By Sam Oditah
Umuahia – Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia has promised to give N1 million financial assistance to anyone that would invest in ranches and animal husbandry in any part of the state.
Ikpeazu said this on a live radio interview on Wednesday in Umuahia, adding that the gesture was part of government’s measures to discourage open grazing and the resultant clashes.
“I wish to state that this government will pay N1 million grant as incentive to anyone that would heed my call to set up a ranch or engage in commercial animal husbandry in Abia,” he said.
The governor advised the people of the state to revive animal husbandry which used to be a thriving agricultural venture in the state.
He charged the people to go into the rearing of local species of cows, goats, grass cutters and chicken, in order to increase the sources of meat protein and reduce reliance on beef.
He opined that establishing ranches would minimize clashes between herdsmen and farmers “as animals would no longer roam about in free range system.”
Ikpeazu said that the anti-grazing bill, which is awaiting passage in the state house of assembly “will not on its own completely solve the problem of herdsmen/farmers conflict.”
He feared that the implementation of the law, might suffer some encumbrances just like similar laws in the country.
Meanwhile, the governor has charged Nigerians to “suppress their appetite for foreign rice” and embrace Nigerian-made rice.
According to him, there is no justification for Nigerians not to grow what they eat, saying that the country had the potential to achieve food security.
The Commissioner for Information, Mr Okiyi Kalu, who threw more light on the governor’s interview, said that the administration was passionate about reviving oil palm production in the state.
Okiyi told newsmen that government was working out incentives to encourage farmers to resuscitate oil palm plantation which, according to him, was the live wire of the economy of the defunct Eastern Region.
He described palm oil as “oil of peace”, saying, “aside from being a huge source of foreign exchange, it has never been a source of conflict or environmental degradation like crude oil.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the governor last year set up a committee comprising security agencies, traditional rulers, representatives of farmers’ associations, to regulate the activities of herdsmen vis-a-vis their relationship with their host communities.
The Commissioner of Police and chairman of the committee, Mr Anthony Ogbizi, told newsmen that the governor also promised to pay compensation to any farmer or herdsmen for damages suffered as a result of open grazing.