There were strong indications on Sunday that Southern governors would meet with President Muhammadu Buhari after his return from France.
A source in the Southern Governors’ Forum told one of our correspondents that arrangements were being made for the governors to present their resolutions at their meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, to the President.
Recall that governors in the 17 states of Southern Nigeria had on Tuesday held a four-hour meeting in Asaba, Delta State.
As part of their 12-point resolution, the governors led by the governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, had said, “We observe that the incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the Southern part of the country has presented a severe security challenge such that citizens are not able to live their normal lives, including pursuing various productive activities, leading to a threat to food supply and general security.
“Consequently, the meeting resolved that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria.”
A top government official in Delta State, who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “The forum would definitely meet with the President, but the time the meeting will hold has not been revealed by them. But it is sure that the meeting with the President will hold.”
When contacted the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, said the Chairman of the SGF and Ondo State Governor Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, had stated that the forum would meet with the President. Buhari on Sunday began a four-day official visit to France, where he would attend African Finance Summit.
According to the presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, the summit will focus on reviewing African economy, following shocks from COVID-19 pandemic, and getting relief, especially from increased debt burden on countries.
Also on Sunday, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria demanded establishment of two or three models of ranches as part of measures to put an end to open grazing.
The General Secretary of MACBAN, Baba Ngerzema, who said this in an interview on Sunday, begged Southern governors over their ban on open grazing. He urged the Federal Government to assist state governments in establishing model ranches.
Ngerzema said the governors should consider the plights of pastoralists that would be affected by their declaration, saying some of them were born and brought up in those Southern states.
He said, “For the interest of peace and unity of the country, the Southern governors should consider the plights of the pastoralists as bonafide citizens while agitating for the anti-open grazing policy because some of these herders are born and brought up in those states.
“In order not overheat the already fragile security situation of the country, let them all temper justice with mercy. We call on state governments to unify purposes in their desire for peace.”
We’re not opposed to settling herders – MACBAN
He said MACBAN was never opposed to settlement of pastoralists throughout the country but that there must be a model of settlement for the pastoralists to see and emulate.
He regretted that there was no attempt by past administrations to modernise the animal husbandry practice in the country. “The pastoralists we have are those that practise the primitive system they inherited as the only option available for them, he added.
“This system is no longer sustainable considering the growing population that poses too much demand on the land that doesn’t increase at all.
“The pastoralists are also bonafide citizens whose rights and privileges deserve protection. The Federal Government must also come up with a policy to address the issue for the unity of the country. Each state government in the North should be assisted by the Federal Government to establish two or three models of modern settlements( ranch ).”
CNG lashes out South, directs herders to relocate
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Northern Groups, in a statement on Sunday said the Southern governors unfairly profiled the entire business community of herders as the sole cause of the bulk of the security challenges in the region in their resolution.
It accused the governors of deliberately leaving out the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Eastern Security Network among others in identifying causes of security challenges in their domains.
The CNG’s position was contained in a statement by its spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, titled ‘Response to the Asaba Declaration by Southern Nigerian governors.’
It added that the Southern governors neglected to acknowledge that just as development and population growth had put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations, so also had the mass movement of millions of people from the South into the vast interior of the North and the permanent nature of this movement.
It also accused the Southern governors of failing to attribute the current national woes to the regime of the All Progressives Congress led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The statement read, “Against the backdrop of these observations, on grazing ban, the CNG emphatically repudiates the vilification and targeting of the entire pastoral community for vilification, systematic dehumanisation, profiling, alienation or any action that will render them object of attack and persecution.
“The CNG categorically calls on all pastoralists and by extension, all Northerners living as minorities in the South, whose lives and livelihoods stand threatened by this regime of hostile and damaging policies to be ratified by the Southern governors, to immediately relocate with their livestock assets to the North.
“We demand absolute guarantee of protecting the lives and property of the pastoral communities as they relocate to the North, by ensuring their movement is not impeded by any legislation or obstacle imposed by a state or a community in the South.
“We demand the federal and Northern states governments to immediately identify suitable lands across the region and create grazing reserves and cattle routes through resort to extant provisions of the Land Use Act and other related laws.”
In Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike said that he would implement the ban on open grazing. The governor said he could not be cowed by anybody, saying there was no going back on the decision to ban open grazing in Rivers state.
Wike stated this at a grand reception in his honour by the people of the Ogoni ethnic nationality in Bori, Khana Local Government Area of the state on Saturday.
In a statement on Sunday in Delta State, Southern Speakers in a communique after their meeting, commended the governors for coming together to speak with one voice, saying the resolutions of the governors were pathways to resolving the problems facing the country.
The Speakers, said, “We the speakers of state legislatures in Southern Nigeria commend the governors of the southern states for their patriotism and firm belief in the unity of the country.
“We salute the governors for their initiative and restate our support for the positions of the governors. We wish to state unequivocally that the issues canvassed in the communique are neither new nor strange, rather they require swift response from the Federal Government.”
The comminuque was signed by the Deputy National Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori and four others.
Also, the Akwa Ibom State Government said it would stand by the position already taken by the Southern governors on opening grazing.
The Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Ini Ememobong, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Uyo, said, “It is not our business whether they are begging or not. Our position is to stand by the Southern Governors Forum which banned opening grazing. That is what we stand by. The duty of government is to be fair and equitable to all. Will the state government provide business models for all businesses?”
The Enugu State Government said it had not received any request from Miyetti Allah.
The state Commissioner for Information, Chidi Aroh who disclosed this to one of our correspondents, however, said Miyetti Allah should direct its plea to the southern governors. He said the state government stood by the position of the Southern governors
Also on Sunday, a human rights activist, Aisha Yesufu, slammed critics of Southern governors, saying that those against resolutions of the southern governors were selfish.
The activist, in a video uploaded on her Twitter handle on Saturday, said nobody had the monopoly of intolerance or self-centredness.
The governors’ resolutions also known as the Asaba Accord have been heavily criticised by Northerners including Ali Ndume, who is representing the Borno South Senatorial District in the upper chamber; as well as Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello.
However reacting, Yesufu lambasted the detractors of the southern governors, saying, “I see some people coming out to say the southern governors do not have a right to make the decision for A, B, C, D.
“The decision that you had as Northern governors with what right did you make them? The Southern governors do not have a right to make laws in their own states but you have a right to make laws in your own states?
She added, “Nobody has monopoly of intolerance, nobody has monopoly of being selfish, nobody has monopoly of being self-centred; everybody has the capacity to be, that some people don’t do it does not mean anything.”