Southern govs’ anti-open grazing law unimplementable – El-Rufai

Kaduna state Governor Nasir El-Rufai has cautioned against politicising the open grazing controversy, saying the new law banning the activity in the southern states of Nigeria is not implementable.

Some southern states like Ondo, Oyo, Lagos, Enugu and Osun, as well as  the northern state of Benue, among others, have passed the anti-open grazing law.

The southern governors’ decision was an outcome of a series of meeting held in Asaba (Delta state), Lagos and Enugu states.  

Speaking to journalists Tuesday after a meeting with officials of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, Governor El-Rufai said while it is true that herders must not continue with the old practice of roaming about with cattle, the remedy is not in making the laws that may not be able to be implemented.

Rather, he said, it lies in carefully planning for a solution which is the establishment of ranches.

 He said the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) agreed that the way to go is ranching.

The governor said, already, his government had started the establishment of a ranch in Kaduna which he said, would accommodate about 1,500 Fulani herders and their families.

 “The Northern state Governors Forum has already taken a position that open grazing is not a sustainable way of livestock production.  And we must move towards ranching.  

 “But moving towards ranching cannot be done overnight.  We have to have a plan, we have to have resources and we have to implement it sensibly. It is not a matter of populist legislation or saying that tomorrow this or that. It is not a solution.  We have taken a position as northern state governors and we are implementing that. 

 “And in my state for instance, we are developing a huge ranch to centralise the herders. And that is the solution, a long term. But can it be done overnight? No.

“This project we are doing will cost us about 10 billion naira. The CBN is supporting us with about N7.5 billion. And it will take about two years to do. We will be settling about 1,500 Fulani herders’ families. And I hope that they will see that there are alternative ways of producing livestock instead of running up and down with cattle going to people’s farms to cause all kinds of problems. We want to solve the problem.

 “What is unhelpful is to politicise the situation and pass legislation that you know that you cannot implement. So, we have taken a position and we are working round the clock to implement that position.  

 “And these herders emanate from the north and we are going to centralise them. We cannot do it overnight. We need billions of naira. This is just one ranch that is costing N10 billion. I have 14 grazing reserves in Kaduna state and I will like to convert into ranching. Do I have 14 x 10 billion naira? I don’t have. 

 “If the federal government will give me N140 billion, I will convert the other 13 into ranches and make sure that nobody comes out with a cow or sheep in Kaduna state because I will have enough ranches to take care of everybody. That is the solution. You can legislate, but let us wait and see. And I wish them the best of luck.”

The governor also weighed in on the ongoing contention between the governments of Rivers and Lagos states and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) over who is supposed to collect the Value Added Tax (VAT).

 According to him, some people think that VAT is the same thing as Sales Tax, insisting that they are different because VAT is a ‘special kind of tax.’  

 “We took a position in the Nigeria Governors Forum not to comment on the VAT issue because it is still going through the court. And until the Supreme Court makes a final pronouncement on the matter, anything that you see today can be changed. Even the states that have passed legislation, the Supreme Court can override them. So, I am reluctant to comment on it.

 “But people think that VAT is a sales tax. It is not. VAT is a special kind of tax. And there are many ways to look at it and I am sure that the appropriate time the Nigeria Governors Forum will look at it and take a position. But until then, I am reluctant to comment on a matter that is still going through judicial process,” he said.