* Says there’re no cattle routes in Southeast
By Chesa Chesa
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has dismissed the comparison between herdsmen in southern Nigeria and auto spare parts dealers in northern part of the country, as made by Attorney-General of the Federation. (AGF), Abubakar Malami.
The AGF had condemned as unconstitutional the recent resolution to ban open cattle grazing in Southern Nigeria by Governors of the region in response to growing cases of insecurity caused by rampaging killer herdsmen whose cattle also destroy farmlands.
Malami said the ban could be likened to northern Governors expressly banning motor spare parts dealers doing their business in the North, and described the resolution of the southern Governors as dangerous.
However, speaking at a media briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team, on Thursday in Abuja, Governor Umahi said such a comparison was flawed, even as he argued that herders should buy land and do business in the South just like spare parts dealers have done peacefully in the North.
The Governor, who had joined his southern counterparts to make the resolution last week, pointed out that nobody was chasing herders out of South but that cattle herding should be done as business enterprise, and peacefully so, as other legitimate businesses that are thriving in the country.
When asked to respond to the position of the AGF, Umahi said: “I read it on social media and I will like to put the fact the way it is. A lot of us do not understand what this open grazing and what is closed grazing.
“In my faith, says that if your right hand will cause you to sin, cut it off; that it’s better to go to heaven with a hand that is short of one than to go to hell fire.
“From the beginning of age – don’t forget my father and mother were farmers all through – the traditional situation has been that we have cows in a farm settlement and then after a season, the farmers will ask them to move to a certain locations because they will fertilize the land which will also benefit the herders because they will be grasses in those places.
“We have never had cattle roaming the roads. For the cattle dung, once it drops on the asphalt road it messes it within seconds. But they pass through these road and pass through these farms.
“In the Southeast we don’t have grazing routes but in the north we have cattle routes. Nobody is going to say ban open grazing in some areas in the north where there are cattle routes, where they move constitutionally from one point to the other.
“But in the South, there is no cattle route and for you to move from one point to the other, you have to move through farms, through densely populated areas.
“And this is what the southern governors, Southeast in particular are saying – let’s go back to our traditional method of relationship, we will no longer allow you to take your cattle from one local government to the other.
“And the implication is that these foreign herders also come as mobile herders with AK47, that is the source of conflicts. So anyone that is saying that there should be no ban is on the other hand saying that these killings should continue and that is what have birth to Eastern Security Network (ESN).
“Whether we support it (ESN) as Governors, we don’t. The people tend to support it because of the foreign herders pretending that they are rearing cattle and they are killing people. In my village a white man handling construction was kidnapped.
“So, what the southern Governors are saying is that let’s return to our traditional kind of relationship. I don’t support cattle to move from one State to the other and the northern Governors have said we will ban this.
“Let us encourage the Federal Government, let’s treat this cattle rearing as a business. Take money from Federation Account and develop ranches, there are designated ranches in the North. The northern governors are willing but are being frustrated.
“I know once you develop these ranches in the North, a lot of movement will stop in the South. We want to live in peace, we want to live as brothers and sisters. And if the right hand will cause you to sin, cut it off. It is the same thing as saying let the cattle moving from one point to the other be stopped.
“Nobody is saying the herders should not be in the Southeast but it should be treated as a business. When people go to other areas they buy a land, they rent a shop, that is how business are done.
“You don’t enter people’s land without their knowledge, it is not done anywhere. I don’t think there is any Southeast person that enters any region and sets up a business without proper permission. So that is the truth about the open grazing thing, I think people misunderstand it, they don’t really understand what we mean.”