Nigeria: Anti-Grazing Law - Defence Minister's Comments Personal Opinion, Not Federal Govt's - Audu Ogbeh

Armed herdsmen.

The comment by the defence minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, that anti-grazing laws by some state governments are responsible for the farmers/herders clashes, has been described as his personal view by Audu Ogbeh, minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Mr. Dan-Ali, in January, while briefing state house correspondents at the end of a meeting of security chiefs with President Muhammadu Buhari, said the decision of some states to enact laws to stop open grazing triggered the violence.

He said, "Whatever crisis that happened at any time, there has to be remote and immediate causes. What are the remote causes of this farmers/herders crisis? Since Independence, we know there used to be a route whereby these cattle rearers use.

"Cattle rearers are all over the nation, you go to Bayelsa, you see them, you go to Ogun, you see them. If those routes are blocked, what happens? These people are Nigerians, it's just like you going to block river or shoreline, does that make sense to you?

"These are the remote causes. But what are the immediate causes? It is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians, we must learn to live together with each other, that is basic. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!"

The minister expressed a similar stance in June, calling on affected states to suspend the implementation of the laws. His comment has since been condemned by many Nigerians\ including the Senate and the House of Representatives.

A fellow minister, on Tuesday, however, asked Nigerians not to consider Mr Dan-Ali's views as that of the federal government.

The minister of agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, spoke on Tuesday at the presentation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan; a plan put in place by the federal government to permanently resolve the herders-farmers crises and improve meat and milk production.

PREMIUM TIMES published details of the plan, put in place by the National Economic Council.

At the event, Mr Ogbeh said the defense ministers' statement was his personal view.

"As for the minister's opinion, it is his view," the agriculture minister said of Mr Dan-Ali's comment.

Mr Ogbeh was responding to a journalist's question on whether the livestock plan, focused on transforming cattle rearing from being nomadic to ranching, was implementable considering Mr Dan-Ali's expressed views.

The agriculture minister said government was determined to implement the new plan.

"Cows cannot continue to roam the way they did in the past," he said, promising to engage Mr Dan-Ali not to express such views in future.

He said the plan is evidence-based and NEC which adopted it is headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

"NEC is chaired by the vice president. The vice president is more powerful than any minister," he said.

Benue, Taraba and Ekiti are some of the states where the anti-open grazing law has taken effect.

Mr Ogbeh described the laws as "desperate attempts" to resolve the incessant violence; and not causes of the violence.

The laws were enacted after several states suffered deadly violence often blamed on herdsmen.

Hundreds of Nigerians were killed early January in some of these clashes in Benue and Taraba states.

Also at the presentation of the government plan in Abuja, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, described the defence minister's comments as "casting the government in bad light."

"He needs to apologise to Nigerians," Mr Ortom said while defending his state's anti-open grazing law.

"We have challenged anyone with a better option to put it on the table," he said of the state law.

The governor, however, said like any other law, it was still possible to amend controversial parts of the Benue law.

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