Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Enugu and Ondo state governments on Sunday have faulted President Muhammadu Buhari over the existence of a gazette, which marked out grazing routes for cattle across Nigeria.
This was stated in separate interviews with Punch by the various state governments officials, who also insisted on the ban on open grazing despite the President’s opposition to it.
Recall BuwaNews reported that Southern governors at their meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, last month banned open grazing as part of measures to address killings by herdsmen.
It was further reported that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, faulted the governors, saying their action was like banning the sale of spare parts in the North.
Despite criticism Malami’s statement attracted, Buhari, during an interview with Arise Television on Thursday, supported open grazing.
According to Buhari, he had directed Malami to produce a gazette, which delineated grazing routes in all parts of the country in the First Republic.
The President stated, “What I did was to ask him to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) were moving up country, north to south or east to west. They had to go through there.”
However, in his reaction, the Chairman South-South Governors’ Forum and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, said as of 1963, the state had not been created.
The governor, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Olise Ifeajika, stated, “Yes, Mr President directed the AGF to dig out a gazette of 1963 which marked out cattle routes across the country.
“Delta State has no such law because the 1963 gazette he talked about does not in exist in the state.”
On Buhari’s support for open grazing, Okowa said whether the President backed it or not, the governors in the South had made their position on the ban on open grazing known and nothing would change it. “We stand by our resolutions,” he stated.
Also, the Ondo State Government said it was oblivious of the existence of any grazing route in the state, adding that it stood by the southern governors’ ban on open grazing, despite Buhari’s support for it.
The Special Adviser to the state Governor on Agriculture and Agric-business, Mr Akin Olotu, in an interview with The Punch, said cattle routes were not known to be existing in the state.
He said, “We don’t know about any grazing routes in this state, and if they have them in their records, let them show us. I think events have taken over such things now. What I mean is that, that time they were talking about what was the population of the country? Now Ikere Ekiti and Ado are almost one. Akure is almost joined with Owo. Akure and Ondo are almost merged.
“So where are the routes? Then the population of the country was about 60 million. What is the population now?, Where are the routes? So like I said, if they show us the routes, then we will know what to do next.”
Similarly, when contacted, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Mr Charles Titiloye, said he was not aware of any gazette which marked out grazing route in the state.
On open grazing, the state government said it still stood by the decision of the southern governors, which banned it.
The Special Adviser to the state Governor on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said the state would not allow open grazing of cattle in the state in spite of the pronouncement of the President.
He said, “The Southern Governors’ Forum has spoken at the meeting in Asaba (Delta State). They(the governors) have banned open grazing in the South. They even issued communiqué on the matter. That is where we stand in Ondo State.
“There is no going back on the ban on open grazing, no land would be given for open grazing or grazing routes for cattle in our state.”
On his part, the Cross River State Commissioner for Agriculture, John Okon Owuna, said he was not aware of grazing routes in the state.
“I am not aware if cattle routes exist in the state or a gazette which marks out cattle routes. All I know is that we have the Obudu Cattle Ranch,” the commissioner told Punch.
The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, also kicked against Buhari’s plan to reactivate old grazing routes in the country.
Ortom, in an interview with journalists, said there was no part of Benue State that was designated as a grazing route.
He stated, “I want people to know that we have a law in place and the law doesn’t breach the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I want to believe that our law is a win-win thing to provide security for the farmers and herdsmen against cattle rustling.”
The Enugu State Government said that it did not have any gazette on cattle routes.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Matthew Idu, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Enugu, said that cattle rearing was a private business.
He stated, “I have not seen such a document on cattle routes, neither has anybody informed me of any.
“Cattle rearing is an individual business. It is not a government business. So I don’t see why government should be involved in a private business. So it is a private business and those who are doing their private business should look for how they could do their business successfully and efficiently without encroaching on other people’s businesses.”
The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Information and Strategy Mr Ini Ememobong, also told Punch that there were no grazing routes in the state.