By Ayo Kehinde
Rising from their meeting in Lagos on Monday, Southern Governors Forum have urged member states to pass the open grazing law by September 1, 2021 and demanded that the next President must come from the southern part of the country in 2023.
They also rejected clauses in the recently Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, passed by the Senate and canvassed the inclusion of electronic voting in the envisaged Electoral Act, which would amended by the National Assembly, NASS, tomorrow, Tuesday.
The meeting which is coming eight week after their first meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital on May 11, 2021 where they first canvassed the ban on open grazing and movements of cattle by herdsmen on foot across the 17 states as well as restructuring, fiscal federalism and the call for state police, has affirmed their earlier stand on open grazing ban, thereby delivering a blow to President Muhammadu Buhari ‘s plan to create grazing routes for herdsmen.
Buhari had disclosed his plan in a television interview in June with Arise TV, saying that he had directed Abubakar Malami, SAN Attorney General and Minister of Justice to dust up the gazette on grazing routes.
Criticisms from the governing APC, the opposition PDP and many Nigerians had trailed the move. Even the Senate spoesperson Dr Bisiru Ajibola, APC, Osun, said that there was no such law in the country, while Governors Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ekiti state, his Bayelsa and Rivers counterparts, Duoyo Diri and Nyesom Wike derided it as an illusory dream.
Many Seniour Advocates of Nigeria, SAN from Afe Babalola to Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome faulted the gazette as as recored of events and programmes which cannot override suprior laws like the Land Use Act which vetted in the custody of state governors and sections of the Constitution on property rights.
The governors who attended the meeting were Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), and Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun).
Others are Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom), Diri Duoye (Bayelsa), Willie Obiano (Anambra), Ben Ayade (Cross Rivers), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Hope Uzodimma (Imo), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), and Oluwaseyi Makinde (Oyo).
Below is the communique issued by forum at the end of it’s meeting in Lagos.
COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE MEETING OF THE GOVERNORS OF SOUTHERN NIGERIA AT THE LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT HOUSE, IKEJA, LAGOS STATE, ON MONDAY, 5TH JULY, 2021 NIGERIA.
The Southern Governors Forum at the end of the meeting held on Monday, 5th July, 2021 reviewed the situation in the Country and focused on the current security situation, constitutional amendment, Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Rising from the meeting, the Forum agreed on the following:
1. Re-affirmed their commitment to the unity of Nigeria on the pillars of equity, fairness, justice, progress and peaceful co-existence between and amongst its people.
2. The Forum reiterates its commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimously agrees that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region.
a. The Forum reviewed the security situation in the country and commends security operatives for their relentless efforts in restoring security and safety and commiserates with families and loved ones of those who have fallen in the line of duty;
b. Re-emphasised the need for State Police;
c. Resolved that if for any reason security institutions need to undertake an operation in any State, the Chief Security Officer of the State must be duly informed;
d. the forum frowns at selective criminal administration of Justice and resolved that arrests should be made within the ambit of the Law and fundamental human rights;
e. Set a timeline of Wednesday, 1st September, 2021 for the promulgation of the anti open grazing law in all member States; and
f. Resolved that Funds deducted from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund should be distributed among the States and Federal Government to combat security challenges.
4. Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Law:
i. The Forum commends the National Assembly for the progress made in the passage of the PIB;
ii. the Forum rejects the proposed 3% and support the 5% share of the oil revenue to the host community as recommended by the House of Representatives;
iii. the forum also rejects the proposed 30% share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins;
iv. However, the forum rejects the ownership structure of the proposed Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC). The Forum disagrees that the company be vested in the Federal Ministry of Finance but should be held in trust by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) since all tiers of Government have stakes in that vehicle.
5. In order to consolidate our democracy and strengthen the Electoral process, the Southern Governors’ Forum reject the removal of the Electronic transmission of the election result from the electoral act; and also rejects the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.
6. The Forum unanimously chose Lagos State as its permanent secretariat and appreciated the Governor of Lagos State for the wonderful hosting of this meeting while commending him for his good work in the State.
Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu SAN
Governor, Ondo State and Chairman, Southern Governors’ Forum