The Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi, has warned against any proposal to seize or allocate land across Nigeria for use as grazing reserves.
Mr. Ajimobi said such plan would be ill-advised and against the spirit of overriding public interest, and would not be allowed in Oyo State.
His remarks followed reports of a bill at the National Assembly aimed at creating grazing reserves for nomadic Fulani herdsmen to their feed cattle in all parts of Nigeria.
The federal government and some officials had suggested that the creation of reserves would help bring an end to incessant violence between herdsmen and farmers.
But the Oyo governor said it would not happen in the south-western state.
“This is the time to call a spade a spade,” Mr. Ajimobi said Tuesday at the launch of “AgricOyo”, the Oyo state’s agriculture initiative, held at Paago, Iseyin, in Oke Ogun zone of the state.
“Those clamouring for creation of grazing zones across the country should have a rethink. It is against the Land Use Act; it is against the law of natural justice to seize people’s land to cater for someone’s cattle.
“Grazing zones could be created for those who are traditional cattle rearers in their areas. I’m not against that. But, you cannot come here and tell me you want to occupy our land for grazing zones. The land exists in our respective states and as such the rightful owners should decide what to do with them.
“Anybody outside this zone willing to rear cattle here will need to approach the state to buy the land and we offer what is available with rules. There is no free land for grazing zones. We need to take this firm position. It won’t happen.”
Mr. Ajimobi allayed the fears expressed by Oyo farmers, particularly in Oke Ogun, over the security of their lives and farmlands in the face continuing clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
Mr. Ajimobi charged rural dwellers to be more vigilant and report suspicious activities of offending cattle rearers to security agencies around them.
He said it was illegal for herdsmen to destroy farmlands and attacks farmers in the guise of feeding their animals.
On the new agriculture initiative, the governor was upbeat that it would “create one million direct jobs across the agric value chain thereby taking many unemployed youths off the streets”.
He said the state would become the food basket of the southern part of the country in the short-run when the programme commences in full, with the ultimate ambition of feeding the country.
The governor, who said that the initiative was aimed at diversifying the economy of the state, assured the people that the programme would add value to the lives of citizens of the state across different sectors.
“I am elated that the agricultural initiative has attracted these important dignitaries in the agric business world and as well as a vast majority of our youths as beneficiaries of the scheme.
“This project will reduce over-dependence on oil, create wealth, alleviate poverty, encourage productivity, create jobs and bring about the overall socio-economic uplift of Oyo State,” he said.
“Farming is very profitable and we will do everything possible to make it attractive in Oyo State to diversify our economy.”
He said the phase one of the project would focus on the production of maize, cassava, rice, poultry, soya beans and aquaculture.
The launching was attended by traditional rulers, local government chairmen, farmers, businessmen, among others.