Mr. Shedrack Madlion is the Chief Executive Officer of Safari 54 Integrated Farms in Kaduna; he is also an agricultural investor. In this interview with TOPE SUNDAY and KEHINDE OSASONA, he speaks on the farmers and herders’ clashes and their negative impact on the Nigerian economy, among other issues.
Nigeria is faced with the challenges of incessant clashes between herders and farmers, which have resulted in the loss of live’s. What do you think is responsible for this?
The farmers, herdsmen clash is a sign of institutional failure in Nigeria. We’ve lost grip of the cardinal point of human existence in Nigeria. Those institutions that are saddled with the responsibilities of our environment and agriculture have also failed us. We had a gazetted 423 reserves that have shrunk to less than 42-43 over the years. But our traditional institutions are no longer playing their roles, so they have all shrunk.
How do you mean?
Nigeria is the highest cattle-consumption point in West Africa. Lagos state consumes 212 trucks of cow every single week, followed by Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Ogun state. Yet, we don’t produce. We have the worst set of cows. The only good thing about Nigerian cows is that they can trek from here (Abuja) to Umuahia and come back.
So, it is an institutional failure because the Ministry of Agriculture has not done its bit. The Director of Livestock in the ministry and Ministry of Environment have also failed. With the advent of gadgets, you can tell a particular region that does not have water.
River Benue and River Nigeria have not been desilted since the establishment of New Breed in North bank. It is only the Old Gongola river in Taraba State that is the major water tributaries we have as of today.
Going by your analysis, government seems to be responsible for the crisis
The crisis started when the Minister of Agriculture, (Chief Audu Ogbeh, said he was going to import grasses. Kaduna, Zamfara and other states are under siege. From December to January, this year, Nigeria has lost about 173 people or more. The Minister of Agriculture is from Benue state but did not attend their burial in the state. He was busy commissioning egg production facility in Ondo state. Therefore, we have institutions with insensitive people who should be held responsible.
If I had my way, I would have dragged the Ministry of Environment to The Hague because it is responsible for the genocide in the country. The ministry should have known that the grazing reserves are no longer in existence; that they have been overtaken by climate change.
So, what is the likely effect of this clash on Nigeria?
It is a well-known fact today that AK-47 is sold for N75,000 in the black market and a packet of bullets is sold for N10,000. That is insecurity of highest order. Also, it has resulted to food insecurity. Benue state lost over 42,000 metric tonnes of yam seedlings to these clashes and it will take a long time for people to regain their confidence. How do you even console someone who lost a loved one? In 2015/2016, we lost over 49 per cent of farmer’s participation in the country as a result of these clashes and the prices of food items will soar as a result. And we are entering into an election year.
What solution would you proffer clash?
The solution is for us to go into ranching, to privatise it and put in incentives. The army, police and other agencies should all have their own ranches and rent them for ownership. This is how Netherlands, U.S.A. and other countries became who they are today.
We have to support ancient ways with technology so that our children will inherit from us. When a Fulani man dies, his children inherit his cows. We should have 196 ranches across the country as a pilot programme to kick start with. This should be implemented in three Senatorial districts or more in the North because the southern part of the country has limited land resources.
How do we go about this?
Great countries convert their challenges to business opportunities. It’s all about incentives. Private investors should be offered five to six years free tax to encourage them.
Some states are against the establishment of cattle colonies and some had argued that it will empower the herders to unleash more terror on Nigerians. How will you react to these?
Cattle colony is all about semantics. A colony has more than five ranches in a particular place. A ranch ranges from 200 to 500 cattle heads and many other required things. We should not discriminate among ourselves. They (herders) are doing their business and they have the right to do so. I live in Kaduna but I am not from Kaduna, but I am respected. That should be the norms.
But what about the people that are protesting against the cattle colonies?
People protested against the colonies because it is not democracy. You just say that people should go to hell, without considering the over 73 people that died in Benue state or the 57 lives wasted in Michika, Adamawaa state and Taraba state or the pregnant women and children killed in Nsukka,Agatu and Ntokuma where the Fulani occupied later on.
What do you think should be done to address these challenges?
The essence of governance is to protect lives and property. The 375 ungoverned spaces in Nigeria must be governed. What we are discussing here is our future. Since we are in an election year, the Nigerian youth must be proactive in getting their voter’s cards so that we can put square pegs in square holes and not stay behind to allow people send us lemon to take decision for us.
People have argued that the herdsmen that reportedly killed many people in Benue state recently are not from Nigeria. Do you agree?
Has anyone of them been arrested or prosecuted? Do we know their mother tongue to identify their origin? This shows that we are just here doing blame games. This is how Boko Haram started. Something should be done urgently. The very day we curtail herders from the neighbouring countries from migrating into Nigeria, we will eat cats and dogs as meat.
What will you say about the implementation of agriculture budget in the country?
We have not implemented 70 per cent of our budget. We are so good at making financial pronouncements. We never implemented anything. Look at the appearing, disappearing and reappearing of queues in the filling stations. They affect agriculture too. Nigeria signed the United Nations’ Standard agreement that the entire six per cent of the budget should go to agriculture. But our population is growing and we consume more than 7.3 million metric tons rice which is imported. Local production is 2 million metric tonnes.
What does that portend?
It shows that we don’t have food security. We have 14 million children that are malnourished in the North East, so food Nutrition is poor. All our vegetations in Nigeria are affected as a result of this farmers, herder’s crisis.