Divergent reactions continue to trail Tuesday’s call by the Forum of Southern Governors to ban open cattle grazing in the entire 17 southern states of the country.
The governors had, after a four-hour meeting in Asaba, Delta State, agreed that open grazing should be banned. Open grazing of cattle has often caused conflicts between host communities and migrant herders, leading to deaths in many states. Some of the herders have also been accused of committing other criminal acts like armed robbery, rape and kidnapping.
Expectedly, while the North kicked vigorously against the position of southern governors itemised in a 12-point communiqué, southern leaders embraced the move and called for necessary legislation to back the ban on open cattle grazing.
Firing the first salvo of opposition was Prof. Usman Yusuf, former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), who faulted the decision because the Southern governors did not consult Fulani leaders before making the ‘No Grazing’ regulation.
While appearing on AIT breakfast show, Kakaaki, yesterday, Yusuf said: “Southern governors must provide land for Fulani bandits to graze their cattle if they want to ban open grazing. Gathering in one hotel and giving a blanket ban is irresponsible.”
Other divergent reactions came in torrents. The National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Alhassan Saleh, called the ban an empty policy. “The governors are confused and mischievous, are herders the problem of this country? Are they IPOB killing people up and down, burning police stations?”
The National President of Kulen Allah Cattle Rearers Association of Nigeria (KACRAN), Khalil Mohammed Bello, said the ban on open grazing negates the 1999 constitution.
According to him, the Constitution allows every citizen to freely move peacefully without causing any harm or damages in any part of the country.
“We, therefore, reject the ban on the movements of cattle peacefully to any other part of the country,” he said, noting that the decision taken by the governors on open grazing was uncalled for. He also called on the 19 Northern Governors to provide an enabling environment for cattle breeders, while all the grazing reserves and cattle routes in the north should be retrieved from farmers.
This was the same view expressed by the Plateau State Chairman of Miyyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Nura Muhammad. According to him, ‘’It is never a good idea at all. What do you want the grazers to do? To carry their cows on their heads and start running? It should have been a gradual process. They should know that they are igniting conflicts to occur, which we are not advocating. They must give time. It is a compulsory thing to give them time. I am sure, they did not contact or consider the Fulani herders before taking their decision.”
The Bauchi State branch of Miyetti Allah said the call was a signal that Nigeria is heading towards disintegration. MACBAN Chairman in Bauchi, Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed, said: “This is a simple calculation, I have said it that we are heading to breaking up of Nigeria. The rulers are no longer interested in the people. Fulani people should move out from there –it is very simple.”
Elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, said the ban is not necessarily binding on the Federal Government. The founding member of Arewa Consultative Forum said: “Nobody can enforce its position on another person in Nigeria”.
Although Yakasai was in support of the governors’ demand for alternative measures to address the spate of insecurity in the country, he however urged the leaders to clearly spell out in affirmation, the kind of alternative measure they require from the Federal Government.
“It is unfortunate the advocates of restructuring have failed to clearly clarify in specific terms what they mean by restructuring. In white and black, what does restructuring Nigeria means? Well, as for me, I want to believe there are provisions in the Constitution for whatever anybody wants. Why can’t we take the advantage of that position to either amend or change the Constitution to suit our desires? But it is important to know that we are in a democracy and the principle is simple. It says the minority can have their say but the majority will have their ways.”
Also, former Senate Majority leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, noted that the Southern governors deviated from the issue by banning open grazing of cattle in all 17 states of the South. He accused the governors of engaging in a blame game, which according to him, could not solve the problem.
“As far as I am concerned, this blame game will not solve the problem. Governors are the chief security officers of their states, so, why are they talking about the President without talking about themselves? The governors are deviating from the matter.”
He continued: “The problem is not about open grazing. The problem is security. Most of the insecurity problems confronting Nigeria are not in the bush. We have four different types of security challenges. We have the insurgency in the Northeast, IPOB through the Eastern Security Network is creating insecurity in the Southeast, there is banditry in the Northwest. It is only in the North Central that we have issues of farmers-herders clashes. There is less problem in the Southwest except for the clashes between the herdsmen and farmers and the agitators for Yoruba nation. Similarly, in the South-South, they are trying to instigate the Avengers, but so far the area is peaceful.”
RECEIVING the barrage of criticisms from the north, Chairman of the Southern Governor’s Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, yesterday explained why the Forum placed a ban on open grazing across the region. Akeredolu during an interview on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said the decision is not new.
“It is not an entirely new issue; most of the governors have placed a ban on open grazing in their states before the meeting. We looked at what is happening in our respective states. Most of the states have passed laws on open grazing. Virtually all of us have passed that law.
“We felt that this open grazing must stop. It is causing a lot of problems particularly between the herders and the farmers. Whether we like it or not, times have changed and this must change. We must adopt a modern system of animal husbandry. In this day and age, they cannot continue taking cows by foot from Kano to Port Harcourt,” he said.
The governor said the Federal Government needs to throw its weight behind state governments that want to set up ranches, noting that this will benefit the herders who are exposed to dangers as they roam with their cattle.
The decision of the Southern Governors to ban open grazing comes three months after the Nigerian Governors Forum did the same. In February 2021, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, representing all 36 states in the country, said it had reached a consensus on the “need for the country to transit into the modern system of animal husbandry that will replace open, night, and underage grazing in the country.”
THE Southern Senators Forum (SSF) has thrown its weight behind the governors from the region for taking a firm position on burning national issues, including banning open grazing of cattle. The Senators submitted that such deft and unanimous policy would help in reining in those hiding under cattle grazing to unleash the terror of kidnapping and killing on the residents of the region.
A statement jointly signed by the Forum’s Chairman, Secretary-General and Publicity Secretary, Senators Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti), Matthew Uroghide (Edo) and Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu), respectively and made available to journalists in Ado Ekiti, applauded the step, describing it as a timely intervention. The Senators lamented how the Southern farmers were losing hundreds of millions of Naira to plundering of food crops through encroachments on farmlands, thus exposing the region to famine and acute food scarcity, apart from other criminalities.
“Available records have shown that attaining food security status would remain a mirage in the South owing to ravaging effect of outdated livestock grazing policy being unleashed on farmlands by some unscrupulous herders. Most appalling was the seemingly unabated kidnapping, raping and killing of our people by suspected herdsmen, who have become bandits heating up the system.”
However, the Southern Senators Forum encouraged the governors to swiftly follow up on their resolutions by immediately approaching the leadership of the National Assembly with a view to working with the two arms of the parliament to ensure that their well-articulated positions on the state of the nation, especially as related to restructuring, State policing and the jettisoning of archaic traditional grazing methods, are thoroughly addressed through the ongoing constitutional review exercise.
Also, the platform of Southern members in the House of Representatives threw its weight behind the clamour for the entrenchment of true federalism in the country. The lawmakers drawn from the 17 southern states argued that the measure would lead to the devolution of power, creation of state police, review of resource control and revenue allocation formula, as well as strict adherence to federal character principle in federal appointments in the shared interests of the federating states.
The group, led by Mr Ndudi Elumelu, affirmed that measure remains the only guaranteed way to ensure fairness, justice, equity to engender national stability, productivity and peaceful coexistence in the country.
FOLLOWING the resolutions of the Southern governors, some leaders of socio-cultural organisations have commended the move but unanimously said it came late. Leader of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide and spokesman, Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Isuwa Dogo, said the resolutions of the Southern governors over the rising spate of insecurity across the country and especially in the Southern part was a welcome idea and bold development “though it came late.”
According to Adebanjo, “That is a resolution they ought to have taken a long time ago when we in Afenifere insisted that the incumbent president does not need kid gloves to relate with. It was a welcome but belated move. I understand that the governors once wrote a letter on the state of insecurity and the menace of the armed herdsmen in the South to Mr. President, which he glossed over without taking any action. To us in Afenifere, that was an arrogant disposition from a President but now that the governors have taken a collective decision, the entire South is behind them.”
He said, “Let us wait and see if President Buhari will now term the meeting of the 17 governors as an attempt to topple his government as he insinuated recently that some gatherings are trying to pass a Vote of No Confidence on him. I wonder when the gathering of people to discuss issues that affect their lives becomes a meeting to topple the government?
Adebanjo disclosed that the people of the South have been holding grouse against their governors for keeping unnecessarily quiet over the escalating state of insecurity “but having summoned the courage to speak out and make a decision we are with them.”
Dogo, on his part, said the resolutions of the Southern governors were a welcome idea and in fact, all Nigerians, not only the Middle Belt governors should embrace and support them. He however said the only flaw in the resolution was the call on Buhari to organise a dialogue on restructuring.
“I want to disagree with the Southern governors. President Buhari cannot wake up one day and decide to organise a dialogue to restructure Nigeria. That is impossible. What we can do as a people is to put pressure on the National Assembly to implement the report of the 2014 National Conference, which contained all the requests made by the Southern governors.”
While also commending the governors, Olajide said, “Their resolutions are good but it only scratched the surface of our problems. I don’t know how they are going to implement the banning of open grazing in their various states without the support of the Federal Government that is solely in charge of the security agencies in the country.
“The fundamental thing is to change the 1999 Constitution with a view to returning Nigeria to true federalism. They cannot be addressing the problems of Nigeria piece-meal. They should have developed the resolutions into a Bill and send it to the National Assembly and demand that referendums should be included in our Constitution.”
MEANWHILE, in an open letter to President Buhari, a columnist and publisher, Chief Tola Adeniyi said the president probably is not aware that the country called Nigeria is already up in flames.
The letter read in parts: “I am in pain because the country that Allah has placed on your laps to nurture and protect has virtually slipped out of your hand and is heading to ruin and destruction. Every index that makes a country lay claim to development, survival, safety and security, unity and understanding, and justice and equity has taken a flight under your watch.”
Adeniyi said the President is probably not aware because he is being used by a clique of very powerful, egocentric and extremely wicked people for their selfish purposes and invidious agenda. He said Buhari has been rendered a glorified but pitiable prisoner by those who are using his office for their own selfish advantage.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has applauded the resolution of Southern governors. National Publicity Secretary of the Forum, Mr. Ken Robinson, said the people had expected the governors to meet before now, but however, “it is a good thing that they have met.
“We have seen the communique. It is very commendable. Their resolutions re-emphasized our positions, particularly on restructuring, open grazing, and the alarming state of insecurity. The days of open grazing are over and the sooner those who are in that business realize it, the better for all of us.”