Southern Governors Set for Showdown with President Buhari over Grazing Routes
The governors of the 17 states in Southern Nigeria appear set for a showdown with President Muhammadu Buhari, as they insist that their ban on open grazing in their various domains remain.
President Buhari had declared in a recent interview that his government was planning to revive the cattle grazing routes of the First Republic.
The Southern Governors’ Forum had placed a ban on open grazing of cattle in the south of Nigeria during a meeting in Asaba, Delta State.
They claimed that the decision to ban open grazing was to end the incessant clashes between herders and farmers and to contain the killings and kidnappings often blamed on herders.
They said ranching of cattle would be a better alternative.
A number of northern governors and the umbrella body of cattle breeders, Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) supported the move.
President Buhari however had a contrary view, faulting the Southern governors’ position and dismissing it as an infringement on the right of herders to free movement.
The president’s position mirrored the view of the attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, who had earlier vehemently argued against the ban.
The southern governors spoken to have insisted on maintaining the decision to ban open grazing, which they took at the Asaba meeting until the forum decides otherwise, while some northern governors have said they are making plans for grazing reserves.
In his reaction, the chairman of South-South Governors’ Forum and Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, said as of 1963, Delta State had not been created.
The governor, who spoke through his chief press secretary, Olise Ifeajika, stated, “Yes, Mr President directed the AGF to dig out a gazette of 1963 which marked out cattle routes across the country.
“Delta State has no such law because the 1963 gazette he talked about does not in exist in the state.”
On Buhari’s support for open grazing, Okowa said whether the President backed it or not, the governors in the South had made their position on the ban on open grazing known and nothing would change it.
“We stand by our resolutions,” he stated
On its part, Ekiti State government has said that it will continue to abide by the decision of the Southern Governors’ Forum on the ban on open grazing.
The state commissioner for information, Mr Akinbowale Omole, said the stance of the governors on the issue remains effective until the forum decides otherwise.
Omole said, “The decision of the Southern governors on open grazing in the region was a joint one; as such the state cannot solely make a pronouncement against it.
“You know the decision was taken after a meeting of all governors from the zone, so we will have to wait for another joint meeting to know the next thing. So, we will not act unilaterally on the matter as a state and government.”
Also, the Ondo State government said it was oblivious of the existence of any grazing route in the state, adding that it stood by the southern governors’ ban on open grazing, despite Buhari’s support for it.
The special adviser to the state governor on agriculture and agric-business, Mr Akin Olotu, told newsmen that cattle routes were not known to be existing in the state.
He said, “We don’t know about any grazing routes in this state, and if they have them in their records, let them show us. I think events have taken over such things now. What I mean is that, that time they were talking about what was the population of the country?
Similarly, the Osun State governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, has said the decision to ban open grazing was a collective decision of Southern governor, therefore, the decision to reject or embrace the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to revive grazing routes as contained in First Republic gazette will be appropriately addressed jointly.
Speaking for the governor in Osogbo, his chief press secretary, Mr. Ismail Omipidan said it will not be appropriate for Governor Oyetola to solely react to an issue that concerns many states without a resolution by the parties’ concerned.
Benue State government came out clearly to declare its opposition to the president’s stance, saying no land in Benue State had been gazetted for grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colonies and Ruga settlements.
It also described the idea of reviving grazing routes of the first republic as shocking, curious and a misplaced priority.
The state governor Samuel Ortom also asked the federal government to count Benue State out of its plan to commence rehabilitation works on grazing reserves across the country
Ortom made his position known through his chief press secretary Terver Akase, and said “We may not stop the federal government’s plan to rehabilitate grazing reserves or create cattle routes in other states, but we wish to make it clear that no land in Benue State has been gazetted for grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colonies and Ruga settlements.
“Based on this, I want to state categorically that Benue State is therefore not part of the grazing reserves rehabilitation programme of the federal government.
“We have been reading and hearing in the media the pronouncement by the federal government that it will soon commence rehabilitation work on grazing reserves in the country. We find the move not only shocking and curious, but also as a misplaced priority.
He recalled that 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 the growing urbanisation and population of the country, and consequently resolved to sensitize herders on the need to adopt ranching as the new method of animal husbandry.
He pointed out again that 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, equally adopting ranching as the alternative method of rearing animals.
“So, as it stands, the Presidency is the lone hand pushing for the continuation of open grazing and the return of cattle routes of 1950s and 60s. The Presidency has, by its endorsement of open grazing, emboldened armed herders who lay claim to all lands in Nigeria as belonging to Fulani, hence their invasion of farming communities and killing of original owners of such lands,” Ortom said.
Governors of Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Enugu, Rivers and Ondo states have equally expressed their support for the ban on open grazing while affirming their opposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance.