South-South governors, socio-political regional organisations and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday rose against the federal government's insistence on recovering grazing routes for herders in the country.
The regional groups include Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and Middle Belt Forum, MBF.
Recall that an official of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture weekend re-echoed President Muhammadu Buhari's directive last week to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to recover all grazing routes nationwide for purposes of checkmating farmers/herders' crisis in Nigeria, saying there was no going back on it.
But reacting yesterday, Chairman of South South Governors Forum and governor of delta State, Dr, Ifeanyi Okowa, said: "Well, I think that is where the test of the federating units would be carried out because Governor Nyesom Wike has said that now that Parliamentary workers have ended their strike, he will take a bill to the State House of Assembly on the ban on open grazing.
"It's already existing in some states, Benue has it, Ekiti has it; our state is ready to take the bill to the House of Assembly. I will see how he can stop them. If they are not going back on their own, they cannot stop states from putting a law and enforcing the law.
"If there are grazing routes that were there more than 50 years ago, now they want to take them back, I don't know whether that one is progressive. The entire country is opposed to it. So, if the Presidency wants to operate it in area that the Presidency alone controls, we will watch and see.
"But I know that the governors of the Southern states cannot go back on it; they are for ban on open grazing and that they will do; I know."
Reopening the grazing routes is unacceptable-- Afenifere
In its reaction, Afenifere's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Jare Ajayi, said the Federal Government's insistence showed disdain and contempt it had for the people.
He said: "The insistence of the present administration on re-opening the so-called grazing routes shows the duplicity, dishonesty and the draconian tendencies of the government. The insistence also further underscores the extent of the disdain and contempt this administration has for the people.
"We say this because government policies are supposed to be for the people. Majority of the people across the country have embraced ranching.
"Even the Minister of Agriculture, Nanono, disclosed that 22 states plus the Federal Capital Territory have agreed to provide land for grazing.
"He went further to give names of the states, including the 400,000 hectares of land already said to have been provided by various states.
"Since the preponderance of opinion across the country is to go the modern way, which is ranching, why should the government insist on resuscitating what has become anachronistic?
What is more? It has been established that the so-called grazing routes did not exist in all the states in the country.
"Ms Winnie Solarin, a director in the Ministry of Agriculture, was quoted as saying that the areas where structures have been erected would be spared.
"In practice, this cannot happen. Once they have started, they may not stop. They would want to go the whole hog. Reopening the grazing routes is unacceptable."
Buhari is backpedaling --Ohanaeze
On its part, Ohanaeze Ndigbo in a statement by the spiokesman, Chief Alex Ogbonna, said: "It is funny, it is difficult to understand what he wants to do; to revalidate grazing routes, for what? It is like revalidating slave routes.
"Our President is backpedaling. We say the world has changed. We have come to a critical juncture where by any decision we take, we look back to assess it. We must look forward. Our President is backpedaling, which is unfortunate".
There're more important things Buhari should talk about -ADF
Also reacting, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, advised President Buhari to talk of more serious issues that abound in the country.
In a statement by the spokesman, Abia Onyike, the group said: "The APC Government of President Muhammadu Buhari should save this country from this Fulani hydra-headed problem of open grazing or no open grazing.
"There are more important issues to talk about. "The President and his executive have no right to impose their parochial interests on the Nigerian Nation.
"The National Assembly should oppose Buhari's revanchist policies of Fulani triumphalism and save Nigeria from an impending Holocaust.
"Buhari was elected President but that doesn't make him the owner of Nigeria. If he continues with his dictatorial stunts, then the human rights Community will drag him to court.
"Let the Southern Governors be fast in getting their houses of Assembly to make laws on anti-open open grazing and let us see what Buhari and his Attorney General would do.
"The best they can do is to go to Court. Their lawlessness and unbridled dictatorship in defence of Fulani herdsmen has become a National tragedy. Nigerians must resist them."
Buhari taking Nigeria backwards -- PANDEF
In its reaction, PANDEF in a statement by its national chairman, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, said: "Countries, and individuals are going forward and not backward.
"In this technology era, we must not go back to doing things the way they were done in the 19th century. And people have built on most of those grazing routes used during the first Republic.
"So people who are into livestock - poultry, piggery, cows should do it as a business. If you are into cows business, buy land and build your ranch. It is your business, so you have to go and buy your land. I have a piggery farm and I bought the land for the farm.
"Buhari's federal government should see the problem that the open grazing is causing. Then they should take the ranching solution that is going on everywhere in the world.
"You can only hear this in Nigeria and in West, you don't hear it anywhere else. We (PANDEF) condemn what the federal government has said about this issue because times have changed. Herders don't have to destroy another man's business because of their own.
"Last Sunday somebody was killed in Ikot Ekpene Local government area because they carried cows into his compound about 3 a.m, he came out and asked them why they carried cows into his compound by that time of the night and they hacked him to death.
"The brother is still in the hospital, so why should it be like that? It is not right in this 21st century. So our position is that whoever wants to do herds business should buy land for ranch and not to expect government of a State to give you land free."
Grazing routes not constitutionally feasible, states own land not FG - MBF
Similarly, Middle Belt Forum, MBF, in its reaction signed by the National President, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, said: "We are advocates of ranching, which should be community-based because every community knows its local Fulani.
"And the federal government should come out with a policy where our local Fulani who are Nigerians will be accommodated and made to ranch their cattle in the community where they are known.
"We had in the past rejected the programme of Live Stock Transformation, RUGA, Cattle Colony and now the latest which is cattle routes.
"Anyway, it is archaic, it is unfounded and we are also saying no to it. It should be ranching which is the solution.
"And then, the federal government does not even own land, by the provisions of the constitution which we are operating, which many of us advocates of restructuring are saying is faulty, vests ownership of land on the people and the state governors and local government chairmen hold it in custody for the people.
"The federal government does not have land, that is why the president only has the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, as his territory where he is in charge and appoints a minister to supervise it for him.
"So, he who owns the land is the one that would determine whether there is a cattle route or not and not the federal government."
Listen to Nigerians, CAN urges FG
Also reacting yesterday, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, asked the Federal Government to listen to the cries of Nigerians and suspend the recovery of grazing routes.
CAN in a statement by the Vice Chairman (Northern region), Reverend John Hayab, said: "The government must not violate our laws to please some people. What is the constitutional provision for?
"Or what is contained in the national gazette about grazing routes across Nigeria? Is it because the government is refusing to obey court orders that it is insisting on recovering grazing routes, even when they know it will only add to our many conflicts?
"If we truly want to nurture this democracy, then our government must learn to listen to the opinion of citizens."
While calling on the government to do only what will give peace a chance, CAN claimed that some wealthy Nigerians controlled a sizeable share of the cattle market and could afford ranching.
"Many pastoralist we see out there are taking care of the cows for some faceless rich men who can afford to ranch.
"But since they love to have everything for free, they are risking the lives of innocent Nigerians with their selfish demands for grazing routes.
"Therefore, we are appealing to the government to pay attention to the cries of Nigerians and do only what will give peace a chance," it stated.
Vanguard News Nigeria