The Fulani herdsmen in the country, have thrown their weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s support for the recovery of designated open grazing routes for them, as his own way of resolving the rising Farmers/Herders clashes, especially in the Southern and Middle-Belt regions of the country,
President Buhari called for this solution in an exclusive interview with ARISE TV, on Thursday.
However, Afenifere, a socio-cultural group in the South-West, Ohanaeze in the South-East, and PAN Niger-Delta Forum, PANDEF, in the South-South, have all kicked against the move, insisting that the power to allocate land is vested on State Governors, and not the President.
Some Analysts are of the view that if President Buhari pursues the recovery of grazing routes vigorously, prominent buildings in many States across Nigeria, and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, would be pulled down.
They said that there are hundreds of kilometres of grazing routes from Maiduguri, Borno State, that pass through Bauchi, Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, Cross River, and the Delta States region; and then from Sokoto to Kwara and many States in the South-West and South-East.
It would be recalled, that the 17 Southern States Governors had banned open grazing in the region, after a meeting in Asaba, the capital of Delta State.
President Buhari, who expressed his opposition to the decision, directed the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to kick-start the process of recovering lands from people who are using the cattle grazing routes for other purposes.
AGF Malami, who had earlier spoken against the decision of the Southern States Governors to ban open grazing, likened it to Northern States Governors banning spare parts business in their region, which is synonymous with South-Easterners.
Asked if he agrees with the AGF’s position, President Buhari responded: “You want me to contradict my Attorney-General?
“What I did was ask him to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic, when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, North to South or East to West, they had to go through there.
“If you allow your cattle to stray into any farm, you are arrested. The farmer is invited to submit his claims. The Khadi or the Judge will say pay this amount and if you can’t, the cattle is sold. And if there is any benefit, you are given and people were behaving themselves and in the grazing areas, they built dams, put windmills. In some places, there were even veterinary departments so that the herders are limited. Their route is known, their grazing area is known.
“I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into the cattle grazing.”
President Buhari also protested against the utterances of the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, who had accused him of failing to take action against the herdsmen, because he is also a member of the Fulani herders.
The President said that the Tivs, which form the majority in Benue State, and the Fulanis, have been engaged in cultural conflicts for a long time.’
His exact words: “The Governor of Benue said I am not disciplining the cattle rearers, because I am one of them. I cannot say I am not one of them, but he is being very unfair to me, and I told him that the Nigerian cattle rearer was not carrying anything more than a stick, sometimes with a machete to cut some trees and feed his cattle, but those sophisticated ones move with AK=47.”
Reacting to the President’s position, pan-Yoruba sociocultural organisation, Afenifere, said on Thursday, that the President Buhari’s statement on his plans to revive cattle routes and grazing areas, was unpresidential, and a big disappointment.
Afenifere stated that the President has violated the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, which he swore to uphold by the statement, as the Constitution vests the authority over land in a State, on the Governor.
The Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi, said: “Who designated specific routes as exclusively belonging to those who would be grazing cows? If you are doing this kind of thing in their own areas, it is understandable, that is their own area.
“I have not read anywhere that our forefathers sat down and agreed that these particular routes, maybe from Ogbomosho to Saki, or Badagry, for grazing.
“For us in Afenifere, the statement is unacceptable. We are solidly behind the Governors from the South, who banned open grazing.”
Also speaking, the Vice President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Damian Ogene Okeke, stated that there is no grazing route in the South-East.
He regretted that instead of President Buhari concentrating on restoring the glory of the country, he wants to revive grazing routes.
His words: “I was expecting the President to call for a meeting of Elders of various nationalities to discuss and proffer solutions to the nation’s insecurity. We need to meet ourselves and discuss the way forward for the country. It does not necessarily mean a National Conference, but we can have an Elders meeting.”
Also, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, said that President Buhari’s comments throughout the entire exclusive interview with ARISE TV, was a disaster.
The Spokesman of the group, Ken Robinson, stressed that PANDEF was not utterly surprised at the President’s ostensibly declaration of support for open grazing.
He said: “Everything about this Presidency indicates that it is not nationalistic. The conduct and actions of this administration have been largely parochial and sectional.”
Meanwhile, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, welcomed the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari, for all encroached grazing routes across the country to be recovered, without looking into what the Constitution says.
The Acting Publicity Secretary of the Association, Adamu Toro, said that the encroached grazing routes have been the main cause of the crisis between Herders and Farmers in the country.
He stated that most of the grazing routes have been taken over by lawless Nigerians, making it difficult for the Herders to move freely along with their animals.
The Association noted that though the President’s directive is coming late, it would go a long way to address the present crisis situation in the country.
“We thank Mr. President for that, and we do hope he will take further actions that will drastically reduce the present conflicts in the country.”
Toro also identified the collapse of the Local Government system, as one of the causes of the various crisss being witnessed in all parts of the country.
Another Herder, Mohammad Ardo, said that recovering of some of the encroached grazing routes is important, observing that there is no way Herders will move nowadays, without encroaching on some properties built on some of these routes.
“We should tell ourselves the truth, there is no way open grazing can be completely banned at the moment, it has to be something gradual, and before that will happen, we have to manage the situation.”