In a bare-faced rebuke of Southern Governors for calling for a ban on open grazing, President Muhammadu Buhari has announced what he described as deep rooted solutions to herdsmen attacks, which would clear the way for ranching and revival of forest reserves.
Also, in a tacit regurgitation of comments by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN, the President’s office described said Governors’ position “is of questionable legality, given the Constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT) -regardless of the state of their birth or residence.”
A statement by his spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu, reads in full: President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed a strong resolve to address the conflicts of herders and farmers in a sustained and lasting manner that should lead to the emergence of a permanent solution to the frequent clashes between them, as well as the associated problem of the gun-wielding “killer herdsmen.”
The President had approved a number of specific measures to bring a permanent end to the frequent skirmishes as recommended by Alhaji Sabo Nanono, the Minister of Agriculture in a report he submitted and the President signed off on it back in April, well before the actions of the Southern Governors Forum which attempts to place a ban on open grazing and other acts of politicking intended by its signatories to demonstrate their power.
It is very clear that there was no solution offered from their resolutions to the herder-farmer clashes that have been continuing in our country for generations.
But the citizens of the southern states – indeed citizens of all states of Nigeria – have a right to expect their elected leaders and representatives to find answers to challenges of governance and rights, and not to wash their hands off hard choices by, instead, issuing bans that say: “not in my state.”
It is equally true that their announcement is of questionable legality, given the Constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT) -regardless of the state of their birth or residence.
Fortunately, this declaration has been preempted, for whatever it is intended to achieve and Mr. President, who has rightly been worried about these problems more than any other citizen in consultation with farmers and herders alike, commissioned and approved an actionable plan of rehabilitating grazing reserves in the states, starting with those that are truly committed to the solution and compliant with stated requirements.
With veterinary clinics, water points for animals, and facilities for herders and their families including schooling – through these rehabilitated reserves, the Federal Government is making far-reaching and practical changes allowing for different communities to co-exist side-by-side: supporting farmers to till their fields, herders to rear their livestock and Nigerians everywhere to be safe.
The entire country is acutely aware of the strain the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on public finances, for both Federal and States. Still, given the pressing urgency of addressing the perennial challenges, the federal funding for the project that has been delayed is now being partly unlocked. Actual work for the full actualization of the modern reserve system in a few of the consenting states should take off in June.
Meanwhile, the President on Monday hosted Professor Faustin-Archange Touadera, President of Central African Republic at State House, Abuja, telling him that his first concern for his people is their security and well being.
“At all times, that is my first concern, my priority,” President Buhari said. “That is why we are hosting a summit of Lake Chad Basin Commission in Abuja, to discuss the situation in Chad, and the implications for neighbouring countries.
“The recharge of Lake Chad with water from Congo Basin is another issue, as it holds great implications for security, since about 30 million people are affected.”
President Touadera commiserated with his host over the military plane crash last weekend, which claimed the life of Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff, and 10 others.
He said Central African Republic is on the verge of rebuilding its Army, and would need Nigeria’s help, as well as for Nigerian businessmen to come into the country to invest in diverse areas.
“We want closer ties with Nigeria, and that is one of the reasons I am here,” President Touadera said.