Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who is the Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum was a guest on Channels Television where he spoke on issues on the anti-open grazing law and other resolutions by the 17 southern governors. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI who monitored the session for DAILY INDEPENDENT brings the excerpts:
Let’s begin with the issue of the anti-open grazing law. You gave a deadline of September. How many of your states are still having issues in signing the anti-open grazing bill into law?
At the meeting which we held yesterday (last week Thursday), virtually all the states have done that. Those who have signed are almost two-thirds and those who have not signed have had the laws passed by their respective houses. Some were just trying to dot the ‘Is’ and cross the ‘Ts’. So, from what we gathered at the meeting, virtually every other state has gone to work about the anti-open grazing law. We do not have any state that is left behind by that anti-open grazing law, except that we have some states who felt that they have some laws that were passed many years back but we decided to give a deadline that ‘yes, you had an extant law but we felt that those laws should be brought up to date’. One or two states had that and they are going to go back to work on it.
So, what is the larger picture of the anti-grazing law. What is the next step by end of September after all states have signed this bill into law?
As we read from our communique, we are clear and all of us are satisfied at the rate at which we have gone ahead on this anti-open grazing law. But what we have said is this, most of felt that there must be a peer review system in which the laws we have in the southern states will not be essentially different from one another. The threats we face is the same and the existence of those we are governors over are being threatened by a particular way of assault. Their means of livelihood is being threatened. So, it is the same thing. Everybody suffers the same damage and we felt that the only way out of this is, if we have to ensure that your cattles are herded in a particular way that will not be dangerous or will not cause inconvenience or damage to others, so, all of us have agreed on that and it is so simple. The laws cannot be different. All we are saying is ‘don’t graze in the open!’. If you have places you can rear your cattle, fair enough but don’t graze in the open to destroy other peoples means of livelihood. So, the baseline is that all of us have the same focus and that is what has given rise to this anti-open grazing law.
The Miyetti Allah few days ago came forward asking the federal government to stop the southern governors in implementing the anti-open grazing law. But it looks like that is late because almost all the states in the Southern region have now passed the bill. What is the position of the Southern governors on this?
Let me be clear on this. The position of the Southern Governors is that we have resolved not to respond to MACBAN, Miyetti Allah or whatever name they call themselves. We do not want to dignify them with a response. We are a government over a people and our respective states. How do we now want to get involved in discussions or arguments with MACBAN? The only thing that matters to us is that if anybody wants to challenge our action, let them go to court. We will meet them there but for us, I don’t think we have any response for MACBAN. They can call it any name that it is obnoxious or satanic. Whatever name they like, they can call it. We did not want to dignify them with any reply. We are not in the same category. We are talking about states, not associations. The states have taken a position on behalf of our people and that is the state law. if anybody wants to challenge it, he can go to court.
Are you worried that some of these groups said their livelihood is being threatened?
If their livelihood is being threatened, so they must threatened other peoples livelihood? No, nobody is going to allow this. We are saying there is modern ways of that cattle are reared now. Go and follow that. Simple! Look at what we are trying to do in Ondo state. we brought FAO to come. We have discovered that Miyetti Allah in Ondo state want to work hand-in-hand with the state government because they know that we are serious. They know that we are very serious and we are not taking these things lightly. So, they want to work with us. We have gotten FAO to come and find a way of teaching them how to rear cattle in modern ways. You can get a field for your cows, get feed for them and they are fatter. So, these are areas where we can more or less assist each other. But if their livelihood is threatened, it is not for them to threatened other peoples livelihood. This is what we say we will not allow. So, there is no problem.
The federal government is giving out N6b each for the reclamation of grazing routes in states of the federation. Has Ondo state receive its share?
Ondo state has not received any money but if money is being given out to trace grazing routes, be sure that Ondo state will not receive that. There is no grazing route anywhere. We will not allow that to happen. We are saying modern animal husbandry. That is what should be our concern now. We are not going to allow any grazing route. Route to where? We are saying you will not graze in the open and we have passed the law. There is no route we are going to allow anybody to trace in Ondo state. What we have said is very clear. But if there is money for us to have ranches, fine. We are encouraging ranches, there is nothing wrong in it. I have said it that if there are ranches, you can use trailers to convey your cattle to the ranches. But for you to continue to graze around the cities or in the forests, destroying other peoples farmlands, that is what we are saying is not going to happen. So, there is no grazing route in Ondo state. We will not allow it.