President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari has chided governors of Southern states for banning open grazing of cattle by herders, describing it as “attempted ban” that has “questionable legality,” and “act politicking intended by its signatories to demonstrate their power.”

Recall that governors of the 17 states of the South, had at a meeting in Asaba, Delta State, on Tuesday, May 11, announced a ban on opening grazing of cattle in the region, as a way of curbing attacks and criminality committed by suspected herders.

The move did not, however, go down well with the Buhari government. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, last week, said the ban was unconstitutional and an infringement of the rights of herders.

The president in his response to the move in a statement by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, on Monday, re-echoed Malami’s arguments, noting that he has approved the rehabilitation of grazing reserves across the country as from June, to curb what he described as “skirmishes” between herders and farmers across the country.

The president, who questioned the legality of the recent ban on open grazing in the southern region of the nation, said his administration is working on other alternatives to bring peace between farmers and herders.

“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 statement said.

“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.”

Buhari argued that the governors announced the ban without providing solutions, insisting that the herders had a right to freedom of movement.

“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,” the statement continued.

“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.

“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.”

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