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xxxxxxxxxxx of Wednesday, 26 May 2021


Buhari under fire

President Muhammad Buhari has received knocks from prominent Nigerians over his opposition to the recent ban on open grazing by the Southern governors in their respective states, at their meeting in Asaba, the Delta state capital.

The president had dismissed the governors’ declaration as having questionable ‘Constitutional legality’.

This was contained in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, on Monday.

But, in a swift reaction, yesterday, Chairman, Southern Governors Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, disagreed with the presidency’s stand on the open grazing ban in southern Nigeria, saying there was no going back on the ban on open grazing in southern Nigeria.

The governor specifically berated the president’s aide over his comment on the position of the Southern Governors Forum on the issue, saying the comment could not have been the position of the presidency on the matter.

He said: “Anyone who has been following the utterances of this man, as well as his fellow travellers on the self-deluding, mendacious but potentially dangerous itinerary to anarchy, cannot but conclude that he works assiduously for extraneous interests, whose game plan stands at variance with the expectations of genuine lovers of peaceful coexistence among all the people whose ethnic extractions are indigenous to Nigeria. Mr Garba must disclose, this day, the real motive(s) of those he serves, definitely not the President. He cannot continue to hide under some opaque, omnibus and dubious directives to create confusion in the polity. The easy recourse to mendacious uppity in pushing a barely disguised pernicious agendum is well understood. 

“The declaration that the recommendations of the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, a mere political appointee like Garba Shehu, are now the “lasting solutions” which eluded all the elected representatives of the people of the Southern part of the country, exposes this man as a pitiable messenger, who does not seem to understand the limits of his relevance and charge.

“Mr Garba contends that “their announcement is of questionable legality”, referring to the 17 governors of the southern states, but the decision of certain elements to take the ancestral lands of other people to settle their kinsmen, including the “gun-wielding “killer herdsmen” and their families, and provide “veterinary clinics, water points for animals, and facilities for herders and their families, including schooling through these rehabilitated reserves” for which “the Federal Government is making far-reaching and practical changes allowing for different communities to co-exist side-by-side”,  does not appear to him as a comprehensive plan for land grabbing, a precursor to internal colonialism. 

“He wants to “revive forest reserves” but seems, particularly, uninterested in the current position of the same law, that he and his cohorts often misinterpret to serve parochialism and greed. Governors no longer have powers over the lands in their territories. They must take instructions from appointees of the Federal Government on such matters.

“It is superfluous, and that is being charitable, for anyone to remind us of the constitutional right of bonafide citizens “to enjoy rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 States (and FCT)-regardless of their state of birth and residence. There has never been any contention on this provision. It is clear that Mr Garba seems to have issues understanding the difference between licentious criminality and qualified rights under our law. It is our duty to continually nudge him off his current state of cognitive dissonance. His pronouncement betrays dubiety and mischief.”  

Also reacting to Monday’s statement from the Presidency, Benue State Government, yesterday, described the planned rehabilitation of work by the federal government on grazing reserves in the country next month as shocking, curious and misplacement of priority.

In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, Governor Samuel Ortom, accused the federal government of having a hidden agenda for its continuous insistence on creating grazing reserves across the country.

“We read a statement issued by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in which he said the Federal Government will commence rehabilitation work on grazing reserves in the country next month. We find the move not only shocking and curious but also as a misplaced priority. At a time the country is worried about the worsening security, and many Nigerians are calling for national dialogue to address the fundamental issues that have led to the present state of affairs, the Federal Government considers the reopening of cattle grazing routes as the only solution available to it.

“It is now clear that there is a hidden agenda which only the Presidency knows. Otherwise, all the regions of the country have accepted the fact that open grazing of animals is no longer fashionable and should be banned to pave way for ranching, yet, the government at the centre is insistent that grazing reserves/cattle routes must be created across the country.

“On February 9, this year, the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) met and agreed that the current system of herding, mainly by open grazing, is no longer sustainable, in view of growing urbanisation and population of the country. The Forum, consequently, resolved to sensitise herders on the need to adopt ranching as the new method of animal husbandry. The 17 governors of southern Nigeria rose from their meeting in Asaba on May 11, also this year, with a ban on open grazing in the entire region. The southern governors equally adopted ranching as the alternative method of rearing animals.”

The state government wondered why the Presidency had continued to be alone pusher for the continuation of open grazing even after all the regions of the country have rejected it and adopted ranching.

Akase noted that the Benue people have embraced ranching as the viable alternative to open grazing and there is no going back on that resolve.

While positing that ranching as a policy has the potential to launch Nigeria into 21st-century agricultural good practices, Akase explained that open grazing is extinct in most countries of the world, such as in Europe, America, Asia and in many countries in Africa where pastoralism has long given way to ranching.

In his own reaction, Ijaw leader, Edwin Clark, criticised Buhari for describing the ban on open cattle grazing by the Southern Governors Forum as illegal. Clark, who turned 94, yesterday, spoke to newsmen after the celebration service in his Abuja home, by the Anglican Church. He also expressed the same view on Arise News, yesterday. 

Clark described the president’s statement as very unfortunate and advised him to retract it because the Constitution makes it clear that governors are Chief Security Officers of their respective states, and as such, the president can’t dictate to them how to govern.

“I listened to the president and I think the first thing one should say is that the blame goes to his Attorney General, who knows the law. I have been a lawyer for 55 years and we know the constitution and the sections being referred to from time to time. You cannot equate cattle with human beings.

“The president swore to an oath that he will protect all Nigerian citizens and their property. The welfare of the people should be his main concern.  The president’s statement is very unfortunate. I want to advise him that he is the president of all Nigerians, including me who voted against him, and he is the president of his friends and enemies; he has to accommodate everybody. So, for him to behave as if he is the president of a section of this country, is unfortunate. This cannot be the quality of a Nigerian president.  

The Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, (COSEYL) in a statement by its President-General, Goodluck Ibem, yesterday, described the president’s comment as “unfortunate”.

Ibem said:” We are alarmed by the recent statement by the spokesman of the president, Mr Garba Shehu, condemning the ban on open grazing by southern governors.

“It is quite unfortunate that a man like Garba, who should know better, would make such statement because of tribal sentiments.

“We need to remind him that we are not in a military regime, but a democratic system where power belongs to the people, for the people, and by the people. Under a democratic setting, you do not impose any strange practice on the people.

“The people have rights to demand what they want, and open grazing is not among the needs of the Southern part of Nigeria, hence, the ban by the southern governors,” Ibem said.

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