Open grazing: Presidency reiterates herders’ rights, questions legality of Southern Governors’ position

Uba Group

BY LINUS CHIBUIKE

THE Presidency has thrown its weight behind the right of every Nigerian to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, regardless of the state of their birth or residence.

This position comes on the heels of the Southern Governors’ proposed plan to ban open grazing in their region.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement on Monday that President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier approved measures to end the herder-farmer clashes before the Governors’ pronouncement.

He said this just as he noted that their position was of questionable legality.

He 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.

“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 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 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.”

He noted that with veterinary clinics, water points for animals, and facilities for herders and their families, including schooling – through these rehabilitated reserves, the Federal Government was making far-reaching and practical changes.

These changes, he added, allowed 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.”

Shehu said in spite of the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy, federal funding for the project, which had been delayed, was now being partly unlocked.

According to him, the process for achieving full actualisation of the modern reserve system in consenting states should take off in June.