Just as his family has produced geniuses, Islamic scholars & reformers, this globally recognised Vet now leads the livestock transformation agenda in Sokoto State
“When you see a horse sleeping while standing, you begin to wonder why other animals do not sleep while standing,” says Abdulkadir Junaidu, a professor of veterinary medicine and commissioner for Animal Health and Fisheries Development, Sokoto state. He explains “Horses have a structure called the stay apparatus that can balance them to sleep while standing for hours, and they will not fall down.” Camels are also unique in the sense that they can endure a journey over many days without needing water, he emphasises.
“In veterinary medicine, we have several species of animals. You deal with cattle, sheep, goats, camels, horses, crocodiles, all aspects of nature, which makes it very interesting. It widens your thinking, because even the comparative aspect of these species will enrich your knowledge, even in terms of religion,” states Junaidu.
He has many firsts to his name: he is first to become a professor of veterinary medicine from the states of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara, first graduate of the Usman Dan Fodio (UDUS) veterinary medicine faculty, to become a professor, first vet in Nigeria to become Chairman of faculties of veterinary medicine in Africa, and first to become a chief medical director, veterinary teaching hospital, Sokoto. The list of firsts goes on and on.
Turning to his family he speaks of the famous Waziri Junaidu, his grandfather. His words “Waziri Junaidu happens to be my grandfather, father to my late father, Waziri Usman Junaidu. Waziri Junaidu is an epitome of knowledge, of humility, and a great leader. While alive he was described as the greatest living authority on the history of the Sokoto caliphate.
He was awarded a honourary doctorate by ABU in 1972, at which event he made a famous speech which has been referred to many times.” In his lifetime Waziri Junaidu taught quite a number of persons who grew up to have great impact on society. These include President Shehu Shagari, Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki, Sultan Maccido, Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, Halliru Binji, and many others.
The Junaidu family has roots in Gidadawa community. According to him “When Mohammed Bello became the Sultan, Abdullahi Gwandu, now decided to bestow the title of Waziri on Gidado, the head of our family, the first Waziri.
Mohammed Bello worked with our great grandfather, Gidado, whose name was coined to name the area known as Gidadawa. Gidado married Shehu Usman Dan Fodio’s daughter, Nana Asmau, who is well known as one of the greatest female scholars in history.” Thus he comes from a long line of distinguished scholars, thinkers, poets and reformers.
Nigeria’s 10,000 vet doctors
Nigeria has a total of ten thousand (10,000) veterinary doctors at present, the commissioner states, lamenting the low number, “the number is inadequate for the number of animals in the country. We have 20 million herds of cattle, over 40 million sheep, and over 30 million goats, apart from donkeys, camels, and others. This shows that we need to have more vets to treat these animals.”
He comments on a related matter “What is happening in the country now is a situation whereby more graduates are being churned out by various universities. Many young ones are interested in studying veterinary medicine, but unfortunately, the employment rate is very low, especially at both the federal and state governments. The rate at which state governments employ vets is worrisome. That’s why at times, you don’t blame the government when you have areas of sickness, because how many governments will employ vet doctors to send them to abbatoirs to check the meat, to make sure it is wholesome and safe for consumption?
Call duty vehicles
On the population of vet doctors, he reasons “We are lucky in Sokoto; we have a listening Governor that has the interest of the profession at heart. Currently, we have close to 150 vet doctors all under the employment of the state government. We send them to the various local government areas, and also to the zonal services to take services closer to the people. We have call duty vehicles that go everywhere to attend to cases. We operate a 24 hour programme of vet services in the state capital, which means any time you have a case you go there or you call, and our people will meet you.”
Students of Sokoto state origin studying veterinary medicine and have reached the 400, 500 to 600 level, are put on a salary by the state government, he reveals “This is to encourage them to remain and study well without any problems. Fortunately, it was when I was a student that I struggled to get that for our students. I had a few months left to graduate, and then we paid a courtesy visit to the Governor as Executives. We told him why people were not studying vet medicine as well as human medicine. At that time we had an association called the Sokoto state medical and vet students association. I was the first president and we pushed for that. By the time the salary scale was adopted, we had so many students studying medicine and vet medicine in the state. They increased by more than 100%.”
In agreement with its livestock transformation effort, the Sokoto state government has approved the establishment of a veterinary specialist hospital. His words “This is the first in the country which is aimed at making the profession to expand, and to improve on the training of vet doctors to become consultants. If you have federal veterinary centres in all the 36 states and Abuja, there is no reason why you would not have federal veterinary centres in all the states. We are talking of one health.”
‘When there is a dog bite’
“Most people are only aware of veterinary services when there is a dog bite. There are more than 500 diseases you can contract from animals. WHO has said that 75% of cases of diseases in humans come from animals. When you don’t take care of these animals, they will become a burden, and people will be dying from diseases, and authorities will be saying that people are dying from diseases of unknown etiology, of unknown source,” the professor says.
‘A disease called brucellosis’
At a point he made a remarkable discovery “I undertook a research in our teaching hospitals, in our specialist hospitals, on their diseases. The result I got was that many of the patients reporting to the hospitals, complaining of malaria or typhoid, were not really suffering from malaria or typhoid, but were suffering from a disease called brucellosis, and that got me interested in what was really happening. I got a prevalence of 14% in one place, and 13% in another. ”
Professor Junaidu speaks on transformation in the livestock subsector “When we came in the livestock subsector was comatose. There was a programme that was abandoned by a previous administration, which was the Argentinian cattle breeding programme. We had to study and redesign it, and make it the Sokoto cattle breeding programme. The animals that were to be imported from Argentina had not been imported. I realised we could not bring in animals from Argentina, considering our weather condition. In Argentina at 20 degrees Celsius the animals will be panting. While in Nigeria in Sokoto, in particular, we have a problem of temperature rise of up to 45 degrees Celsius. The question now was how will these foreign breeds survive?”
Finally, the Brangus breeds of cattle were imported from South Africa. 117 were imported in to the country in 2019, and distributed to 13 cluster farms in Sokoto. Of this group all the females brought in have calved two or three times.
More milk, more meat
According to him “Our local breeds can only produce 1-3, a maximum of 4 litres of milk. In terms of meat, they can only weigh 150-350 kg. As I am speaking to you now, most of these animals can bring in between 10-30 litres of milk per animal per milking. In terms of weight we have a weight of between 500-1000kg. That shows massive improvement in terms of production, both in dairy and meat production. Most of the farms have started producing yoghurt, and also selling the calves at one million Naira each or more. In the next couple of years the state government will be able to realise N500 billion from its livestock transformation project.”
“We have established an artificial insemination and embryo transfer centre in Sokoto, where we are also producing liquid nitrogen, the first and only one in the country. We are producing 40-45 litres daily, and it is used to preserve semen, embryos as well as bacteria and viruses. We also have a first class laboratory for artificial insemination and embryo transfer. We also have a mobile laboratory vehicle that has been equipped for artificial insemination, which goes around the whole state. We have also developed pasture development sites across the state,” he says. So far, the ministry has gone round more than two thirds of the local governments doing artificial insemination and embryo transfer.
19 grazing reserves
Sokoto state has 19 grazing reserves which are undergoing rehabilitation, demarcation, including the planting of pasture and creation of earth dams. They have a capacity of over 20,000 hectares of land as a whole. Professor Junaidu reasons “We also have 50,000 hectares where we intend to do ranching in each of the three senatorial districts. We will provide all these services so that our livestock farmers can settle down without having to travel any distance. Infact many people will be coming and it will be a revenue generation venture. We are in touch with some states in the south and some countries too are interested in our meat.”
Halt to clashes
Junaidu opens up on the potential impact of the livestock transformation effort “There will be a reduction in farmer/herder clashes, because you will now contain the animals in a particular area. Our method of combating such is by trying to provide all the necessary facilities. If you provide pasture and water for a pastoralist, he will be able to stay there. What we want to do is to establish these feed centres. If we do that they will settle down. We will now build schools for them, clinics, vet services and markets “
The livestock transformation programme has put Sokoto under the spotlight. He speaks of a recent award earned by the state in South Africa “For the year 2022 the international society for Brangus gave Sokoto state the award for the friendliest Brangus individual in the world. It means that the society is satisfied that we are doing very well, and we are the most outstanding, in terms of performance of that breed globally.”
‘Not for the lazy’
Professor Junaidu adds that a student has to be above average to study veterinary medicine, because it is not for the lazy, explaining that by the time the student finishes a 5 year programme, he would have been prepared for the future. His words ‘The training is very rigorous, very hard and makes you to have the discipline required of a graduate.”
Initially he wanted to study human medicine, but switched to veterinary medicine. While studying for his first degree, he spent five years, for the Masters two years, and for the PhD he spent a period of three years. He was lucky to finish all these in record time. He also did a fellowship at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He has a certificate in Epidemiology and laboratory medicine from the Centre for Disease Control, USA.
Family of Profs
He tells me that his family has a number of professors, including the current Waziri, who is also a professor of Arabic, professor M.I Junaid, a professor of Education, professor Abubakar Junaid, a professor of Business Administration, and there are several other PhD holders, professors and Imams too in the family. The younger generation have shown signs of great promise. An example is his gifted son who reveals a maturity and insight far beyond his years. Interestingly, Professor Junaidu’s wife is a professor too at the Usman Dan Fodio University. Even when viewed nationally, two professors as husband and wife, is not a very common occurrence.