By Lateef Adegbite
When the 17 southern state governors took a decision last May banning open grazing in the region, President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, may have felt uneasy with the decision. Abubakar Malami Federal, Attorney General and minister of Justice, may have spoken the mind of the Katsina state born Nigerian President when he said ‘’the decision to ban open grazing by the southern governors was unconstitutional’’.
The minister may have sent a message to the southern governors on the next step that would be taken by the government when he said with Authority that the governors’ decision banning open grazing does not hold water’. He had said that the government would soon begin’’ the process of recovering the Land from the persons who have converted the cattle grazing routes for their personal use.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President may have reconfirmed what the minister of Justice had said when he gave approval for ’’the return of open grazing in the country as practiced during the First Republic where herdsmen used designated routes to move their cattle to several parts of the country but that was how far he could go.
The retired Army General may not have been happy that the southern governors failed to heed to the Presidential directive to reverse the decision banning open grazing in the region that he was said to have quickly set up a Committee, headed by Ibrahim Gambari, a Professor and who incidentally is the Chief of Staff, to review the 368 grazing routes across the country and’’ to determine the levels of encroachment with dispatch’’ and make recommendations to the government for implementation.
True to people’s believe, the Committee was said to have recommended to the Presidency for approval the return of the 368 open grazing routes in 25 states of the Federation spread in the six geo-political regions .It was said to have also recommended the Collection of field Data on the 368 grazing routes across the 25 states to asses encroachment and encroachers.
In addition, it was said to have recommended the production of the maps and geo-mapping of sites, analysis of findings and report preparations as well as design appropriate Communication on grazing reserves and operations, thus showing the serious of the buhari led All Progressive Congress, APC, government to implementation of the Gambari Committee report on the open grazing route policy in the 25 states in the country before the expiration of his Administration in May 29, 2023.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Presidenital approval to return the 368 open grazing in the routes has brought Laughter in the Camp of the camp of Maiyetti Allah, Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACACAN. The Laughter may be short-lived because the security situation in the First Republic is different from what it is today.
Take for instatnce, between 1960 and 1966, when these 368 open grazing routes were in use in the country by the herders to move their cattle, I different parts of the country, there were no threats of the Islamic Fundamentalist Group, BokoHaram and the Islamic State of the West African Province, ISWAP, in the north eastern part of the country or Banditry in the north western geopolitical region,and other Criminal activities in different parts of the country.
The fear being expressed in both official and unofficial circles is that if the retired Army General succeeds mobilizing the Military and other security agencies personnel to ensure implementation of the Gambari Committee report on the return of the 368 open grazing routes in the country, it would worsen the insecurity situation in the country.This is because terrorists and Bandits would use it as an opportunity to infiltrate the ranks of the herdsmen who carry AK 47, to protect their Cattles to wreck more havoc in the country.
Samuel Ortom, governor of the north central state of Benue state had said that there was no basis for the Buhari led APC, led government to Contemplate a review of the return of the 368 open grazing routes in the country as practised in the First Republic because of the frequent clash between herdsmen and farmers which had resulted into killings of farmers in different parts of the country , particular, Borno and Yobe states, which had been traced to BokoHaram and ISWAP, in the north east.
He noted that there have also been killing of farmers in Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Zamfara and Niger, which have been linked to the Bandits. This may have informed why the Benue state governor had said that forcing the 25 states to allow the herders move their cattle within the 368 open grazing routes would amount t ‘’ turning Nigeria into a Cow Republic’’.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who could not hide his feelings had faulted Buhari’s approval to review open grazing routes in the 25 states in the country , insisting that ‘’ the nation have gone beyond this stage of looking for grazing routes’’. Hear him: As far as the Law is concerned, the President( with due respect), cannot, be talking of looking for grazing routes in 2021, in Nigeria. According to him, what the country needed now is ‘’a national, scientific and a modern solution to the problem‘’. He noted that some state governors are already investing in ranching which is a better option, thus making nonsense of the Open grazing policy of the government.
But Femi Adesina, Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Media and Publicity, in a Statement had said that the approval of a review of the return of the 368 open grazing routes in the 25 states of the Federation as recommended by the Gambari Committee was basically ‘’to curb the bloody clash between herders and farmers across the country’’.
However, barely 24 hours after the Nigerian President had approved the Gambari Committee recommendations for a review of the return of the 368 open grazing routes in 25 states of the Federation, herders were said to have struck and killed nine people and several others injured at Ungwan Dooh, Mado, village in Zagon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna state on Saturday, August 20, 2021.
In what could be regarded as a reprisal attack, three herders were said to have also been killed by some unidentified gunmen who had stormed Ribok, Tsoriyang and Kankada General Area of Zangon Kataf Council. The gunmen were said to have also burnt eight herders huts, signaling what would happen in the months ahead in the states.
What had happened last Friday at Zangon Kataf Local government Area of Kaduna state where herders allegedly killed nine people may not be different from what happened at Toro, a Modakeke Community , in Osun state, were five farmers were allegedly killed by gunmen while heading to their farms .
Enitan Ogwunwusi, the Oni of Ife, was said to have enjoined the people not to link the killing of the farmers to the decade –long Communal clash between lle-Ife and Modakeke people , stressing that what had happened at the Toro village was a ‘’sheer act of Criminality’’. He may have alluded to the armed herdsmen in the forest in the state.
Security analysts fear that by approving the recommendations of the Gambari Committee report for a review of the return of the 368 open grazing routes in 25 states of the Federation, it will open the door way for the Insurgents operating in the north east states of Adamawa, Borno, Yobe and the Bandits operating in the north west geopolitical region to export violence to the southern part of the country ahead of the February 18, 2023 elections which is a time bomb.
The Presidential approval of a review of the return of the 368 open grazing routes in 25 states of the country may have encouraged Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers sate, join other governors in the southern part of the country who had already signed into Law the Open Grazing Prohibition bill into Law in their respective states to do so.