Showdown looms as Southern govs, stakeholders kick against move to revive grazing routes

Southern governors and stakeholders are getting ready for a showdown with the federal government over the latter’s move to revive grazing routes nationwide.

This is after their opposition to Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) initiative by the President Muhammadu Buhari regime met brick walls.

In a statement on Thursday, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu hinted that his principal has approved the recommendation of a committee set up to proffer solutions to the unending clashes of herders an farmers across the nation.

The recommendations included the reactivations of grazing routes in 25 states that were not listed but obviously have states in the South included because the North has 19 states while former boasts of 17 states.

Just like it occurred during the RUGA initiative, barrage of criticism have trailed the recent move which Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State said was akin to flogging a dead horse.

“In a country where insecurity has reached an all-time high with hundreds being killed by armed herdsmen, bandits and other terrorists, the Presidency is only bothered about animals and their safety and is deploying all machinery and arsenals of government to impose grazing reserves and cattle routes on Nigerians,” The Benue helmsman said through Terver Akase, his Chief Press Secretary who said it was “unacceptable” to the people of the state.

“It is now clear that the Presidency wants to plunge the country into an avoidable crisis. Otherwise, what is the justification for President Buhari’s insistence that grazing reserves be established across the country when Nigerians have openly kicked against the policy and have embraced ranching in place of open grazing?

“What is the difference between the Buhari administration’s approach to insecurity and the Taliban agenda in Afghanistan? It is now evident that the government at the centre prioritises the welfare of cattle over human beings and is bent on taking Nigeria back to the pre-colonial era with some snippets of society.

“If President Buhari must actualise his cattle agenda in Benue State, he should be ready to kill all of us! We know that grazing reserves and cattle routes are the only projects that the President has for Nigeria, but Benue State is not interested in such a project.

“It is hypocritical for the Presidency to support and fund ranching in Katsina State and turn round to impose grazing reserves on other states,” Ortom added.

Southern State Governors placed September 1 as deadline for all the states in the South to enact anti-open grazing bill. Many have complied with the directive opposed by the Presidency through the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) advised to seek redress in court.

Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State governor, who spoke through the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said the state already has a law against anti-open grazing bill.

“We are in a country of law and the law has given governors the control of land in their states,” Mr Aniagwu said in a statement. “The governor is the one who gives the Certificate of Occupancy to every individual and allows them to have full ownership of the land.

“We are convinced that very soon, the Federal Government will begin to have a rethink, knowing well that it is not legal for Mr President to be the one to map out land in the states,” he added.

Rivers, Bayelsa and Ekiti state governments also described the approval as dead on arrival because they all have laws in their respective domains against the initiative.

Diverse southern groups, including Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere; Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze; and the Pan Niger Delta Forum, also launched a heavy pushback against the President’s order.

While Afenifere in the South West region advised the federal government to backtrack on the move, Ohanaeze, through its youth wing, vowed that no inch of land in the South East region will be seceded for cattle colony.

“There are no grazing reserves in the Niger Delta. Let President Buhari create the reserves in Sokoto, Borno, Katsina and Kano states,” said the National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson. “In the six states of the South-South, there are no grazing reserves and that is our position. That is the position of the Niger Delta people. That is the position of the people of the South-South.

“Our leaders – traditional rulers and governors – have spoken and we the people are saying there are no grazing reserves for cattle rearing.

“Cattle rearing is a business and those in the business should see it that way and invest their money,” Mr Robinso added.