By Mukwuzi Joseph
The Presidency has finally reacted to the Southern Governors ban on open grazing in the region.
The Presidency’s stance on the ban was contained in a statement released by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu.
According to the presidency, the ban 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.”
The statement added that the Federal Government would commence partial implementation of the plan to rehabilitate grazing reserves in willing states, starting from June.
“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 on open grazing and other acts of politicking intended by its signatories to demonstrate their power.
“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’
“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.”