Nigeria’s federal government moved swiftly on Friday to douse the tension created by its planned establishment of Integrated Farm Estates in all the 109 Senatorial Districts across the country by the National Land Development Authority (NALDA), declaring that “it is not for the purpose of implementing Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) and ranches.”
The clarification by government was sequel to the recent alarm raised by the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, alleging that the federal government was attempting to bring back the rejected cattle colony and RUGA through the establishment of the farm estates.
Afenifere, in a statement by its spokesman, Jare Ajayi, called for an immediate halt to the programme.
Some other people rejected the plan, claiming that the move was an indirect attempt to acquire land for a section of the country.
Reacting to the allegation in a chat with newsmen in Abuja, the Executive Secretary of NALDA, Paul Ikonne, emphasised that the establishment of the farm estates had nothing to do with RUGA or ranches.
According to the NALDA boss, “the farm estates are not in any way related to both RUGA and cattle ranches,” adding Afenifere’s position “is aimed at misleading the people.”
He said: “The Integrated Farm Estates are what the President mandated us to put in place in all the 109 Senatorial Districts after commissioning that of Daura; meaning he saw the productive nature and the impact that project will make.
”The project is meant for the community, to develop the community. What we have inside is poultry, fishery and for those who are doing piggery – piggery. So, it is for the people.
”The insinuation by Afenifere is meant to mislead people as a result of lack of understanding, so to say. But the true position is that the integrated farm estates are designed to accommodate the youths from that community in order to engage them into entire agricultural value chain.
”And it depends on what the community is known for and what the community is interested in going into. Some states are getting poultry, cow – like in the North; in the south like Abia they are doing fishery and rabbit rearing.
In Oyo, we already have rabbit rearing and crop farming; in Ekiti State, as well, we have crop farming.
”So, it depends on the environment. It has nothing to do with RUGA at all. It’s purely for development, and to engage the youths and for the benefit of the immediate community, that is what the integrated farming estate stands for.”
Ikonne insisted that the farm estates were purposely to engage the youth in viable agricultural chains for the benefit of the immediate communities.
President Buhari had last Sunday directed NALDA to establish integrated farm estates in all the 109 senatorial districts to boost agriculture in the country.
The President gave the go-ahead for the establishment of the estates after a meeting with the NALDA Executive Secretary at the State House, Abuja.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja