become automatic license to kill the helpless and armless farmers at will”, the group argued.

The main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) has condemned the governor’s quick acceptance of the proposed cattle colonies in Kogi State. In a statement signed by the publicity secretary of the party, Bode Ogunmola, Kogi state is already under siege. According to him, the immediate plan of the governor is to mandate the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to register the Fulanis which which he described as mostly foregners. He said the intention of the governor was to use them to rig the fourth coming 2019 election in the state.

According to Bode, “the high security risks and long term implications are better imagine than experienced.

But Speaking with THE AUTHORITY recently in Lokoja, the Director General, Bureau of I information services and Grassroots Mobilization, Alhaji Abdulkarim Abdulmalik, said their ranches across the country before now. He noted that the noise was uncalled for as the establishment of the colonies will curtail the movements of herdsmen, thereby reducing the incessant clashes between the hersdmen farmers.
In addition, Abdulmalik maintained that there will be economic boom for the state and as well improve the economic wellbeing of the people.

According him, the move will serve as check and balance as government and security agents will be able to monitor the activities of the herdsmen.

“The position of the Government is very clear anything good and lasting does not come easy, people are also very skeptical of change no matter seeming good the change is, this is human nature.

“However, take sentiments away, the Fulani herdsmen have been part and parcel of our various communities. In most of our communities we have Fulanis domiciled there, we go to them to buy cattle, they bring their cattle meat to us. And we buy, so the problem we are having is that in recent times there have been alleged Fulani/ farmers clashes.

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“Those living in our midst are very sociable, docile and cooperation. we don’t have problem with them. The major problem comes from those herdsmen who migrate from one place to the other in search of greener pasture for their cattle especially during the dry season. These migrant Fulanis, their cattle devour people’s farm produce and go away with impunity.

“I think this is where we have a critical situation not the Fulani cohabiting with us. Now the position of the State Government is this; if we are saying they should leave our midst are we putting an end to eating beef, I am sure everyone of us here eats beef in his home. Are we saying good bye to cattle milk and all the allied products? These are people we have interacted and even intermarried with, we worship in the same religious homes with them without hinderance.

“The issue at stake is, the Government says instead of throwing away the bath water and the baby let us look for make concerted effort to enhance their integration, their socialisation with us and harmonise with them. When we do that, through those that are already integrated with us if there is any problem, we can use their leaders in the community to trace the source of the problem and find a solution to it.

When the migrant cattle breaders destroys anybody’s farm, it becomes very easy to use their kits and kin who are living in our midst to trace his kinsman. We will trace them, the law enforcement agents would arrest them and hand them over to the law enforcement agencies.

“The State Government is saying that when such development crops up, the farm that is so destroyed by the cattle would be assessed and quantified in terms of money and the Fulani man who owns the cattle that devoured the farm would be made to pay. So it is a win-win situation.

According to him, the members of the public deliberately or ignorantly misunderstood the position of the Government, observed that the fulanis have been with us so, appealing that let for their integration even in the traditional structure.

” their leader Ardo should be part of it the community level, at local Government and the State levels. Hence if there is any problem there is a line of communication through which they could be resolved.

Speaking further he said “If we don’t integrate them, they are still passing by and they are destroying your products it becomes more difficult for us to do anything, hence the resultant clash between them and the people of the communities.

” They have been with us, encourage them to remain with us. However the criminals among them must be brought to book, we have to check them. We should also be mindful of the fact that criminality is not an exclusive reserve of the Fulanis except that in the recent times they become more involved and this is the more reason why the Government said let them have a designated place where they would be restricted with their animals whereby they would not be able to move beyond the designated place and if they do and anything happens they would be liable.

“The ranch system is as old as the first republic. Obudu ranch was established in the 50s with similar purpose as the colony. The late Ahmodu Bello established that. The premier of the western region also established one. It is just because we did not improve on them. If we buy into the State Government’s proposal we would have started the process of modernising the rearing of cattle.

“If we succeed we would now move to the next stage by doing it the way it is done in the advanced world. Having given them the colony and getting them restricted there, you will have stopped them from roaming about even as they used to do in the streets of Abuja the seat of power, crossing the highways and residential areas.

“With the colony all that would become the thing of the past. So we have to be broad minded and look at the issues rationally with opened mind. We need them, they need us, they are of some economic benefit to us just as we are to them. All that is needed is for us to look at the naggy problem areas.

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He added that the State Government has planned to convey an expansive stakeholders meeting, saying that the meeting would involve the traditional rulers, the miyetti Allah group, the local Government leaders, top Government officials, youth leaders, religious leaders and organisations to ensure that all problems associated with the policy are addressed.

The Kogi security summit, presided over by the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello where the Farmers and Herdsmen agree to live in peace may have put to rest some of the envisaged problems .
Governor Bello during the meeting charged the people of the state to always embrace dialogue and high level of understanding in order to live peacefully and harmoniously with one another for the purpose of peace.

He maintained that through dialogue the government and its citizens can collectively achieve the desired goals , warning that the use of foul language should always be avoided as it can only cause more harm to the people than good.
The governor noted that Kogi state suppose to be an epitome of peace in the country ,pointing out that no body in Nigeria has the monopoly of sending away or preventing any one from doing business in any parts of the country.
“I am appealing to the people of the state irrespective of their tribes and religion to tolerate one another in order to live a peaceful life where business will continue to thrive. If the government get it right in all its agenda , the glory will go to the people”
In his address, the Special Adviser to the state Governor on security , Navy Commander Jerry Omadara (rtd) , described the security summit as another opportunity for the state to chart a way forward in sustaining the existing peace in Kogi state.
Omadara urged the Fulanis resident in the state to check themselves and fish out the bad eggs among them , adding that without peace there can never be a robust economic growth in the state.

The Chief of Staff to the governor , Mr Edward Onoja while presenting the Frame work for security resolution, opined that there must be a paradigm shift in the ways and manner people handle issues of security in the state.
Onoja stressed the need to always discuss and dialogue so as to safeguard human life, lamenting that the wanton loss of lives and property in some states as a result of herdsmen and farmers clashes is not healthy for the country.
He commended governor Bello who within 24 months in the saddle of leadership of the state was able to bring the rising insecurity in the state to the barest minimum.

Also speaking , the National Organising Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle rearers , Alhaji Aliu Saleh assured the governor that the leadership of the Fulanis in the state will ensure that they live and do their businesses in harmony with the communities where they live.
Saleh urged the state government to establish peace committees at the 21 local government areas of the state to tackle any issue before it escalates to crises.

In his remark, the Kogi state Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) , Bishop John Ibenu , opined that certain comments from the press are most unhelpful, calling on government to compensate land owners whose land may be taken for the proposed cattle ranches.

The Onu of Ibaji , Chief John Egwemi in his speech commended the governor for restoring peace during the boundary crises between Aguleri in Anambra state and the people of Ibaji,

Chief Egwemi who represented the Attah Igala , His Royal Majesty Dr Michael Ameh Oboni II, noted that the people are going to live and do their legitimate businesses in peace with the Fulanis and other settlers.

In his goodwill message the Chairman of Kogi State Security Trust Fund, Mr Isiaka Oyibo charged the state government to form joint cooperative society for herdsmen and farmers that would reflect Kogi character to foster unity among them.

Oyibo also urged the state governor to encourage youth through massive empowerment to discourage youth restiveness and idle mind.

At the end of the summit, the stakeholders resolved to live harmoniously with one another for the growth and development of the state .

It is expected that most of the violent clashes recorded in the past will become a thing of the past, if all parties adhere strictly to the peace deal.