Twenty-three governors have keyed into the call for restructuring, following yesterday’s decision by governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Six PDP governors from the North, have joined the clamour by the 17 governors from the South who also canvassed a national dialogue and decentralisation of police at last week’s Asaba meeting.
The PDP governors are Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Dairus Ishaku (Taraba), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Balla Mohammed (Bauchi) and Bello Mattawale (Zamfara).
At different fora, Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Bello Masari (Katsina) and Babagana Zulum (Borno) had reiterated their clamour for devolution of policing to enable the governors, who are state chief security officers, to effectively tackle insecurity.
Yesterday, it was learnt that the 36 governors were planning a joint meeting to deliberate on the state of the nation, particularly the worsening insecurity.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) supported the Southern governors’ call for a ban on open grazing, stressing that the activities of some unscrupulous herders who invade farms and destroy crops cannot be condoned.
Also, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) demanded for a law to back the governors’ resolution on open grazing.
The Oodua Youths Coalition (OYC), in a statement, urged the Southern governors to hasten the implementation of their Asaba resolution.
However, former House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Chibudom Nwuche called for a joint meeting of the Southern and Northern governors to find a common position on the Asaba Declaration.
Rising from a meeting in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, PDP governors called on President Mohammadu Buhari to immediately send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly to amend the constitution to devolve more powers to the states to enable them tackle security under the state police.
The PDP governors also aligned with the Southern governors on the ban on open grazing, urging the President to call the meeting of the Nigerian Police Council, which comprises Mr President, all governors and other critical stakeholders, to evolve and implement strategies for combating the threats to national unity.
The call formed part of a six-point communique issued at the end of the PDP Governors’ Forum meeting held at the Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.
Twelve governors were present at the meeting. They are: Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom State), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Ortom (Benue) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta).
Others are Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi) and Deputy Governor Mahdi Mohd (Zamfara).
The PDP governors urged the Federal Government to take bold and deliberate on steps to ease the tensions in the country and concentrate on projects and policies that would promote national unity and cohesion.
Chairman of the Forum, Governor Tambuwal, read the communique after a closed door session, which lasted about three hours.
He said the essence of the consultative meeting was to further review the state of the nation and take practical steps to tackle the worsening security situation and reposition the economy.
The communique reads in part: “The meeting called on Mr President as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces to immediately send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly to amend the Nigerian Constitution to devolve more powers to the States with respect to security arrangements culminating in some form of State Policing and the general security architecture.
“In the interim, Mr President should summon an immediate meeting of the Nigerian Police Council, which comprises Mr President and all State Governors and other critical stakeholders to evolve and implement strategies to combat the present threats to our union, especially with respect to policing. The meeting agreed that the Police Force still remains the appropriate institution to secure our democracy and should not be subjected to personal attacks. The welfare, training, equipment, funding of all security agencies should be given priority.
“The meeting supports the earlier position taken by the Nigeria Governors Forum, Northern Governors Forum and recently by the Southern Governors Forum to adopt ranching as the most viable solution to the herders / farmers clashes in Nigeria; the restructuring of the Nigerian federation to devolve more powers and functions to the States; and reform of various civil institutions to achieve efficiency and equity for all sections of Nigeria.
“The meeting enjoins all Nigerians to work together to achieve peace and harmony with one another, devoid of discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and other cleavages. To this end, the meeting called on the incompetent and rudderless APC Government to take bold and deliberate steps to de-escalate and lower tensions in our country, and concentrate on projects and policies that will enhance and promote national unity and cohesion.
“The meeting re-iterated our earlier call for the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the Electoral Act that will ensure a free and fair election, including provisions for electronic accreditation and electronic transmission of votes.
ACF not opposed to ban on open grazing
Throwing his weight behind the call for ban on open grazing, ACF Chairman and former Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, in a statement, said: “The ACF does not see any reason to object to a decision taken in the best interest of all.
According to him, “the crisis emanates from the belief by most herdsmen that they are free to enter any farm, eat up the crops and rape or kill any one raising objections. Nobody or society can accept that.
“The current high price of garri is one obvious reason of this behavior. Few cassava farms cannot grow to maturity before it is harvested by the farmers. So food security is already being threatened”.
Ogbe, however, advised the governors not to think that merely banning open grazing will end the crisis.
He added: “The bulk of the violent herders are the ones marching in from neighboring African countries in large numbers, thousands at a time and showing no regards to boundaries, whether state or regional. They have to be stopped.
“Therefore, the Umar Abdullahi Ganduje formula must be adopted to stop the entry into Nigeria of cattle from West Africa. The solution is for Nigeria to seek an Amendment to Article 3 of the ECOWAS protocol, especially as regards the free movement of cattle and other livestock without special permits.
“If this is done, we have over five million hectatres of land in old grazing reserves left, enough to accommodate over 40 million cows, if well grassed and watered.
Ogbe added: “Northern governor’s should immediately look into this and see the viability. Within those spaces, ranches can be developed for lease to Nigerian herders so that this matter can be brought to an end. Thereafter any herders found roaming cañ be penalized.
“Our ECOWAS neighbours can find ways to deal with their own issues the way they deem fit. We can seek support from AFDB, the World Bank EU or the Kuwait Fund or any source willing to support us in resolving this problem. Hurling abuses, trading suspicion and threatening warfare as is currently the trend will only produce grief and disaster.”
The CLO in Akwa Ibom State demanded for a law to back the resolution of Southern governors to stop open grazing in the region.
It urged the governors to cause their Houses of Assembly to initiate law banning opening grazing by herdsmen.
In a statement by its chairman, Mr. Franklyn Isong, and secretary Comrade Christopher Ekpo, in Uyo, the state capital, the group condemned recent attacks and killings of security operatives in the state.
Former Representatives Deputy Speaker Nwuche called for a joint meeting of Southern and Northern governors to address the Asaba resolutions.
Nwuche said that the joint meeting has become necessary for the governors to find a common position on the resolutions.
The former deputy speaker, in a statement in Abuja, said the meeting will enhance national unity, equity, justice and fair play among the component parts of Nigeria.
He also commended the Northern governors for the various meetings they had held to strengthen the unity of the North and to chart a common course for the northern region.
Also, Southwest youths under the auspices of OYC has urged the six governors to implement Asaba Delcaration.
The youths said Northern leaders must understand that the dangerous situation in the country called for urgent and drastic solution.
President of OYC, Comrade Oluyi Tayo, who spoke at a press briefing in Akure, Ondo State capital, urged President Buhari to take action on the declaration.
He said the attack by Governor Yahaya Bello on the Asaba declaration was meant to create and imaginary battle between the President and the Southern governors.
He said: “While waiting for these Governors to stay true to their demands and see to its logical conclusion, we demand that the Southwest Governors implement these suggestions and positions in their respective states for equity and fairness.”