POISED to address food security concerns and against the backdrop of incessant attacks by nomadic herdsmen in the state, the Akwa Ibom State government recently indicated that it had imported 2,000 cattle from Brazil as part of efforts to produce sufficient meat and increase protein intake by the people of the state. The state Commissioner for Information, Charles Udoh, stated this during an interaction with newsmen in Uyo, the state capital. According to him, the move was part of the state government’s holistic approach to agriculture and was aimed at achieving food security in the state.
He said: “The ranch was established in conjunction with foreign investors. The cattle have been quarantined. The reason we quarantined the cattle was that, first, we needed to inoculate them. What I mean by quarantined is that we needed to get them acclimatised to the weather and prepare them for the long trip across the Atlantic ocean. While we quarantined and inoculated them, we tried to get some pregnant because it was a long journey and some could die on the way. These are a rare breed of cattle that can produce milk and meat at the same time.”
Truth be told, the Akwa Ibom initiative on cattle rearing is a laudable one. As we have stated time and again, ranching is the globally accepted model for cattle rearing and the move by the Emmanuel Udom-led administration is in line with that line of thinking. If Akwa Ibom is self-sufficient in meat production, this can only ginger up its economy and, in the long run, play a vital part in actualising the country’s quest for food security. Besides, this move, if well handled and thoughtfully executed, has the potentiality to facilitate the growth of agro-allied industries, including milk production, that derive sustenance from cattle rearing. The fact is undisputed that cattle reared in ranches are healthier, stronger and weightier than those subjected to the harrowing experiences of nomadic farming, a pernicious system that has caused and continues to cause the country untold and irreparable damage with the loss of farmers’ lives and destruction of crops.
Apart from turning out fatter, meatier and healthier cattle, ranching poses no threat to the lives and properties of innocent farmers and is therefore sine qua non if the country is serious about joining the league of developed climes. It is in this regard that we urge the governments of the South-South and other geopolitical zones to embrace the initiative. It is particularly instructive that the Akwa Ibom cattle project is a public-private partnership. Given the perennial funding challenges faced by state governments in the country, public-private partnerships can, through sustainable funding, prove vital in enabling the delivery and sustenance of projects that have a direct bearing on the lives of the people.
That said, however, it is our considered view that the Akwa Ibom cattle project would fare even better if, as soon as practicable, the state government divests itself of its investment in the project and make it entirely private-run. While the state government is apparently well-meaning with regard to the project, we feel that its involvement should be limited to providing an enabling environment for the business to thrive. That way, it becomes sustainable and, what is more, other private investors can key into the available opportunities in the sector and enrich the state’s, and consequently the country’s, economy.
If experiences from the defunct Nigeria Airways are any indication, government officials in Nigeria habitually turn public businesses into avenues for political patronage. Facilities in such enterprises are utilised without the requisite payments made by unscrupulous government officials and their consorts and associates. Thus, if the Akwa Ibom cattle project is to dodge the bullet of political ruination, it must be run by private individuals paying the necessary taxes to the state government while also undertaking corporate social responsibilities. This is the method we commend to state governments across the country.