Southern Governors disagree as Presidency backs Malami on open grazing ban

The Presidency on Monday faulted the Southern Governors Forum’s recent decision to ban open grazing and other resolutions reached at their meeting, dubbing them “acts of politicking intended by its signatories to demonstrate power.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, gave the Presidency’s position in a statement titled, ‘President Buhari okays deep-rooted solutions to herdsmen attacks, clears the way for ranching and revival of forest reserves.’

Recall that Southern governors at their recent meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, as part of measures to address insecurity in the region, banned open grazing and called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to restructure the country.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, in an interview with Channels Television on Thursday described the ban as unconstitutional.

He said, “It is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the North.”

On Monday, while Buhari’s media aide, Shehu, backed Malami, the Ondo State Governor and Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum,  Rotimi Akeredolu, again faulted the AGF.

Shehu, in  his statement, stated, “President Muhammadu 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 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 o

on open grazing and other acts of politicking intended by its signatories to demonstrate their powers.

“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.’”

Shehu also raised the issue of the legality of the Southern governors’ position in view of Nigerians’ right and freedoms.

He added, “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.

“Fortunately, this declaration has been pre-empted, 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 state governments.

“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.”

He added that work would begin on the modern reserve system in a few of the consenting states by June 2021.

Reacting to the statement, the Delta State Governor and Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum,  Ifeanyi Okowa, faulted the Presidency.

The governor, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, said nothing was wrong in the southern governors demonstrating their executive power.

He stated, “They said act of politicking and so what? If they want to call it politics, it is nothing to us.”

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