How I Tried And Failed To Solve Nigeria’s Herdsmen-Farmer Crises – Prince Charles Offokaja

Nigeria’s herdsmen-farmer crisis  has led to so many unnecessary deaths and had a very bad effect on Nigeria’s agricultural sector. It has increased the amount of internally displaced people in Nigeria. It also poses grave risks to President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to diversify Nigeria’s economy, following the crash in the price of crude oil.

The answer to this as everybody, both the herdsmen, the federal and state governments, the farmers and the general public have agreed is a phasing out of cattle grazing. That is where the point of departure starts.

The herdsmen made it clear that they lack the funds to buy land for commercial ranching; the Federal Government and sections of the National Assembly started work to create grazing reserves, dedicated for cattle grazing and a Grazing Reserve Commission to be in charge of the whole thing.

But the problem arose when it was clear that under the plan, ethnic ancestral lands would be taken from people and used in these reserves. Thus, many in Southern Nigeria bitterly oppose the grazing reserve plan, seeing it as an attempt to take land from Southerners to give to a profession dominated by Northerners; seeing it in other words, as a ploy that could result in an indirect land grab.

So, this got me thinking as to what I could do to end the problem because tensions between the herdsmen and farming communities all over the country remain high.

Intro.

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Prince Charles Offokaja. I am a journalist, businessman, philanthropist, and blogger, among several other caps I wear.

I am also the founder of the Prince And Princess Charles Offokaja Foundations (Nigeria and Switzerland).

It was with an urgent sense of selfless service and concern that I initiated efforts to tackle the issue of bringing peace, unity, and harmony between Nigeria’s herdsmen and farmers, two of our most important communities.

The Attempt For A Solution

As part of my search for a solution, I ran across a foreign donor organization called the Global Innovation Fund (GIF). The organization funds social innovations all over the world, even to the tune of $15 million dollars.

Their website describes their services thus, “

The Global Innovation Fund invests in social innovations that aim to improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people in the developing world.

Through our grants and risk capital, we support breakthrough solutions to global development challenges from social enterprises, for-profit firms, non-profit organisations, researchers, and government agencies.

…The fund is flexible in our funding structure: we can provide anywhere from $50,000 – $15 million and we can use any form of capital – grants, equity, debt, hybrid capital, etc.

My team and I decided to apply for a grant of $15 million (N4.5 billion) to set up and then donate a 30,000 Hectare mega ranch to the principal herdsmen association in Nigeria, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria or MACBAN.

We planned that if the grant was given, we would buy these hectares in bulks of at least 1000 hectares from willing sellers, to prevent future sociopolitical crises. It would be a purely business affair between buyers and bulk sellers chaperoned by the state government concerned.

We planned that, given the economic crisis faced by many state governments, and the need for increased Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) we would not refuse any state that decided to sell land for the ranch to us, as long as they were willing to sell at least 1000 hectares in a contiguous location, and with the unambiguous support of any other primary or secondary seller.

With the grant allocated to us, we would be able to grass lands where needed, set up irrigation systems if needed, and process Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) in all the annexes of the mega ranch we planned to donate. All the C of Os would be made in favor of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria or MACBAN.

In return we planned to give MACBAN a few conditions: they would disarm all herdsmen who would reside in the mega ranch. In return, we would fence the ranch and then pressure the Federal Government to engage Civil Defence or The Police Force on a permanent basis to provide protection for the herdsmen against cattle rustlers. Structures like houses and schools would also be built for the herdsmen if the funds allowed.

On June 12, 2016, after painstaking work to hammer out what we believed was an earnest, comprehensive proposal, we forwarded it to Global Innovation Fund. We were given the following email autoresponse message by the fund:

Dear Charles Offokaja,

Thanks for applying for funding from the Global Innovation Fund. We want to let you know that we have received your initial application titled: “Mega Ranch Donation To Fulani Herdsmen” and it has been assigned the application ID number: 575cf84405469.

We will review your application and we will let you know if it has passed to the next step in the process. GIF aims to respond to most Initial Applications within 4-6 weeks to inform applicants about whether or not they are invited to move forward to the next stage.

We were extremely hopeful. Hopeful that if GIF should accept to fund our proposal, we will have solved what seems to be an intractable problem between our herdsmen and our farmers, saving lives, empowering the herdsmen, bringing millions of farmers back to their farms and boosting the Buhari Administration’s efforts to successfully diversify Nigeria’s economy via agriculture.

The seeming schism growing between the Northern part of the country and the Southern part would have been nipped.

The country would have begun the long journey to healing after the shocks of Agatu, Uzo Uwani, and other flashpoints.

The herdsmen would for the first time, have large expanses of land to use that no one would challenge them over, because it would belong to them right down to C of O. And no one would come out and accuse them of seizing anyone’s ethnic ancestral lands, because it would be clear to all that the ranch was bought entirely from willing sellers.

We were very happy and looked forward to the day when we would announce to the government and people of Nigeria via the press that the problems we see would finally be things of the past in a matter of months (as soon as we bought the land, got C of O and then donated the land to MACBAN).

Disappointment

You can then imagine how shocked we were when we received this message from Global Innovation Fund dated July 14, 2016:

By OzoIgboNdu1 of Igbo Defender

I am an Igbo prince. Onye Igbo ka m bu!

0 comments

  1. @ Olympia Golden, I spy a fellow Zikist. This is your home. Any time you want to contribute to rebuilding the old movement through write-ups, you are welcome. It shall be well with Nigeria, Africa and the Black world…including those forgoten countries like Haiti.

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