From CALEB OGUNBAMERU, Ibadan, Abeya NEWS
L-R: Senator Rochas Okorocha, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State and Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state
Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum and Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed and former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha today in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, canvassed their positions on the ban placed by the Southern governors on open grazing in the region, with points of agreement and disagreement.
The three VIPs spoke at a technical session held at the 2021 annual conference of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), tagged: ‘The Role of Public Interest in Governance in Nigeria,’ held at Jogor Centre, Ibadan.
The conference was declared open by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.
Among those present at the occasion were Prof Pat Utomi; Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke, SAN, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, Chief Mike Ozhekome, SAN, and Akutah Pius Ukeyima, who represented Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Okorocha, who said the blame game among ethnic tribes must stop for the country to progress, noted: “Let us not go out of here with the belief that Nigeria is finished. Nigeria is a great country and it can’t finish. New Nigeria will soon come. There are injustice and poverty in Nigeria. There is cold relationship between poverty and insecurity. As long as these two evils of mankind have not been addressed, you might import all the equipment in this world to fight insurgency and banditry, it won’t yield any result.
“Our problems are injustice and poverty. I heard Governors Bala Mohammed and Rotimi Akeredolu speaking on ranching. I see it as injustice when a little boy travels about 1,000 or 2,000 kilometres as a herder on foot. For me, the injustice done to the boy is more than all this discussion put together.”
Governor Akeredolu, who doubles as the Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum, said: “The Southern governors in our meeting in Asaba (penultimate week), took a decision and banned open grazing in the southern part of the country – that I have said in my response to the Attorney-General, is irreversible. I maintain it. I am happy that for one reason or the other, I had to be in Ibadan on Sunday. I could not attend the APC South West Leaders’ Forum held in Lagos on Sunday. The forum also came up to support my position in that respect.
“The statement made by the Attorney-General of the Federation, comparing ban of open grazing with spare parts selling in the North is most uncalled for, and that has shown his own mindset, and I do not have any apology for saying it.
“Our position in the Southern Governors’ Forum is that we made efforts and said we owe a duty to herders. We cannot continue this lifestyle that is not productive. If the Federal Government will come and assist people in so many fields, animal husbandry is another form of farming that needs assistance. If you are spending on those who are involved in rice cultivation, why can’t you spend money on those who are involved in animal husbandry?
“The only way we can do that is to take them off this anachronistic style of having to herd cows from Kaura Namoda to Lagos. It does not make sense, not in this country. It is for us to encourage ranching. The Federal Government should assist states that want to establish ranches.
“You will see a herder and you will see how poor he looks, and you will see his herds worth millions. Then, there must be some problems. So, he is being used by other people. If the herds belong to him, he is a millionaire. But he is not the owner. Those who own the cows, let them find a way so that they would not have to send these poor men from Sokoto to Ibadan on foot.
“So, I believe that the comparison of spare parts selling to ban on open grazing is most unfortunate. I believe and I want to warn, I hope it is not intended to incite some people against another tribe.
“The Bureau De Change, we know those who run them. We have not asked them to leave. Somebody said to me that he has not said Aliko Dangote should leave Lagos. Can he leave? Is he not a Fulani man? He is there, doing his legitimate business. We are not against it. But we are opposed to criminality and we will fight it with all we have.
“Nobody will put us under any stress. We are totally opposed to criminality. People are there, occupying our forests, kidnapping our people, and we will just keep quite? No, we are not like that.”
For his part, Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, also said: “I benefitted so much from corporate Nigeria. I so much believe in Nigeria, except that what is happening today is giving me a lot of concern. When the case of herders and farmers was mentioned, the statement I made on the earlier statements by Governors Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Samuel Ortom of Benue State, was not made to disrespect anybody. What the Ondo State governor said is true. And as PDP governors, we sat down in Ibadan last week, agreed and endorsed the position of the Southern governors. We did that with a lot of moderation, after thorough discussion of the issues. What I am against is ethnic profiling. Criminals may be among Fulani herdsmen, I will never agree that all Fulani are criminals.
“Do we have these problems before? No. It is because of clueless of this administration. It is because we have not been able to find out what is the problem. Where are these brand of Fulani coming from? What power of investigation do they have? How can we make the society safe and secured, even to the traditional Fulani man, who has been living in peace in his activity of trans-human, which is a form of farming. But do we stop them from farming because of these criminals, do we think we are doing justice to them?”
Mohammed, however, said if ranching would be the next option in the Southern part of Nigeria, it should not be done in such a way as not to send the existing herdsmen out of business.
Earlier, president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Apata, said terrorists have taken their attacks to a new deadly dimension in Nigeria by sacking villages in the region, and stamping their authority.
He said: “In recent weeks, we read of the disturbing attacks on a military base in Mainok, Borno State, leading to the death of 30 soldiers. A few weeks ago, Boko Haram militants reportedly attacked Geidam, a local government area that is some 200 kilometres from Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State, and took over the community, while reportedly hoisting their flag in the community and imposing taxes.
“With these, together with the reported advances of Boko Haram into parts of Niger State, which is contiguous to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, there is now a clear and present threat to the sovereign integrity of Nigeria, in a manner that is unprecedented.” Abeyanews