Opening grazing ban ‘ll be difficult to enforce – Gov Abdulrazaq
Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq hardly grants interviews. In this rare chat with a select group of journalists, he speaks on the challenges of governing Kwara, how insecurity in North-West and ban of open-grazing in Southern Nigeria is affecting Kwara, his problem with Senator Bukola Saraki; and relations with Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, among others. Excerpts:
On his staying power in spite of challenges
I took an oath to serve the people of Kwara State. I am focused on service delivery to the greatest number.
To serve well, you have to be a good listener. And that is one of my strongest attributes. I talk less and listen more. It takes a humble person to listen.
We are not shouting about what we are doing. That is why it is like we are not doing anything, but the people are feeling the impact.
I started with where we’re coming from. The last administration was very good with the media, exceedingly good, the best in Nigeria.
We did our manifesto and programme, thinking we were coming to inherit something good. What they were saying was not what was on ground.
We really didn’t know the depth of the challenges. It was when we got in that we found out that our manifesto was useless because we credited the last administration with a lot of achievement based on what they were saying in the media.
On peculiar security challenges he is facing in Kwara
Security challenges are huge, especially with insecurity in the North-West, and the declaration by Southern Governors to ban open grazing.
Once they pronounced it and set a date, we saw a migration of herdsmen coming in to the extent that if you go to Kwara South, Kwara North now, in some villages, the Fulani have moved in. They are more in population than the indigenes.
Many times, I have engaged with the traditional rulers, especially to say, let’s be accommodating, it will soon pass.
The ban on open grazing is a law that cannot be enforced. It’s about fundamental human rights; the right to free movement. It is enshrined in our Constitution. You can try to minimize it.
But now you’re saying you have to buy your food and water from next month. It’s not going to happen. In terms of ethnic groups across Nigeria, in terms of literacy, the Fulani are at the bottom.
When you see the herdsmen, they are children, herding the cattle to the bush. Those children don’t understand. They are illiterate. You’ve gone to the bank to collect money to plant maize. He sees food for his cattle.
You see maize that you want to cultivate, sell and pay back your loan but he sees food for his cattle and he passes through your farm. What you also forget is where he is passing may be a grazing route from the colonial era.
They maintained that route. We don’t know it, they know it. It is like a federal highway. It’s been there. The British Colonial administrators created those routes; they put veterinary officers and tax collectors at certain strategic points.
They were collecting tax and vaccinating the cattle and all sorts of things. The routes were there like the federal highways. In Kwara, we have about four or five grazing reserves we inherited from the colonial era. They are there. We are going to take and develop those reserves.
With localization, global warming and urbanization, things have changed. Global warming means less water, less vegetation, desertification and therefore, smaller space, they have to come further South to graze.
Urbanization means that you have built on their grazing routes, where they used to graze 50 years ago for free, somebody else has a C of O on it now. He is doing his own plantation for maize.
But maybe from somewhere in Yobe, they have told the boy where to go, and he’s followed his father there before, so he knows where to go and forage, but when he gets there, corn is there but he knows that is where he used to come for food, but it’s now a farm.
In terms of literacy, he doesn’t understand that. He knows that this is where he comes to play. It’s his area.
When Yar’Adua came in, he had a challenge: militants in the Niger-Delta, production of petroleum products was reduced to less than 500,000 barrels a day from 2.2 million barrels.
What did he do? He sat down and did the amnesty programme which today has cost us about N1 trillion. Do you see any factories? Do you see anything? But we don’t care.
We know we used the money to buy peace and oil has been flowing well since then. Tompolo, everybody benefited. But we bought peace. Now, we are having a cycle of violence with Fulani herdsmen.
We’re not offering these Fulani anything other than the bullets. That’s the truth of it. What are the options? We say we ban open grazing, so what option did we give them other than move out of our state, we have banned open grazing?
They are Nigerians who have rights to freedom of movement. If you ban open grazing, you have to give them an option.
Northern governors agreed in principle that this thing is not sustainable forever. They said it will be sedentary but they need to set up committees to find out how to do it, to the extent that even Kano State said all the Fulani in Kano should remain, they should not move out.
So, a committee is going to be set up to look at how to mitigate these issues. To say, those that have land should give them land. But even with land, it is a big issue.
They say states own land. State do not own land. If you take a piece of land, you’ll have to compensate the original owners. The state has to buy the land.
And that’s why some governors are saying that the Federal Government needs to put money in this programme, the same way Yar’Adua invested money in the militants issue. Let’s begin to settle them.
Apart from the National Livestock Transformation Programme, there’s no real effort, other than to say, stop this. We need to open an avenue for them to say.
We want you to stop this, this is how we mitigate and compensate you. Some people might say, why should you compensate them, but they’re transitioning.
You need to either compensate them or give them enough time to change because the cost of beef has to go up, because they’re now buying food to feed the cattle, instead of getting it for free in the bush.
Contents provided and/or opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of The Pacesetter Frontier Magazine or any employee thereof.
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