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Nigeria@56: Deal firmly with herdsmen for agriculture to thrive, Ozekhome tells FG

By Enyeribe Ejiogu
([email protected])

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome has urged the Federal Government to walk its talk on agriculture and the quest for self-sufficiency in food production by dealing decisively with the menace of herdsmen.
Ozekhome spoke with Sunday Sun reporter on the phone in reaction to the issues thrown up by the national broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday to mark the 56th Independence anniversary of the country.
In his speech the president said that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank had been mobilized to encourage local production of rice, maize, sorghum, millet and soyabeans, noting that 2018 had been set as the target date for achieving domestic self-sufficiency in these staples.
President Buhari also said that already farmers in 13 out of 36 states were receiving credit support through the Central Bank of Nigeria under the Anchor Borrowers Programme. He added that importation of rice alone costs the country about two billion USD, which could be saved through expedited local production.
However,  Ozekhome took the government to task on this saying that the laudable  effort would fall flat if the key and vital obstacle constituted by the menace of herdsmen was not squarely dealt with by the government by first recognizing it as a form of agro-terrorism and major security challenge in the mold of the Boko Haram.
He said: “So far this government has always been very soft on herdsmen. The attitude of the government has encouraged herdsmen to commit mayhem in various parts of the country, particularly in the South East and Benue State.
“The government said that it is committed to achieving self-sufficiency in food production, particularly rice, millet, soyabeans and sorghum. You cannot be talking about promoting agriculture when herdsmen are busy killing the owners of farms all over the country, where the very food crops that would make the country self-sufficient are cultivated. The herdsmen are busy carrying out a murderous rampage against the owners of the farms. That in itself amounts to contradiction, because there is no way you can make agriculture thrive in a country where the farmers themselves are being mowed down by herdsmen. What the herdsmen are doing is a form of agro-terrorism akin to Boko Haram. So many people are now afraid to go to their farms. From the Middle Belt to the South East and the Southwest, and even in the core north, a lot of people are afraid to go to the farms because they are ambushed by herdsmen and killed, their women raped and abducted.
On the way forward, he said: “First, the government has to remove the log of wood represented by the menace of murderous herdsmen before it can see clearly to tackle the speck of other issues hindering agriculture in the country. The government has to firmly deal with the menace of herdsmen before people can regain the confidence to venture out and return to their farms.  “Before the government came to power, they said they would diversify and make agriculture the main stay of the economy. They said it at every turn. Talk is cheap. The issue is what efforts has the government made to achieve that? To what extent have they shown that they can walk the talk? The government has to walk the talk. Anybody can sermonize. They are still talking as if they are campaigning. Just telling Nigerians what they want to do is not what the people want from the government. Nigerians want to see, feel and experience what the government is doing. The government has passed that level of campaigning and seeking for votes. Somebody should remind this government that it was elected by the Nigerian people to clear irregularities and the people are waiting for results. For the government to persist in blaming the Goodluck Jonathan administration will no longer help them. Great leaders are known in times of crisis. During the Great Depression, great leaders emerged in America.”
Also commenting on Buhari’s Independence Day broadcast, an Anambra State chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and Lagos-based lawyer, Chief Pat Anyadubalu commended him for the tone of his address saying it sounded penitent and demonstrated appreciation of the pain caused to Nigerians by the current recession.  His words: “He seemed to be penitent. In the past he used to talk down on us, but this time around he talked to us. All along he had been trying to exhibit his military background and standing aloof from the people, but this time around he tried to feel the pulse of his subjects. I commend him for acknowledging the fact that we are having recession and things are hard for the people. So he tried to give us soothing words and hope that the recession would end. This is a dramatic departure from his earlier hard line posture when he would talk down on the people rather talk to us.”

-Sunwp_posts

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