Presidency Gets Knocks Over Positions On Open Grazing

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The Presidency received knocks yesterday for kicking against the ban on open grazing by governors of the 17 states in the South.

Governors Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Samuel Ortom (Benue); Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta) and nonagenarian Edwin Clark, described the Presidency’s reaction to the ban as “shocking” and “provocative.”

Akeredolu, Okowa, Ortom, and Clark spoke at different fora in Akure, Asaba, Makurdi and Abuja.

The Presidency, in a statement on Monday by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, questioned the legality of the action of the governors.

Claiming that the May 11 declaration in Asaba, the Delta State capital, by the governors, would not end farmer-herder clashes, he said the Federal Government had resolved to revive forest reserves and cattle routes as well as encourage the establishment of ranches.

But Akeredolu, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr. Doyin Odebowale, described Shehu as a “pitiable messenger” working “assiduously for extraneous interests.”

In the statement, titled: ”On the trail of an agent provocateur,” the Ondo State governor challenged the presidential spokesman to name ”this day, the real motive(s)” of those whose interests he is promoting.

According to the governor, anyone who had been following the utterances and his fellow travellers on the “self-deluding, mendacious but potentially dangerous itinerary to anarchy would know he was not working for President Muhammadu Buhari.

It added: “He (Shehu) cannot continue to hide under some opaque, omnibus, and dubious directives to create confusion in the polity. The easy recourse to mendacious uppity in pushing a barely disguised pernicious agendum is well understood.

“The declaration that the recommendations of the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, a mere political appointee like Garba Shehu, are now the ‘lasting solutions’ that eluded all the elected representatives of the people of the Southern part of the country exposes this man as a pitiable messenger who does not seem to understand the limits of his relevance and charge.

“He wants to ‘revive forest reserves’ but seems particularly uninterested in the current position of the same law, that he and his cohorts often misinterpret to serve parochialism and greed. Governors no longer have powers over the lands in their territories. They must take instructions from appointees of the Federal Government on such matters.

“It is superfluous, and that is being uncharitable, for anyone to remind us of the constitutional right of bona fide citizens ‘to enjoy rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 States (and FCT)-regardless of their state of birth and residence.”’

”It is clear that Mr. Garba seems to have issues understanding the difference between licentious criminality and qualified rights under our law. It is our duty to continually nudge him off his current state of cognitive dissonance. His pronouncement betrays dubiety and mischief.

“Shehu is a major supporter of the current pervasive anarchy in the land.”

The state has begun training 150 peoples on cattle ranching under its Feedlot Operational System of cattle rearing.

The training was organised in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

Okowa, through his Chief Press Secretary, Olisa Ifeajika, said: ”They said act of politicking and so what?

If they want to call it politics, it is nothing to us,” he added in a tweet.

In Makurdi, Governor Ortom described the Federal Government’s insistence on grazing reserves as a sign that it had hidden agenda.

The governor said his state should be counted out of the grazing reserves plan.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary Terver Akase, quoted Ortom as saying: “We find the move not only shocking and curious but also a misplaced priority.”

“We read a statement in which Garba Shehu said the Federal Government will commence rehabilitation work on grazing reserves in the country next month.

At a time the country is worried about the worsening security situation and many Nigerians are calling for national dialogue to address the fundamental issues that have led to the present state of affairs, the Federal Government considers the reopening of cattle grazing routes as the only solution available to it.

“It is now clear that there are hidden agenda which only the Presidency knows. Otherwise, all the regions of the country have accepted the fact that open grazing of animals is no longer fashionable and should be banned to pave the way for ranching, yet, the government at the centre is insistent that grazing reserves/cattle routes must be created across the country.

“We in Benue State have embraced ranching as the viable alternative to open grazing and there is no going back on our resolve.

“Our ranching law which prohibits open grazing is Benue people’s reaction to the incessant killings, and it is also an instrument of development.

“While we may not stop the Federal Government’s plan to rehabilitate grazing reserves or create cattle routes in other states, we wish to make it clear that no land in Benue State has been gazetted for grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colonies and RUGA settlements. Benue is therefore not part of the grazing reserves rehabilitation programme of the Federal Government.

Clark said the comment by Shehu showed that President Buhari was unfair to the South.

He wondered why the Presidency picked a hole in a valid decision by the governors of the South when it had never for once, opposed any position agreed upon by the 19 Northern governors.

The elder statesman described the stance of the Federal Government against open grazing as “unfortunate.”

Clark spoke to journalists after a celebration service held in his Abuja home to mark his 94th birthday.

He charged the President to direct Shehu to withdraw the statement as it was capable of setting sections of the country against each other.

“I will advise Mr. President to note that he is the President of Nigeria. He has a duty to protect all Nigerians.

“Being the President of Nigeria, it is very unfair and provocative for him to say that what the 17 Southern governors declared was illegal or does not carry the weight of the law.

“I think that’s a very bad statement, uncharitable, very unfortunate.”

A former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, said: ”All that our Southern governors need say to the latest statement from the @NGRPresident is: “We stand by our position and are in fact already at the planning phase of our decision for execution. After all, brevity is the soul of business.”

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