Anger Over President Buhari’s Plan To Reclaim Cow Grazing Routes

The decision of the Federal Government to reactivate old grazing routes across the country as part of measures to end herders-farmers clashes has sparked angry reactions from the governors, ethnic groups and bodies which condemn the decision as divisive and one that can lead to anarchy.

Akelicious gathered on Saturday that the decision is not on the table of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) though the president claimed he held discussions with state governors.

An authoritative source privy to the operations of the NGF, who spoke to Sunday Tribune on the directive

issued by President Muhammadu Buhari on fresh plans

to recover the grazing routes

observed that at no time did

the Governors’ Forum deliberate on the subject matter, urging that the forum

should not be dragged into

such controversy.

According to the source

who pleaded anonymity,

since the power on Land

Use as encapsulated in the

1999 Constitution is vested

in the state governors, the

NGF is insulated from taking

any decision on how each

state should run its affairs.

He, however, stressed

that the onus is on the presidency to give details of the

“recovery” of grazing routes

in order to allay fears of Nigerians.

The source further observed that the forum is a

platform where collective

decision is taken on behalf

of subnational government

rather than individual issue.

Reacting to development,

Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, on Saturday, restated the opposition of the

state to RUGA settlement or

similar policy proposed by

the Federal Government.

Speaking to Sunday Tribune, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Terver

Akase, said there is no need

to have a discussion with

the Federal Government

over its renewed determination to trace old grazing

routes and hand them over

the Fulani herdsmen.

According to him, the

people and government of

Benue State a long time ago

rejected RUGA and their opposition to the programme

stands.

“The people and Benue

State government rejected

RUGA a long time ago. So,

we don’t see ourselves embracing it. There is no going

back on that,” he said.

On the money voted for

RUGA, the governor reiterated his call for the antigraft agency to probe the

RUGA contract.

According to the governor, contracts were awarded and money was appropriated for it.

“Is it not in order that

questions be asked regarding how the funds were

spent? Benue is not part of

states to rediscover grazing

route,” he said.

He said that there is no

gazetted grazing route in

Benue, adding that the president could not be referring

to the state if he actually

gave such directive.

Elder statesman and Afenifere chieftain, Pa Ayo

Adebanjo, says the Federal

Government’s renewed interest in RUGA system has

shown President Buhari has

not abandoned his quest to

take over people’s land for

cattle herders rather than

ending clashes between cattle owners and farmers.

“Does this not show that

the Federal Government has

not abandoned its quest to

take over land in states as

routes for cattle herders?

Is RUGA policy, which has

taken off in some states,

not about taking care of the

cattle herders rather than

ending their clashes with

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farmers?

“We know. It is only those

who are stubborn that will

not know. All we are saying

is that, has he got the constitutional right to do so? It

is just going to cause constitutional crisis.

“Under the Land Use Act,

he cannot. The governor of

a state has the power. When

we say the man is desperate

to rule as a dictator, Nigerians think we are joking. All

he is doing now is the plan

made under the military

regime by the section of

the country controlling the

country.

“That is why we are doing

all the hue and cry. He is imposing a constitution written by some section of the

country for the country. This

is not our constitution but

an imposed constitution.

“Unless they restructure

the country now, the country will break. He is being

defiant. He cannot get that

done solely because it has

to pass through the legislative arm. Secondly, he has to

change the constitution.

“What happens to the

money the Federal Government is spending on RUGA

if they are still working

on routes for the cattle to

graze?

“The moment he still has

the power, that is what he

is doing. That is why most

of us are saying they must

change the constitution

now. He wants to commit

the nation.

“We say oil is no longer

profitable, but he is using

the money to explore oil in

the North. He is spending

the money they have not

got. And that is part of restructuring.

“If we restructure the

country and we share the

money according to derivation, he can’t use all these

monies. So, when we are

talking about restructuring,

people don’t understand.

“We are saying go back

to federalism, go back to

the constitution the founding fathers agreed to before

Independence and I could

mention the constitution

agreed to by Sardauna Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi

Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe,

Tafawa Balewa.

“We cannot deny it because the constitution we

use now is imposed on us

by the military in 1966. It is

a military constitution. That

is why he is allowing the Fulani herdsmen going to every nook and cranny of the

South armed.”

Plan, invitation to anarchy —Middle Belt Forum

Also reacting, the Middle

Belt Forum (MBF) has described the directive as retrogression and an invitation

to anarchy.

This is just as the Berom

Educational and Cultural Organisation (BECO) says such

decision would trigger more

problems and further create

more routes for terrorists to

flood the country.

MBF’s national president,

Dr Bitrus Pogu, said the government was not realistic in

its directive, nothing that

rather than move the country forward, it would engender retrogression.

“This government is not

always realistic in anything

it does and this is unfortunate. Where are the cattle

routes today? Even the

Central Business District of

Abuja may be a cattle route.

Instead of moving forward,

this government is retrogressive.

“Instead of cattle ranch,

they want to create cattle

routes so that cattle from

all over West Africa will be

traversing Nigeria. Does the

government want to take

people to the medieval age?

“What is wrong with

ranching? This government

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invested a lot in providing

facilities for Fulani to change

their style to ranching and

stay in one place and provide folders for their animals,” he said.

Pogu strongly advised

government to rather retrace its step and move

with modern ways of doing

things.

Also speaking, a university lecturer and secretary of

the Plateau State Ranching

Committee, Professor John

Wade, said the decision was

welcomed, but called for

dialogues among stakeholders.

According to him, what

will make the directive an

uphill task to accomplish is

that most of the routes are

no longer in existence since

they have been overtaken

by development.

“The other impossibility is

that some of the routes are

already overtaken by development. For example most

of the gigantic structures

you are seeing today like

Aso Rock, Sheraton Hotel

might have been built on old

cattle routes. So, it will be

impossible to reclaim them.

“Where the problem can

escalate is where the old

route is already overtaken

by development. It will be

difficult to just go and override them. But those routes

that are still intact and fall

within gazetted grazing reserve, these ones can be

properly utilized, developed

and integrated into the

ranching programme. It is a

question of socio-economic

conflict,” he said.

He further warned that

there must be consultation

with the stakeholders at

the different levels to avoid

problem because many of

the routes pass through one

indigenous routes or the

other.

BECO, through its leader,

Mr Gyang Dudu, said the

directive would not see the

light of day.

 “The truth is that government is not being sincere;

they are directing their energy to protect one section

of the country against the

other. This will only favour

the Fulani and that is all.

The cattle business is individual business, why is government concerned about

private business? Government should avoid what will

trigger more problems; they

should think beyond old

standard,” he said.

Afenifere flays Buhari’s govt

While condemning the

decision, pan-Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere,

described such move as an

agenda to which President

Muhammadu Buhari’s is “incorrigibly committed.”

National publicity secretary of Afenifere, Mr Yinka

Odumakin, told Sunday Tribune, that Buhari had not,

in the five years he has been

in office, shown commitment to anything that can

unite Nigerians, except playing the interest of one ethnic group against the other.

According to Afenifere’s

spokesperson, the new

move to revive the grazing

routes and reserves in pursuant of RUGA is an agenda

in Buhari’s government’s

“we” and “them” order to

which it is “incorrigibly committed.”

This was just as he said

that the Southern and

Middle- Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) was already in

court to challenge the move

to foist on the people of Nigeria such an order having

to do with grazing routes

and reserves.

Speaking further, Odumakin said the money so far

committed to RUGA meant

nothing, being proceeds

from oil and gas.

“The money they are

spending on RUGA means

nothing as it is proceeds of

oil and gas. It is the agenda

they are running that matters,” he said.

Nobody has contacted

us for discussion on grazing

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route —Lagos govt

The Lagos State government has said that it is yet to

be contacted by the Federal

Government for any discussion in respect of reviving

the grazing routes and reserves across the country as

indicated in the statement

issued by the presidency.

The state Commissioner

for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso,

made this known while

speaking to Sunday Tribune

by telephone, saying that

no message has been received so far whether from

the minister or any other

source.

Omotoso, however, said

the state government would

know what to say when

such contact was eventually

made.

“No message has been

sent to Lagos, whether from

the ministers or any other

source, Lagos hasn’t got

anything yet. So, I mean if

they come to Lagos, come

to us, we know what to say.

But nobody has come to discuss anything with us,” he

said.

Buhari’s directive political

—Gan Allah

In his own reaction, the

national secretary of Gan Allah Fulani Development Association (GAFDA), Ibrahim

Abdullahi, has described the

directive by President Buhari on RUGA as a political

statement.

Speaking in an interview

on Saturday, Abdullahi

noted that no government,

previous or current, has

taken real measure to end

the issue of grazing in the

country.

According to him, “some

people in government will

just coin phrases like RUGA,

colony and so on purportedly to bring confusion in the

land and make it look as if

these policies are meant to

benefit the Fulani alone.

“We are always at the receiving end. But no government official has contacted

us about the recent statement made by President Buhari that he wants to reclaim

grazing routes that had been

taken or destroyed.”

The Fulani leader noted that what the country

needed is a livestock development programme which

would involve every Nigerian since animal husbandry

is now a business and not

the sole right of a particular

tribe.

He alleged that the last

Minister of Agriculture,

Audu Ogbeh, compounded

the whole thing by demanding that every state should

give 500 hectares of land for

the RUGA.

“You see this is a political

statement. If you are demanding such land from

the state governments, no

governor will agree to this

demand. Whose land will

the governor take for this

project?

“Ogbeh should have

known that there are some

grazing reserves that were

created by the colonial masters. So, we all know that

these reserves were made

to serve for the rearing of

animals.

“When Sardauna came,

he paid compensation to all

the people whose land was

taken and converted them

to grazing reserves. The

1965 grazing reserves laws

provided for that.

“Now, for you to come

and say governors should

give 500 hectares while the

grazing reserves that are

supposed to be the property

of the pastorialists were not

developed or gazetted, it is

just politics or any attempt

to create confusion.

“So, all these grazing reserves should be gazetted

and then handed over to

the Fulani. Then those who

have not benefitted, it is

then you think of additional

land,” he said.


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