Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia State governor.

The governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, as well as other Southern governors, have maintained their stance on open grazing ban, noting that their decision is final.

The 17 Southern governors had after their meeting in Asaba, Delta State on Tuesday, issued a communique banning open grazing in the region, even as they asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately convene a national dialogue with a view of restructuring the country.

However, their resolution attracted backlash from certain individuals in the North, notably Borno South Senator, Ali Ndume and Professor Usman Yusuf, former Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme, who argued that the ban could not stand, as the herders were not consulted.

But reaffirming his government’s stand at the weekend, Ikpeazu reiterated his commitment to enforcing the ban on open grazing of cattle in Abia.

The governor who spoke during a zoom meeting with newsmen of Abia extraction under the aegis of Abia Media Forum, said that a bill was already in place to enforce the ban and to check the activities of criminal elements disguising as nomads.

“We are now at the point of making sure that we enforce and implement it and even in doing that I must also share what I see as a challenge to the enforcement of that law,” he said.

“The law is in place and we are taking steps to enforce it. It has become imperative that we enforce that law strictly because we just noticed that we have big time trouble in our hands.

“We have those that we refer to as criminal herdsmen; they are different from the ordinary herdsmen that we have been living with all these years. We now have in our mist bandits that have infiltrated from the rest of West Africa and other parts of Africa and their assignment is to come here rape, kill and kidnap people for money.

“It is now very imperative that we enforce that law,’’ he added

Similarly, Rivers State governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, on Saturday, maintained that the ban will stay, as according to him, Southerners are not second class citizens of Nigeria.

Speaking at a civic reception organised in his honour by the Ogoni Ethnic Nationality of Rivers State in Bori, headquarters of Khana Local Government Area on Saturday, the state governor, Wike said the decision ban open grazing was cast in stone, even as he said he is not afraid of anybody.

“Look, I have been in government, I am in opposition, nobody can cow me. Magnus (Abe), they know, their government cannot cow me. I will say what I will say and I will do what is right for my people. Nobody will anything to me. I will die the day God says it is my day. Nobody can take my life when it is not time for me to die. So, let nobody be afraid,” Wike said.

“Let me also use this opportunity to say, all those who are saying why should Southern Governors ban grazing – I have taken further steps to fulfill what the Southern Governors said in Asaba. If anybody wants to die, go and die and hang yourself on electric pole.

“We have taken a position and we are not going back. Enough is enough; we are not second class of citizens of this country. We also own this country and we must partake in what is happening in this country.”

Also, Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, while addressing party members in Asaba at the weekend, maintained that the ban was sacrosanct, even as he said their call for devolution of powers was most in order.

“Yes, I’ve heard a lot about the southern governors meeting. We thank God for that meeting. We thank God for bringing us together. The things that we said aren’t new. We’re only re-echoing what our people have been agitating for,” Okowa said.

“But unfortunately I read that somebody said we ought not to talk about certain things as elected people. If the voice of your people is out always and as an elected person you shy away from giving further voice to their voices, then you ought not to be in the position you occupy.

“So, I thank our people in the House of Reps who have responded to the speech made by their colleagues,” he enthused.

Okowa argued that there was no reason for any region or individual to be afraid of the governors’ stance as a non-issue relating to dismembering the country was discussed at the forum.

“As I did say, there’s none of the things we’ve discussed that’s against the unity of this country. We believe in the unity of our country as elected leaders. But we also went ahead to advance for some things that must be done to give strength to the unity.

“We talked about restructuring which has been on the table for too long. Both the voices of the PDP and the APC have been on restructuring.

“And restructuring is all-inclusive and all-encompassing. We all have different views on it. But when we all sit at a round table, we’ll agree on what’s best for us all.

“The conversations have started and our people are talking and when we do not give backing to their voices, then we’re giving room for further crisis.

“Other leaders should thank the southern governors for giving further voices to the conversation which can bring about a country with fairness, equity and trust among the people,” he concluded.