President Muhammadu Buhari drew flak from across the country on Friday following his approval of the recommendations of a committee to revive 368 grazing sites in 25 states.
The first salvo came from Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State who declared the grazing sites recovery plan unacceptable.
He accused the Presidency of seeking to turn Nigeria into a ‘cow republic’ through its grazing reserves policy.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, all vowed in separate statements not to cede an inch of land in the South-south, Southeast and Southwest for grazing purpose.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also called for caution on the part of the federal government.
Ortom, who is well known for his long standing opposition to open grazing in his state, wondered why the Presidency “is only bordered about animals and their safety and is deploying all machinery and arsenals of government to impose grazing reserves and cattle routes on Nigerians” at this time when “insecurity has reached an all-time high with hundreds being killed by armed herdsmen, bandits and other terrorists.”
The governor, in a statement through his Special Adviser on Media Terver Akase, said the latest move could plunge the country into crisis.
He said: “The Buhari administration has turned a blind eye to the unimaginable levels of encroachment on lands belonging to Nigerians by cattle. Mr President has never come out even once to condemn the activities of herdsmen and the attacks they visit on innocent people.
“The only time the President is heard speaking about atrocities of the herders is when he defends them.
“It is now clear that the Presidency wants to plunge the country into avoidable crisis. Otherwise, what is the justification for President Buhari’s insistence that grazing reserves be established across the country when Nigerians have openly kicked against the policy and have embraced ranching in place of open grazing?”
No one in Southwest will give land for cattle – Afenifere
The Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, dismissed moves to revive any grazing sites the Southwest.
Leader of the group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said no one in the geo-political zone will cede his land for grazing.
“This man (Buhari) is just stubborn, stubborn. Nobody! We are not going to cede our land for grazing,” he told The Nation on the phone yesterday.
Asked what would happen if the Federal Government insists on seizing such land, Adebanjo retorted: “Which government? The government does not have any right on our land, and the governors would not give our land for grazing.”
In a separate statement on the issue, the Secretary General of Afenifere, Sola Ebiseni, said President Buhari was just wasting scarce resources on a programme that lacks all conceivable growth capacity.
The Afenifere scribe described the policy on grazing reserves as the implementation of a script by the Fulani intelligentsia.
His words: “We recall and support the Resolutions of the Nigerian governors, particularly from the South of the country, banning all forms of open grazing, and it does not matter to us that some elected governors, in a federation, would condescend so low to functioning as members of a committee presided over by an appointed aide of the President, no matter the name in which his office is painted.
“The concept of Grazing Reserves, otherwise known as Hurumi, which was introduced during the colonial and immediately after independence failed in the north, particularly in the Middle Belt provinces, notwithstanding a monolithic one North government and permissive land use regime.
“For the umpteenth time, let the President be told that the constitution which he reveres relentlessly and the Land Use Act which derives equal force therefrom extol the majesty of the people over their land.
“Even the governor who holds the land in his state in trust for the people cannot dispossess any citizen thereof, except for proven overriding public interest through the due process of law.
“The current exercise is not only a waste of tax payers’ money, it is a sweet pipe dream in a fool’s paradise. Every herder has a state of origin. Let the governments of the respective states make arrangements for settled life for them in the territory where the culture is fully appreciated.”
PANDEF, Ohanaeze: ‘Our people have no land to release for grazing’
It was the same song of no land here for grazing from the South-south and the Southeast.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) representing the Southsouth and and Ohanaeze Ndigbo for the Southeast vowed that no inch of land in the two regions would be ceded to the Federal Government for the purpose of grazing cattle.
Spokesman of PANDEF, Hon Ken Robinson, in a telephone interview on Friday, said: ”Our simple response to that is that there are no grazing reserves in the South-south. No grazing reserves at all to be reviewed.
“No inch of South-south land would go for grazing reserve. Cattle rearing is a business. If anybody wants to go into cattle rearing, the person should see it as a business. Do they reserve fishing reserve for us in the north? There is no grazing reserve in the South-south. That is our position.”
Öhanaeze Ndigbo’s spokesperson, Alex Ogbonnia, said: “Ohanaeze’s position is that Igboland does not have land for grazing. Every land in the Southeast is owned by God, people and shrines. I don’t understand what you mean by grazing reserve. Ohanaeze’s position on this is no.
“Nigeria runs a federal system of government. Many houses of assembly have passed bills against open grazing and some of them have been signed into law. I am sure that in some states where the open grazing law has been signed is in operation.
“Even in the northern region there are some states that have banned open grazing. If the Federal Government wants to impose its will on the states, that is where constitutionalism comes in. I am sure some states will resist.”
‘It’s meant to arm-twist southern governors over grazing ban’
A faction of Ohanaeze Ndigbo interpreted the federal government’s directive as a response to the recent ban on open grazing by Southern governors.
It said it was meant to arm-twist southern governors to reverse the ban.
Secretary of the faction, Okechulwu Isiguzoro, asked the Southeast governors to resist any attempt to make them change their stance on open grazing ban.
He also warned Southeast governors that they would be taking a huge risk if they donated land for grazing.
He said: “Ndigbo will not condone further obnoxious policies from the Federal Government aimed at helping the enemies, especially the murderous herdsmen, to erect a” TALIBAN STATE” in southeastern Nigeria.
“Southeast governors’ forum had in the past given the region’s verdict that there are no available lands for grazing reserves or Ruga in anywhere in the East.”
“So we hope that no Igbo governor will sabotage this verdict, as it won’t go without sanctions.