The opposition stance of the federal government on open grazing proscribed by Southern state governors has been condemned by Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana.
Mr Falana who spoke at the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law Annual Conference 2021 on Tuesday advised the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to stop crying more than the bereaved by kicking against the ban which has been accepted by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).
The federal government on Monday said it was going to reactivate grazing reserves nationwide as the solution to farmers and herders clash. This came two weeks after the 17 state governors prohibited open grazing, which they said causes food insecurity among others.
While the Southern governors have replied the presidency saying they have no land for grazing reserves scheduled to begin next month, Benue State governor reiterated that his state does not have land for grazing reserves and advised that ranches be set up instead.
“…In its belated response to the reckless killing of farmers, destruction of farms, kidnapping and raping of women by killer herders, the federal government has decided to revive grazing reserves as a knee-jerk reaction to the decision of the Southern Governors Forum to ban open grazing,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said.
“Thus, the reaction of the Presidency has further polarised a country whose unity is being seriously threatened by separatist groups. But the reaction is uncalled for having regard to the fact that the National Economic Council and the Nigeria Governors Forum had banned open grazing and resolved to embrace ranching.
“Whereas the Presidency has said that the fundamental right of armed herders cannot be abridged, why has the Federal Government decided to restrict the movement of cattle to grazing reserves?
“Last Friday, the Federal High Court ruled that state governments have the power to enact anti-grazing laws. Therefore, it smacks of brazen official impunity on the part of the Presidency to have said that the ban on open grazing is of doubtful legality.
“Even though it has been said that the policy would take off in June, not a single grazing reserve has been identified, prepared and put into use. Similarly, the Federal Government had announced in 2016 that 55, 000 hectares of land had been acquired in 11 states for the establishment of ranches.
“By April 2018, the Federal Government launched the National Livestock Transformation Plan with emphasis on the establishment of ranches. The Federal Government later turned round to adopt Cattle Colony and Ruga policies which were rejected by a number of state governments.
“Instead of further dividing the country along ethnic lines, we call on the Federal Government to halt the mindless killing of farmers and kidnapping of innocent people by killer herders.
“Instead of weeping more than the bereaved, the Federal Government should listen to the Miyetti Allah which has accepted the ban on open grazing and demanded the establishment of ranches.
“Since there is a popular demand for the proscription of open grazing, all hands should now be on deck to establish ranches without any further delay.
“From the information at our disposal not less than 24 states have applied to the Federal Government for the grant to establish ranches. The Presidency should not compound the crisis by giving the erroneous impression that grazing reserves are different from ranches,” he added.