Friday, February 10, 2017 10:16 am
Prominent Niger Delta activist, Ms Ankio Briggs has come under attacks over her criticism of the ceding of parcel of land in Palms area of Bayelsa for establishment of a cattle ranch by the State Governor, Seriake Dickson.
Governor Dickson said the allocation of the parcel of the land for establishment of cattle ranch was to avoid open grazing of cattle which usually resulted in bloody clashes between farmers and herdsmen as the animals frequently strayed into farms to destroy or eat up crops.
Briggs however said Dickson’s action amounted to mortgaging the future of Ijaw children to the mostly Northerners herdsmen.
She and few other activists consequently urged the people of Bayels in particular and Niger Delta in general to stop the ceding of the land in their territory for the cattle ranch.
While expressing its disagreement with her, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide in statement its Chairman, Central Zone, Comrade Bobolaiyefa Owopiele, said the fears harboured by Briggs of Northern Nigerian‘s domination of Ijaw land due to the decision were not only unfounded but smacks of scaremongering.
The organisation argued that just like several hectares of land have been allocated to motor park operators and other special needs by other states in Nigeria, the ranch was necessary for the sake of security and boosting of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Bayelsa.
IYC further noted that the land is not donated or sold to the herdsmen by the Bayelsa Governor.
“The Bayelsa Oil Palms farm space is provided for cattle business just as the Ekeki Motor Park is provided by government for transport business in the state.
The group stated that rather than condemn the action, the governor should be commended for choosing an all-inclusive business arrangement that will be a win – win situation for all.
IYC further argued, “ Cattle in Malaysia are grazed in Oil Palm farmlands and both compliment the growth and progress of each other. Confining and domesticating all cattle business in the state to a government assigned ranch area and market such as Bayelsa oil palms farm is a most thoughtful and welcome idea that cannot be faulted.
“The governor therefore by this action exposes no Ijaw person or any resident of the state for that matter to the dangers perceived by Ankio Briggs. Her thinking in our opinion amounts to crying wolf where there’s none”.
The group said it agree with Dickson-led government’s choice of Bayelsa oil palms farm, situated at Azikoro village area as the most suitable area for the triple job of cattle grazing abattoir and ultra-modern meat market for all cattle related businesses in the state.
“We applaud his wisdom and initiative”, the IYC said.
While accusing Ms Briggs of unnecessarily causing tension, the IYC stressed that thousands of cattle in Bayelsa state are owned by some wealthy Bayelsans, while the Hausa/Fulani cattle men are merely serving them.
IYC, therefore, maintained that the land was provided more for Ijaw people and occupied by Ijaw people interested in doing cattle business with their partners from elsewhere.
“The community leaders, owners of the land, Ijaw sons and daughters in the Niger Delta, across the country also home and abroad have no need to reject any sale of Ijaw nation as no part of Ijaw land is being sold to anybody.
“The confinement of all cattle in the state to Bayelsa farm and other designated areas will forestall any incident of vehicular accident traceable to cattle straying on the roads in the State.
The IYC commended Dickson for the action and urged all reasonable persons to rally round him for safeguarding lives by investing wisely in peace and jealously guarding against any situation that will bring about insecurity, anarchy and chaos.
“Our duty as citizens should be to encourage the government to do more in this direction and not create a situation for government to spend its scarce resources on security. To cast aspersions on the governor is to disard the huge investment on peace and peaceful coexistence amongst all people in the State.
“It is worthy of note to mention that Ijaws are doing fishing business in faraway places like Baro, Lokoja, Kaduna, Pategi and Yauri in Northern Nigeria. The fishing grounds and camps allotted to them by their hosts and where they have been doing legitimate business over the years has not become Ijaw-land and still belong to their hosts.
“If the Hausa quarters in Warri, Arietalin and Port Harcourt where Hausa/Fulani people have stayed to do business for decades have not become Hausa/Fulani land, how then does anyone come to the conclusion that the Bayelsa Oil Palms farmland meant for cattle ranches, abattoir and market will become Hausa/Fulani property”, it queried.
Also, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) said with her comments, the activist missed the whole point of the government’s decision.
INC in a statement by its Chairman (Central Zone), Chief Kennedy Odiowei said it disagreed with Briggs’ call on Ijaw people home and abroad to join her in condemning the decision of the Governor Dickson to give Bayelsa Palms out to cattle herdsmen in the state.
Odiowei said, “We believe Ankio Briggs was misinformed and deliberately too, by some mischief makers who will not see anything good in any decision taken, no matter how good that decision is by the Dickson administration.
“While we appreciate Ankio Briggs’ recognition that Bayelsa State represents the identity of Ijaw people and respect her right to freely express her opinion and concern on happenings in the state, particularly the well-being of the people, as opinion is free, we advise her to take a back seat and not delve unnecessarily into issues she is not properly informed on, no matter how concerned she may be.”
According to given the fact that the governor remains the Chief Security Officer of this state, he owes it a duty to the people to arrest and prevent any likely clashes between cattlemen operating in the state and the owners of farmlands whose farm crops could be destroyed in the process of grazing.
The INC added, “As it has been the case in many places in recent times. It is a decision taken to prevent injuries and deaths likely to arise in the event of any misunderstanding between cattlemen and farmers or farm owners in the state.
“The governor took the decision as part of his plan to re-position the economy of the state, a vigorous drive in agriculture and investment in livestock to increase the state’s scarce internally generated revenue (IGR).
“The land in question in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State is government-owned. It was not donated but provided to cater for the need of cattlemen and others doing cattle related businesses such as grazing, ranching and marketing in the state.
“And it is with a belief that by so doing it will not only help to alleviate the living conditions of the people now and in the future but may put a stop to the suffering, humiliation and neglect Ankio Briggs said Ijaws have endured so far in Nigeria for so many years”, the INC argued.
Also, the Bayelsa Youth Movement , BYM called on the people of the state to hold Prof. Kimse Okoko, Ms Ankio Briggs and Hon. Claudius Enegesi for any herdsmen, farmers’ clash in the state with their opposition to the ranch initiative of the Governor.
The BYM said recent pronouncements attributed to the them on the use of Bayelsa Palm Area for cattle grazing for the people of the state were not only baseless, but capable of causing a breakdown of law and order.
A statement by James Ere-Brown, President of BYM, said any death or crisis arising from disagreements between the herdsmen and other residents of the state should be blamed on those opposed to the move.
“The people should put the blame of any death from clashes between herdsmen and any community on Ankio Briggs, Kimse Okoko and Hon. Claudius Enegesi and all those who are against the move by government to check the activities of the herdsmen.
“By opposing the move by the state government to provide the Bayelsa Palm Area as a confined space for them to rear their cows, slaughter them and sell, instead of roaming around with their cattle in our communities and destroying farmlands in the process, these characters are setting the stage for a breakdown of law and order.
“This is a purely security and economic decision , but the attempt by these people to politicise what is clearly an altruistic move by the government is not only unacceptable but done in very bad faith”, the BYM noted.