Stephen Angbulu, Olufemi Olaniyi and Matthew Ochei
25 May 2021
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The Presidency on Monday faulted the Southern Governors Forum’s recent decision to ban open grazing and other resolutions reached at their meeting, dubbing them “acts of politicking intended by its signatories to demonstrate power.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, gave the Presidency’s position in a statement titled, ‘President Buhari okays deep rooted solutions to herdsmen attacks, clears way for ranching and revival of forest reserves.’
Recall that Southern governors at their recent meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, as part of measures to address insecurity in the region, banned open grazing and called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to restructure the country.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, in an interview with Channels Television on Thursday described the ban as unconstitutional.
He said, “It is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the North.”
On Monday, while Buhari’s media aide, Shehu, backed Malami, the Ondo State Governor and Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, again faulted the AGF.
Shehu, in his statement , stated, “President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed a strong resolve to address the conflicts of herders and farmers in a sustained and lasting manner that should lead to the emergence of a permanent solution to the frequent clashes between them, as well as the associated problem of the gun-wielding ‘killer herdsmen.’
“The President had approved a number of specific measures to bring a permanent end to the frequent skirmishes as recommended by Alhaji Sabo Nanono, the Minister of Agriculture; in a report he submitted and the President signed off on it back in April, well before the actions of the Southern Governors Forum which attempts to place a ban on open grazing and other acts of politicking intended by its signatories to demonstrate their powers.
“It is very clear that there was no solution offered from their resolutions to the herder-farmer clashes that have been continuing in our country for generations.
“But the citizens of the southern states – indeed citizens of all states of Nigeria – have a right to expect their elected leaders and representatives to find answers to challenges of governance and rights, and not to wash their hands off hard choices by, instead, issuing bans that say: ‘not in my state.’”
Governors’ announcement is of questionable legality – Shehu
Shehu also raised the issue of legality of the Southern governors’ position in view of Nigerians’ right and freedoms.
He added, “It is equally true that their announcement is of questionable legality, given the constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT)-regardless of the state of their birth or residence.
“Fortunately, this declaration has been pre-empted, for whatever it is intended to achieve and Mr President, who has rightly been worried about these problems more than any other citizen in consultation with farmers and herders alike, commissioned and approved an actionable plan of rehabilitating grazing reserves in the states, starting with those that are truly committed to the solution and compliant with stated requirements.
“With veterinary clinics, water points for animals, and facilities for herders and their families including schooling – through these rehabilitated reserves, the Federal Government is making far-reaching and practical changes allowing for different communities to co-exist side-by-side: supporting farmers to till their fields, herders to rear their livestock and Nigerians everywhere to be safe.
“The entire country is acutely aware of the strain the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on public finances, for both federal and state governments.
“Still, given the pressing urgency of addressing the perennial challenges, the federal funding for the project that has been delayed is now being partly unlocked.”
He added that work would begin on the modern reserve system in a few of the consenting states by June 2021.
What is wrong if we demonstrate our powers – Okowa
Reacting to the statement, the Delta State Governor and Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, Ifeanyi Okowa, faulted the Presidency.
The governor, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, said nothing was wrong in the southern governors demonstrating their executive power.
He stated, “They said act of politicking and so what? If they want to call it politics, it is nothing to us.”
Meanwhile, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Usman, and his Ondo State counterpart, Akeredolu, on Monday advised the Federal Government to improve system of animal husbandry in the country.
The two governors spoke at the opening of the 2021 Nigerian Bar Association’s annual conference in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. The theme of the session one of the conference is, “ The imperatives of public interest in governance in Nigeria.”
The two governors had earlier in the year had altercations on open grazing and the use of sophisticated guns by herders.
Akeredolu, who is a former National President of NBA was the first to speak and he explained the ban on open grazing.
He said, “We cannot continue this lifestyle. If the Federal Government will come up to assist farmers, animal husbandry is another aspect of farming. If you are spending money on those who are into rice cultivation, why can’t you spend money on those who are into animal husbandry?
“The only way to do that is to take them off this anachronistic way of having to herd cows from Kaura Namoda to Lagos. It does not make sense, not in this century. It is the best to encourage ranching. It is very clear in my speech that Federal Government should assist states who want to establish ranches.”
Akeredolu said the comparison of spare parts trading with open grazing by Malami was most unfortunate. He said Malami’s response to the Asaba Declaration showed his mindset and he had challenged him to go to court based on that as well as his objection to the establishment of Amotekun Corps.
Bauchi State governor described the Buhari’s regime as clueless. He also made reference to the previous altercation he had with Akeredolu. He said there was nothing person between the two of them.
He said, “ I so much believe in Nigeria and what is happening today is giving me a lot of concerns. I know I have had altercations with my brother governor here when the issue of herders/ farmers was mentioned and Benue State Governor, ( Samuel Ortom).
“What the governor of Ondo State said is true. We as PDP governors gathered here ( Ibadan) last week and endorsed the position of southern governors. We did that, we made a lot of moderations to it.
“What I am against is ethnic profiling, criminalization of Fulani herdsmen. I will ever agree that all Fulani are criminals. A Fulani man is my hero just like Nnewi man who defies geographical challenges to be where he wants to be.
“Were we having this problem before? No. But why are we having it now? It is because of the cluelessness of this administration. Where are the Fulani killing people coming from?
“I agree with what he ( Akeredolu) said that the Federal Government and states should improve on the practice ( of animal husbandry).”