Nigeria: Buhari Questions Legality of Southern Govs' Ban On Open Grazing, Okays Ranching, Revival of Forest Reserves

(file photo).
24 May 2021

The perennial clashes between the herders and farmers may soon become a thing of the past as President Muhammadu Buhari has approved ranching and revival of forest reserves across the country.

The plan of action include approved actionable plan of rehabilitating grazing reserves in the states, starting with those that are truly committed to the solution and compliant with specific requirements.

The President also picked on the Southern Governors and described their recent decision to ban open grazing as illegal saying it infringes on the constitutional right of Nigerians to move freely in any part of the country.

Southern governors had at their summit in Asaba recently banned open grazing in the region to end the frequent clashes between farmers and herders and called for restructuring of the country.

The President, in a release on Monday by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, 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 statement claimed the President had approved a number of specific measures to bring a permanent end to the frequent skirmishes as recommended by the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, 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".

The statement said it was very clear that there was no solution offered from the Southern Governors resolutions to the herder-farmer clashes that had been continuing in the 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," the President said.

President Buhari also contested the legality of the Southern Governors' ban on open grazing saying "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.

The release further said: "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 release said despite the COVID-19 pandemic that took a toll on public finances, the federal funding for the forest reserve project was ready and will take off in interested states by June.

"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", the statement said.

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