Taraba Government has no direction – Taraba APC chair

DailyTrust Interview 

There was a report that Taraba State is not ready to give out land for grazing reserve. What do you think about this position? 
I have worked across the length and breadth of Taraba State. In the whole of Nigeria, Taraba State has the highest concentration of cattle. There are 4.9m cattle in Taraba State. It’s one of the major sources of revenue in the state. In every facet of life, if you sell a cow, you get revenue. If the cow is standing, you get revenue. There is what we call cattle tax collected by the local government every year. On every cow, a tax from N50 to N100 is paid. The government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Taraba State came in without any plan. The first thing a reasonable government will do, looking at the economic recession we are facing across the world, is to improve the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). What is the source of IGR? The cattle are a source of IGR. You are advocating peace. How do you restore peace between grazers and farmers? What you should do is to introduce the cattle routes/reserves which have been available since time immemorial. The grazing reserve has been there, especially in Donga Local Government Area. 115 square kilometres of land was earmarked as far back as 1965 as grazing reserve. They have a lot of rivers and streams there. They are good for pastoralists. Now the government is saying that it doesn’t have the land, it’s a government without direction. Any government that has a sense of direction will not say that. Audu Ogbeh is not a Fulani man but he is standing firmly behind this. Cattle constitute six per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of this country. As far back as 1995, cattle constituted 20 per cent of total agricultural GDP in Nigeria and somebody is telling you he doesn’t need grazing reserve. Yet, he wants to restore peace. How do you restore peace when the cattle routes have been blocked? How do you restore peace when the grazing reserve has been taken over by some people? You shouldn’t forget that white men from abroad came in to earmark these grazing reserves. There are a lot of historical records. Check the budget of Taraba State, no single dime has been allocated for veterinary drugs and livestock. What type of government is that? It’s a government without focus. Can we continue to depend on oil money? What we need to do is to boost the best source of revenue that we have. The best source of revenue that we have is cattle. Then, you need to educate the nomads. Even today, in Taraba, it is not only the Fulani who are grazers. All the tribes have imbibed the culture because it’s one area you can invest comfortably.

The governors in the South say grazing reserve will make them lose their land to non-indigenes. How do you think the issue can be managed? 

If you are talking about indigenes, are you saying that Fulanis are not indigenes? Who are the right owners of the land? Are you saying that the Fulani and cattle breeders are not indigenes? Many people are just jumping into conclusion on this issue when they don’t have facts and figures about the history of this country.  In 1948, before the pre-colonial era, what was the population of the Fulani cattle grazers and farmers? What was the contribution of the farmers and the grazers? When we talk of agriculture, we are not just talking about farm produce alone. We are also talking about cattle and any other livestock.
How will you describe the state of the nation under President Muhammadu Buhari? 
I know that people are worried, waiting for miracle to happen. But, let’s not deceive ourselves. This country has been bastardised over the past 16 years. You can even stretch back to the military era. President Buhari is not an angel. He is a human being, like anyone of us. We need to change our own attitude for this country to change.  Buhari, alone, cannot change this country. I don’t think we are helpful to ourselves. It took us time before we got our independence. The amalgamation took place in 1914. But we got independence in 1960. The PDP-led government has ruined this country.
Can we still trust Buhari amid challenges confronting Nigerians? 
Security is paramount and we are very comfortable with his stride in terms of security. If you are a farmer, grazer, businessman, without adequate security, you can’t do your work and Buhari is taking best measures on issues of security. His lieutenants are doing their best, too.