President Muhammadu Buhari has challenged the governors of southern Nigeria to be more practical and find solutions to the open grazing problem instead of chickening out by making a blanket ban.
President Buhari said this in a statement issued by Garba Shehu, his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, on Monday in response to issues raised as a result of the open grazing practice by herdsmen in the country.
The southern governors had at their meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, on 11 May announced the ban on open grazing across the region.
However, prominent politicians and influential persons from northern Nigeria, including Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, have expressed their opposition to the resolution.
President Buhari, who is from Katsina State, has added his voice to the debate and opposed the ban by the governors, saying that the governors’ “announcement is of questionable legality”.
According to the president, all Nigerians have been guaranteed by the constitution the right of movement across the length and breadth of the country.
He stated that the southern governors did not proffer any solution to the lingering open grazing crisis, noting that they were elected by their constituents to find answers to challenges of governance and rights rather than make easy choices.
The statement read: “The President had approved a number of specific measures to bring a permanent end to the frequent skirmishes as recommended by Alhaji Sabo Nanono, the Minister of Agriculture in a report he submitted and the President signed off on it back in April, well before the actions of the Southern Governors Forum which attempts to place a ban on open grazing and other acts of politicking intended by its signatories to demonstrate their power.
“It is very clear that there was no solution offered from their resolutions to the herder-farmer clashes that have been continuing in our country for generations.
“But the citizens of the southern states – indeed citizens of all states of Nigeria – have a right to expect their elected leaders and representatives to find answers to challenges of governance and rights, and not to wash their hands off hard choices by, instead, issuing bans that say: ‘not in my state’.
“It is equally true that their announcement is of questionable legality, given the Constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT) -regardless of the state of their birth or residence.”
Shehu stated that President Buhari has “expressed a strong resolve to address the conflicts of herders and farmers in a sustained and lasting manner that should lead to the emergence of a permanent solution to the frequent clashes between them, as well as the associated problem of the gun-wielding “killer herdsmen”.
The statement read: “Fortunately, this declaration has been preempted, for whatever it is intended to achieve and Mr. President, who has rightly been worried about these problems more than any other citizen in consultation with farmers and herders alike, commissioned and approved an actionable plan of rehabilitating grazing reserves in the states, starting with those that are truly committed to the solution and compliant with stated requirements.
“With veterinary clinics, water points for animals, and facilities for herders and their families including schooling – through these rehabilitated reserves, the Federal Government is making far-reaching and practical changes allowing for different communities to co-exist side-by-side: supporting farmers to till their fields, herders to rear their livestock and Nigerians everywhere to be safe.
“The entire country is acutely aware of the strain the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on public finances, for both Federal and States. Still, given the pressing urgency of addressing the perennial challenges, the federal funding for the project that has been delayed is now being partly unlocked. Actual work for the full actualization of the modern reserve system in a few of the consenting states should take off in June.”