By Tever Akase
We were shocked and disappointed to read a statement from the Presidency indicating that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved recommendations of a committee to review “with dispatch,” 368 grazing sites, across 25 states in the country, “to determine the levels of encroachment.”
In a country where insecurity has reached an all-time high with hundreds being killed by armed herdsmen, bandits and other terrorists, the Presidency is only bordered about animals and their safety and is deploying all machinery and arsenals of government to impose grazing reserves and cattle routes on Nigerians. This is unacceptable!
It is now clear that the Presidency wants to plunge the country into avoidable crisis. Otherwise, what is the justification for President Buhari’s insistence that grazing reserves be established across the country when Nigerians have openly kicked against the policy and have embraced ranching in place of open grazing?
Millions of Nigerians have been displaced following attacks by armed herders and are currently suffering in IDP camps. Benue State for instance has over 1.5 million displaced people with thousands living in camps and many more forced to flee their ancestral lands to stay under dehumanizing conditions in open fields. The Buhari administration does not seem to be worried about the food crisis already ravaging the country. Farmers have been chased into IDP camps by herders and children are dying of starvation, yet what is more important to their President is the well being of cows.
We expected the pitiable condition of the displaced people to be the preoccupation of the President whom they voted in 2015 and 2019. It is unfortunate that the people’s love, trust and votes for Mr President are being rewarded with hate, cruelty and dictatorial policies aimed at grabbing their lands to donate to herders and cows.
We challenge the Presidency to name what it has done to alleviate the plight of those displaced by herdsmen in Benue State since 2018.
What is the difference between the Buhari administration’s approach to insecurity and the Taliban agenda in Afghanistan? It is now evident that the government at the centre prioritizes the welfare of cattle over human beings and is bent on taking Nigeria back to the precolonial era. The country has been turned to a cow republic by the present administration.
President Buhari has refused to prove wrong, those who accuse him of being a Fulani President. He has instead proven that he indeed belongs to somebody. But Buhari is not the first Fulani man to be President of this country. Nigeria had Presidents Shehu Shagari and Umaru Yar’Adua who were Presidents for all Nigerians and treated citizens of this country fairly and equitably.
Our country has never been more divided on ethnic lines and sentiments as it is under President Buhari. Under President Shagari and President Yar’Adua, Nigerians were not chided by a horde of presidential spokesmen and social media hirelings for simply expressing their views on government policies.
Perhaps Mr President is not aware that all the northern states including his home state Katsina and the entire southern states have unanimously rejected open grazing of livestock and approved ranching. The Presidency is therefore whipping a dead horse on the issue of grazing reserves.
Those saddled with the duty of advising Mr President have apparently failed in their responsibility. They ought to have told the President that though grazing reserves existed in some parts of the country before independence, there have been several reviews and laws which have superceded and rendered the reserves null and void. Additionally, the Land Use Act has made Governors the custodians of all lands in their states.
The Federal Government has no constitutional right to appropriate lands for itself or anyone else for that matter without the approval of State Governors. Nigeria is practicing democracy not despotism. The President is obligated to listen to the yearnings of the people and lead according to the constitution. Leaders are elected to solve problems not create more problems for the people.
Nigeria is grappling with numerous security and economic challenges that should ordinarily worry the Presidency. The Federal Government introduced the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP and Nigerians accepted the policy. Why has the Buhari administration dumped the programme and opted for grazing reserves and cattle routes?
The Federal Government’s posture has emboldened armed Fulani herdsmen who go about maiming and killing innocent Nigerians but has turned deaf ears to calls for the licensing of responsible Nigerians to own sophisticated weapons.
We also read the President’s comments yesterday at the National Security Council meeting where he threatened to sack Security Chiefs for what he termed failure to tackle insecurity in the country. Why won’t the Security Chiefs fail when the body language of the Commander-in-Chief points to a clan of sacred cows who must be spared and given protection to perpetuate evil? How will the Security Chief succeed when their formations are not well funded and the soldiers are left to confront terrorists who have superior weapons? If Mr President indeed made the statement attributed to him, he was not being fair to the security agencies.
President Buhari’s spokesman Femi Adesina once asked Nigerians to choose between holding onto their lands or losing their lives. What is happening now is confirmation of that threat from the Presidency. They introduced Cattle Colonies, Ruga and National Water Resources Bill but Nigerians rejected all the policies. The latest push for grazing reserves and cattle routes is surely the final onslaught against majority of Nigerians who must be deprived of their God-given lands to accommodate foreign herdsmen moving into the country for the occupation agenda.
Governor Samuel Ortom has repeatedly stated that there is no land for grazing reserves or cattle routes in Benue State. Though the Federal Government craftily concealed the names of states where Mr President has ordered that grazing reserves be foisted on the people, we wish to categorically state that no part of Benue will be allocated for grazing reserves or cattle routes! The stand of the Governor is not personal; it is the collective decision of Benue people. There is no gazetted land or cattle route in Benue State. Our state should be counted out of the proposed grazing reserves programme.
If President Buhari must actualize his cattle agenda in Benue State, he should be ready to kill all of us! We know that grazing reserves and cattle routes are the only project that the President has for Nigeria, but Benue is not interested in such a project.
We are equally disappointed with members of the committee which recommended that grazing reserves be established in parts of the country. They are the real enemies of Nigeria. Theirs is hypocrisy of the highest order. Members of the committee should know that posterity will judge everyone according to their deeds here on earth. Above all, there is God. The Buhari administration will not be in power forever.
* Mr. Akase is the Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Governor