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Buhari plans to reopen grazing route, masses kick



President Muhammadu Buhari’s pronouncement last week that his administration would reinstate cattle routes and grazing areas across the country to ensure herders have free access for their animals have continued to generate flaks



In apparent response to the ban on open cattle grazing by the 17 Southern governors, the president said when the governors gave the directive that open grazing would be banned, he referred them to the gazette that makes provisions for cattle routes and open grazing areas. He then said he has resolved to revive those routes and grazing areas in the country to resolve the issue.





“What I told the governors was to ask them to go and dig up the gazette. There are certain routes and grazing areas so that when cattle rearers were moving from the north to the west, they were allowed to go through there. But if you allow your cattle to stray into any farmer’s farm, you are arrested and the farmer is invited to submit his claims. Those who encroach on these cattle routes and grazing areas would be dispossessed.”



However, in separate reactions, Arewa, Igbo and Yoruba groups roundly condemned the statement saying the move rather than resolve the issue would exacerbate it.


As far as the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) is concerned, reactivating open grazing routes may cause legal and security problems.





Spokesman forf the group, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a telephone interview, reminded the president that the 1999 Constitution gives state governors powers cover land and to even revoke federal land.


“The reactivation of open grazing routes in southern part or any other parts of the country is problematic both in legal terms and security. I would have said the best way to go is for us to seek legal interpretation beyond the Office of the Attorney General. The Federal Government can actually sue governors that ban open grazing and the court will rule whether they are right or wrong.


“I will reserve final judgment on the president’s position. We caution that there is more to open grazing than availability of land and routes. It is not about opening the grazing routes, it is also about the security of the cattle and herders, and getting the support of communities that they will go through. Our open grazing requires political will. The Federal Government has already adopted the National Livestock Transformation programme to equip the Fulani. We, in the North, are in favour of ban of open grazing but we want it to be done in phases, in an orderly manner that does not harm the cattle and the Fulani. We also support the active intervention of the Federal Government, the northern governors and everybody to make sure that in the next one year or two, open grazing is abolished completely. I think this is the way to go.”


However, the Association of South East Town Unions (ASETU) in collaboration with other respected Igbo groups, including Nzuko Umunna, Aka Ikenga, Igbo World Assembly (IWA), World Igbo Congress (WIC), Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), Ekwe Nche, European Igbo Communities, Igbo Board of Deputies, Council of Igbo States in America, Nkata Ndi Inyom Igbo and South East Community Youth Leaders, rose from a one-day emergency security meeting with a vow to resist open grazing in the region.


The coalition warned that governors in the zone who fail to implement the ban would be treated as foes.


National President, ASETU, Chief Emeka Diwe who made their position known, said the meeting totally condemned the continued attacks by killer herdsmen in Igbo communities and urged governors to rise to the occasion and protect their people.


Stressing that the primary purpose of political governance was the security of lives and property, the Igbo groups charged governors who had not kick-started the processes of enacting anti-open grazing laws, to as a matter of urgency, send Executive Bills to their respective Houses of Assembly.


“Our position is very clear, which is the stand of Ndigbo; we say no to open grazing and are not making any pretences about that. We insist that any cattle in the South East must be ranched. So, we urge all nomadic herders to leave our land. We also urge our governors to do everything possible to implement the ban on open grazing. In fact, Ndigbo will treat any governor who fails to carry out this heartfelt desire and demand as an enemy. We equally urge each state to have forest guards with legal backing to ensure that our forests do not harbour terrorists and criminals,” Diwe said.


The groups regretted that President Muhammadu Buhari who had never spoken strongly against the atrocities of Fulani herdsmen and bandits was threatening to visit another festival of blood on the Igbo.


ADF recalled that it had been in the forefront of the agitation for the banning of open grazing in Igboland since 2015, hence its insistence on the enactment of anti-open grazing laws as the most potent strategy to prevent armed Fulani herdsmen from overrunning the Southern states.


Its spokesman, Abia Onyike, said the law to be passed in the State Houses of Assembly should be accompanied by clear modalities, instrumentalities and machineries for their enforcement. He added that the effectiveness of this move depended on the synergy between the governors, the legislators and the people, including the civil society organisations.


Similarly, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, said the president’s pronouncements fell far short of what was expectation.


“We have some questions for Mr. President and the Attorney General in this respect. One, who created the so-called grazing routes? At what time in our history did our founding fathers gather to designate specific routes from the north to the south as ‘grazing routes’? Two, assuming without conceding, that there were so-called grazing routes, what would now happen to structures that have been built in areas where the so-called routes are to be re-opened? Would such structures, including residences and factories be pulled down so that cows would have places to graze? Compared to what would be lost economically, socially, politically and in security terms if these structures are to be pulled down, is it not better to encourage the building of ranches? We can go on and on.”


Afenifere claimed President’s pronouncement on open grazing and his confession on how he determines who occupy positions at the national level seems to indicate that Buhari’s government is operating a constitution that is different from the 1999 Constitution.

“For instance, Section 2 of the Land Use Act, the law governing land matters in the country, vests the administration and control of lands in a given state in the hands of the governor of the state. It is such that even when the Federal Government wants to use a portion of land, it has to seek the consent of the governor of the state concerned. Since most governors in the country have outlawed open grazing in their respective states, on which land does the Federal Government want to ‘open’ or ‘re-open’ its vaunted grazing routes? Why talking of grazing routes in this age when ranching is the fad in all civilised climes?”


The group claimed President Buhari seems to derive pleasure in shifting blames and responsibilities when pressed on what his government ought to do.







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