You’re wrong, governors, lawyers tackle presidency on open grazing …As Miyetti Allah restates support for ban

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• Akeredolu warns president’s aide to desist from being agent provocateur
• Afenifere, YCE, Clark denounce presidency’s position
• Miyetti Allah restates support for open grazing ban

Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, yesterday, cautioned the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, to desist from comments that can plunge the country into anarchy.

The Presidency had on Monday faulted the recent resolutions of the Southern Governors, including the ban on open grazing in the entire southern part of the country, adding that the governors’ resolutions failed to provide any solution to the lingering crisis between farmers and herders in the country.

Akeredolu insisted that Shehu, who derided the resolutions of 17 Southern governors meeting in Asaba two weeks ago, had no right to speak for President Muhammadu Buhari and the Presidency on the farmers/herders’ clashes.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr. Doyin Odebowale, in a statement issued to journalists in Akure yesterday, chided the Presidency’s response titled ‘Deep rooted solutions to the herdsmen attacks.’

Odebowale lamented that the President’s aide and his utterances, alongside other persons in the Presidency, were “self-deluding, mendacious but potentially a dangerous itinerary to anarchy.

“He works, assiduously, for extraneous interests whose game plan stands at variance with the expectations of genuine lovers of peaceful coexistence among all people, whose ethnic extractions are indigenous to Nigeria.

“Garba must disclose, this day, the real motive(s) of those he serves, definitely not the President. He cannot continue to hide under some opaque, omnibus and dubious directives to create confusion in the polity. The easy recourse to mendacious uppity in pushing a barely disguised pernicious agendum is well understood,” he said.

Describing his response to Shehu as “On the trail of an agent provocateur,” Adebowale pointed expressly that some elements in the Presidency were making moves to grab the southerners’ land for their kinsmen from the north.

According to him, “The declaration that the recommendations of the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, a mere political appointee like Garba Shehu, are now the “lasting solutions” which eluded all the elected representatives of the people of the Southern part of the country, exposes this man as a pitiable messenger who does not seem to understand the limits of his relevance and charge.

“Garba contends that ‘their announcement is of questionable legality,’ referring to the 17 governors of the southern states, but the decision of certain elements to take the ancestral lands of other people to settle their kinsmen, including the ‘gun-wielding killer herdsmen’ and their families is not questionable legality.”

The governor’s aide noted that there was no contention to the rights and freedom of anyone across the federation, but reminded the Presidential spokesman that there was dire need to embrace modernisation.

Odebowale iterated that the southern governors were duly elected to direct the affairs of the people, saying: “May we warn Garba and his cohorts to desist from hurling insults at the elected representatives of the people. He lacks the authority to make policy statements for the Federal Government, unless directed, expressly. His acts are clearly those of an agent provocateur. Other closet dreamers, aspirers to colonial fantasies, must be weaned off their delusion.

“No inch of the space delineated and known, currently, as Southwest, and indeed the whole South, will be ceded to a band of invaders masquerading as herdsmen under any guise.”

ALSO reacting to the statement from the Presidency on the now famous ‘Asaba Declaration’, governor of Benue State, one of the states worse hit by herders’ attacks, Samuel Ortom, yesterday, said the Federal Government’s insistence on open grazing suggests it has a hidden agenda.

The governor, in a statement by spokesman Terver Akase, said the insistence on open grazing reserves was curious. “We find the move not only shocking and curious but also as a misplaced priority,” the statement said.

The government said there was no land in the state to be surrendered to the Federal Government for execution of its planned cattle grazing routes.

‘’While we may not stop the Federal Government’s plan to rehabilitate grazing reserves or create cattle routes in other states, we wish to make it clear that no land in Benue has been gazetted for grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colonies and Ruga settlements. Benue is, therefore, not part of the grazing reserves rehabilitation programme of the Federal Government.

‘’On February 9, this year, the Northern States Governors’ Forum met and agreed that the current system of herding mainly by open grazing is no longer sustainable, in view of growing urbanisation and population of the country. The Forum consequently resolved to sensitise herders on the need to adopt ranching as the new method of animal husbandry.

“Also, the 17 Governors of Southern Nigeria rose from their meeting in Asaba on May 11 this year, with a ban on open grazing in the entire region. The Southern Governors equally adopted ranching as the alternative method of rearing animals. As it stands, the Presidency is the lone hand pushing for the continuation of open grazing and the return of cattle routes of 1950s and 60s. The Presidency has, by its endorsement of open grazing, emboldened armed herders who lay claim to all lands in Nigeria as belonging to Fulani,’’ the state government said.

ALSO irked by the Presidency’s statement, the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, lambasted President Buhari for rejecting the resolutions of the 17 Southern governors. Afenifere said the 1999 Constitution is the document that gave the President such power and temerity to reject resolutions of elected state officers like himself, who were acting in their capacity to ensure security of their states in time of aggression.

Speaking with The Guardian, chairman of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, called on the Sultan of Sokoto, all the emirs from the northern region and notable voices like Alhaji Aliko Dangote to ‘warn’ the President not to push the South beyond the wall through his actions.

He said: “I am not surprised that President Buhari rejected the Southern governors’ resolutions. Recall that when Benue Governor cried to him that armed herdsmen were killing Benue people, the president told him to go and settle with killer herders but the same President ordered that security agents should shoot on sight in the Southeast. What sort of double standard is that?”

Adebanjo said the leaders of the north should engage Buhari, otherwise Nigeria will either break or bend the way the President is driving it.

The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) blasted the Presidency over its comments. In a statement by the Secretary-General of YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, the group said Garba lacks understanding of federalism.

Prominent Ijaw leader and First Republic Minister of Information, Edwin Clark, yesterday, said it was unfair and provocative for the President to say the declaration by Southern governors against open grazing is illegal. Clark wondered why there was no criticism from the Presidency when Northern governors passed a similar resolution.

The elder statesman, who spoke in Abuja while celebrating his 94th birthday, advised the President to withdraw the statement and make peace with Nigerians. “I will advise Mr. President he is the President of Nigeria, not President of the North. We all voted for him and under the Constitution, he has a duty to protect all Nigerians.

“The Constitution, which his Attorney-General is quoting from time to time, provides only for freedom of human beings, freedom of Nigerian citizens to move from place to place. Not freedom of cattle or goats or sheep that they can come into your house and do whatever they like.”

In the same vein, senior lawyers also berated the President’s spokesman for inflaming an already volatile issue. Former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikorodu Branch, Mr. Adebayo Akinlade, said the President cannot tell the governors what to do with the land within their respective territories.

A lawyer and lecturer at the University of Lagos, Dr. Fassy Yusuf said the statement credited to Shehu was laughable.

“It is not different from what the AGF, who happens to be a senior advocate, said, talking about the constitutionality of the ban on open grazing. How can Shehu talk about ‘‘questionable legality’’ when the law is clear on this? Even the land Use Act gives power to every governor to be in charge of the land in his or her states on behalf of the people. Besides, the job of herdsmen is a personal business of people.”

Human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said Buhari was obviously ill-advised on the well-thought out Southern Governors’ stance against open grazing. If the Federal Government feels strong and sure about its puritanical, but legally flawed stance, I challenge the Federal Government to challenge the Governors’ resolutions by suing all the State Governors of Nigeria. The action will fail miserably. I am ready, able and willing to defend such states pro bono.”

MEANWHILE, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) says it is not against the ban on open grazing of cattle in the Southern part of the country, urging those condemning the decision to exercise caution.

South-East Zonal Chairman of MACBAN, Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday in Enugu, adding that “no one should vilify the Southern governors for the decision.”

Siddiki insisted that rather than condemn the action of the political leaders, a middle course should be negotiated to avoid the abrupt stop of open grazing preparatory to the commencement of better and modern methods of cattle rearing.

The MACBAN chairman said that such a move would douse the tension so far generated by the decision across the country.

Also, the Coalition of Northern Groups CNG has asked the Federal Government to take immediate steps to evacuate all herdsmen currently in the South back home. In a statement by CNG’s spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, the group said a study has shown that at present, only 10 per cent of Fulani herdsmen live and conduct business in the entire South.

CNG also told Northern governors to commence preparation to receive the returning Fulani communities and their livestock assets by identifying suitable grazing lands for them and making sufficient allowance for farmers at the same time.

Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said the growing call for secession in the Southern part of the country was because governors in the region have decided to surrender their mandates to secessionist tendencies and movements.

The Forum through its spokesperson, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, also accused the governors of building ethnic monsters and hiding behind them to whip up sentiments in a crude attempt to extract concessions no one is in a position to give or guarantee.

It alleged that some political leaders were taking advantage of the limitations of the President to carry out their sinister agenda.

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