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Author: Eagletale
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Protecting CBN from Miyetti Allah

Eagletale

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Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) reaction to the Federal Government’s move to ban the importation of milk is curious and should not be allowed to go unchallenged. There appears to be more to the MACBAN’s strange response than meets the eye because the policy instrument is supposed to be primarily interpreted to boost local production of milk, which still consumes a large chunk of our scarce foreign exchange.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had announced it would restrict forex for the importation of milk to boost local production, a development that observers expected to excite cattle breeders in the country who are expected to benefit from intervention from the apex bank.

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who disclosed the monetary policy instrument at the end of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja, noted that government was considering plans to effect the policy of restricting allocation of foreign exchange (FOREX) for milk importation into Nigeria. He, however, explained that the implementation of such a policy requires a robust strategy that addresses underlying issues.

But in a strange twist, the herdsmen’s association, in a statement by Baba Othman Ngelzarma, its national secretary, noted that the “National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) is an integrated plan that holistically solves the historic challenges that had deprived the pastoralists from producing high quantity and quality beef and dairy products demanded by the Nigerian market, ensuring that their goods do not end up being sold at sub-standard prices.

“NLTP modernises the industry through handholding the pastoralists and allowing ranches to develop organically with pastoralists as core participants in the livestock production chain which will ultimately impact wealth creation and knowledge transfer mechanisms. This we strongly believe is a safer, more stable sustainable pathway than one, which favours only one part of the livestock system.

“For MACBAN, partnership with domestic and foreign value chain actors is critical. Whether with fodder and pasture specialists at NAPRI, Zaria or dairy processors from Europe or cross-breeding specialists from Brazil or vaccine developers from NVRI, Vom in Jos, partnership across the livestock ecosystem is a requirement. Any plan that does not place such a step at its core is doomed to fail.

The MACBAN spokesperson specifically noted that the recent discussions between the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Development Finance Department and dairy processors are a non-starter.

“The challenge is not solved by lending money at 9% and requiring dairy companies to go to Kaduna, Niger, Plateau, Kano or Oyo to locate and develop at least 10,000 hectares of land within a grazing reserve commencing on or before September 2019…What is also most alarming with the CBN proposal is the invitation given to the dairy processors to come up with their own plan on how they will develop their dairy farms of at least 10,000 hectares in the grazing reserves proposed to them by CBN with cheap CBN loans at 9% interest….”

The cattle breeders averred that the CBN move could be disastrous on two counts: One, it disregards completely FGN approved NLTP that clearly outlines the necessary steps needed to be taken to transform the livestock subsector over 10 years in line with the desires and aspirations of all consulted stakeholders.

The association added too that the need for Federal Government’s regulations and incentives for the roles of all partners in the transformation processes to achieve the goals of peaceful coexistence between crop farmers and pastoralists and enhancement of the pastoral productivity through organic modernisation of the pastoral production base with capacity to retain their cultural livestock linkage in modernity and innovation for generations to come should not be discounted.

The breeders union, therefore, concluded that in view of their position, they advised the CBN to retrace its steps and take a productive role that does not undo the work done to date. As much as the infusion of capital into the livestock sub-sector is deeply appreciated and welcome, it must occur in the right strategic, stakeholder and cluster development context as provided in the NLTP framework.

It remains a curiosity why the cattle breeders association has felt that the CBN intervention strategy is antithetical to the NLTP’s as they have argued that the spirit of partnership and transparent dialogue with which the NLTP was developed be maintained and allowed to thrive. This is also where the Federal Government’s reputation and communications managers should not allow the Miyetti Allah’s boisterous managers to complicate matters for the CBN that has been widely applauded for its remarkable interventions in various relevant sectors to stabilise the economy. There have been questions about the extra-monetary policy of the CBN but ours not being an entrepreneurial nation, the apex bank’s ‘rescue operations’ have somewhat assisted remarkably.

In other words, this latest intervention in milk production and import hasn’t been markedly different. The ban on imported milk and other dairy products announced by the CBN is intended to develop domestic capacity in the provision of these food items. That cannot be controverted.

In announcing the ban, the CBN governor also conveyed the bank’s or government’s readiness to grant credit for the development of ranches to support local milk production. What seems to be throwing up questions about the action of the apex bank is its timing. It is coming at a time that the RUGA project debates are still very much alive in public discourse and the interpretation is that the CBN is being recruited by Buhari to push the RUGA agenda by another means. This emerging negative perception element is too sensitive to be allowed to settle in.

Also, the decision of the army to create ranches is being similarly interpreted. While it is true that CBN ought to have been sensitive to the national mood regarding the matter of cattle grazing at this time, its action should not be interpreted to mean that the bank by the new policy is trying to assist the Fulani to acquire land to rear cattle. Cattle ranching is not and cannot be an exclusive occupation of the Fulani.

In fact, Emefiele noted specifically that the CBN is ready to give loans to anybody who has a good proposal for cattle ranching. He clearly added that the loan would not be given to Fulani herdsmen alone. In other words, what the CBN is doing is an open invitation to all Nigerians for partnership in the cultivation of local capacity through cattle ranching for milk production. There have been historical facts that the old western and eastern regions developed cattle ranches that supported cattle rearing in the regions than when federalism had its significance – before 1966. That was the time Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State, which is still there, was developed – by the then eastern regional government.

That said, it must be noted that events in the country in the last four years or so have helped to put the Fulani race in a very bad light. Agreed, cattle rearing is a traditional occupation of the Fulani but it does not mean others cannot go into the business even at a more elevated level through modern ranching that even the developed economies in a global context have sustained.

Due to serial official failure and lethargy, the Fulani have become inseparably linked with killer herdsmen that have visited great pains on the nation.

Now nomadic cattle rearing, which has been part of the national economy since the advent of Nigeria has suddenly become synonymous with banditry, kidnapping, rape, murder and other forms of violent crimes. This is why the Fulani establishment must at this point rise in good conscience to its own defence and take steps to assure the rest of Nigerians. This is the path of truth that the Miyetti Allah leaders and representatives should be propagating instead of dabbling in curious politics that can destroy its already demonised image. Can they separate the survival of the National Livestock Transformation Project birthed through the National Economic Council (NEC) and developed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development from the policy instrument that the CBN announced on imported milk? Why would the cattle breeders be afraid of a possible ban on imported milk, which is supposed to enhance their operations? This is indeed strange. This is why the Federal Government that has complicated matters with the curious renaming of National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP) as Ruga Project, should develop a strategic communication strategy so that the nation can be carried along.

Never again should the Miyetti Allah chieftains be allowed to complicate sensitive national issues as they have threatened to do in this CBN intervention matter. Certainly, CBN is an important national institution that we should protect from the rampaging rascality of some misguided groups.

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