The presidential endorsement for the recovery of about 368 grazing reserves in Nigeria, drew condemnation from many interest groups.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State declared the grazing sites recovery plan unacceptable. He accused the Presidency of seeking to turn Nigeria into a ‘cow republic’ through its grazing reserves policy, according to a report of the Nation newspaper.
Ortom wondered why the Presidency “is only bordered about animals and their safety and is deploying all machinery and arsenals of government to impose grazing reserves and cattle routes on Nigerians at this time when insecurity has reached an all-time high with hundreds being killed by armed herdsmen, bandits and other terrorists.”
“What is the difference between the Buhari administration’s approach to insecurity and the Taliban agenda in Afghanistan? It is now evident that the government at the centre prioritises the welfare of cattle over human beings,” Ortom stated.
“Additionally, the Land Use Act provides that governors are the custodians of all lands in their states. The Federal Government has no constitutional right to appropriate lands for itself or anyone else for that matter without the approval of state governors.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of tAfenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, said no one in the south-west geo-political zone will cede his land for grazing. The government does not have any right on our land, and the governors would not give our land for grazing.”
“The concept of Grazing Reserves, otherwise known as Hurumi, which was introduced during the colonial and immediately after independence, failed in the north, particularly in the Middle Belt, notwithstanding a monolithic one North government and permissive land use regime,” the Afenifere reminded.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Ohaneze Ndigbo socio-cultural groups, speaking separately for the south-south and south-east geopolitical zones of Nigeria respectively, vowed that no inch of land in the two regions would be ceded to the Federal Government for the purpose of grazing cattle.
In the words of Hon Ken Robinson, spokesman of PANDEF: “No inch of south-south land would go for grazing reserve. Cattle rearing is a business. If anybody wants to go into cattle rearing, the person should see it as a business. Do they reserve fishing reserve for us in the north? There is no grazing reserve in the south-south. That is our position.”
In his reaction, Alex Ogbonna, spokesman for Öhaneze Ndigbo, said: “Ohaneze’s position is that Igboland does not have land for grazing. Every land in the south-east is owned by God, people and shrines. I don’t understand what you mean by grazing reserve. Ohaneze’s position on this is no.”
Ajibola Basiru, senator representing Osun Central District of Osun State in south-west Nigeria and chairman of the Senate committee on media and publicity, told the Nation Newspaper that the issue of grazing reserves is not within the purview of the Federal Government since land is vested in state governors.
“You know I have raised this issue several times. I don’t believe the President is receiving proper advice on this grazing reserve matter,” Senator Basiru stated.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) called the Federal Government’s move an open invitation to civil war.
The group in a statement accused the federal government of “doing everything outside of the law to arm-twist other ethnic groups just so the President’s kinsmen are awarded the ancestral lands for their private commercial business of grazing cattle.”
President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, announced on Thursday that Buhari had approved the recommendations of a committee to review “with dispatch, 368 grazing sites across 25 states in the country and to determine the levels of encroachment.”
The committee headed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, called for the collection of field data collection on 368 Grazing Reserves across 25 states to assess encroachment and encroachers, stakeholder engagements and sensitization.
On its part, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has said the move made by the Federal Government to review 368 grazing sites across 25 states would douse tension between farmers and herders. The National Secretary of the association, Baba Othman Ngelzarma, in making this known to the Nation on Friday said the association is not opposed to any form of settlement that will bring peace between farmers and herders in the country, considering the growing population and the climate change effect in the country.