South-South governors, socio-political regional organisations and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday rose against the federal government’s insistence on recovering grazing routes for herders in the country.
The regional groups include Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and Middle Belt Forum, MBF.
Recall that an official of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture weekend re-echoed President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive last week to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to recover all grazing routes nationwide for purposes of checkmating farmers/herders’ crisis in Nigeria, saying there was no going back on it.
But reacting yesterday, Chairman of South South Governors Forum and governor of delta State, Dr, Ifeanyi Okowa, said: “Well, I think that is where the test of the federating units would be carried out because Governor Nyesom Wike has said that now that Parliamentary workers have ended their strike, he will take a bill to the State House of Assembly on the ban on open grazing.
“It’s already existing in some states, Benue has it, Ekiti has it; our state is ready to take the bill to the House of Assembly. I will see how he can stop them. If they are not going back on their own, they cannot stop states from putting a law and enforcing the law.
“If there are grazing routes that were there more than 50 years ago, now they want to take them back, I don’t know whether that one is progressive. The entire country is opposed to it. So, if the Presidency wants to operate it in area that the Presidency alone controls, we will watch and see.
“But I know that the governors of the Southern states cannot go back on it; they are for ban on open grazing and that they will do; I know.”
Reopening the grazing routes is unacceptable— Afenifere
In its reaction, Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Jare Ajayi, said the Federal Government’s insistence showed disdain and contempt it had for the people.
He said: “The insistence of the present administration on re-opening the so-called grazing routes shows the duplicity, dishonesty and the draconian tendencies of the government. The insistence also further underscores the extent of the disdain and contempt this administration has for the people.
‘’We say this because government policies are supposed to be for the people. Majority of the people across the country have embraced ranching.
“Even the Minister of Agriculture, Nanono, disclosed that 22 states plus the Federal Capital Territory have agreed to provide land for grazing.
“He went further to give names of the states, including the 400,000 hectares of land already said to have been provided by various states.
“Since the preponderance of opinion across the country is to go the modern way, which is ranching, why should the government insist on resuscitating what has become anachronistic?
“What is more? It has been established that the so-called grazing routes did not exist in all the states in the country.
“Ms Winnie Solarin, a director in the Ministry of Agriculture, was quoted as saying that the areas where structures have been erected would be spared.
“In practice, this cannot happen. Once they have started, they may not stop. They would want to go the whole hog. Reopening the grazing routes is unacceptable.’’
Buhari is backpedaling —Ohanaeze
On its part, Ohanaeze Ndigbo in a statement by the spiokesman, Chief Alex Ogbonna, said: “It is funny, it is difficult to understand what he wants to do; to revalidate grazing routes, for what? It is like revalidating slave routes.
“Our President is backpedaling. We say the world has changed. We have come to a critical juncture where by any decision we take, we look back to assess it. We must look forward. Our President is backpedaling, which is unfortunate”.
There’re more important things Buhari should talk about –ADF
Also reacting, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, advised President Buhari to talk of more serious issues that abound in the country.
In a statement by the spokesman, Abia Onyike, the group said: “The APC Government of President Muhammadu Buhari should save this country from this Fulani hydra-headed problem of open grazing or no open grazing.
“There are more important issues to talk about. “The President and his executive have no right to impose their parochial interests on the Nigerian Nation.
“The National Assembly should oppose Buhari’s revanchist policies of Fulani triumphalism and save Nigeria from an impending Holocaust.
“Buhari was elected President but that doesn’t make him the owner of Nigeria. If he continues with his dictatorial stunts, then the human rights Community will drag him to court.
“Let the Southern Governors be fast in getting their houses of Assembly to make laws on anti-open open grazing and let us see what Buhari and his Attorney General would do.
“The best they can do is to go to Court. Their lawlessness and unbridled dictatorship in defence of Fulani herdsmen has become a National tragedy. Nigerians must resist them.’’
Buhari taking Nigeria backwards — PANDEF
In its reaction, PANDEF in a statement by its national chairman, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, said: “Countries, and individuals are going forward and not backward.
“In this technology era, we must not go back to doing things the way they were done in the 19th century. And people have built on most of those grazing routes used during the first Republic.
“So people who are into livestock – poultry, piggery, cows should do it as a business. If you are into cows business, buy land and build your ranch. It is your business, so you have to go and buy your land. I have a piggery farm and I bought the land for the farm.
“Buhari’s federal government should see the problem that the open grazing is causing. Then they should take the ranching solution that is going on everywhere in the world.
“You can only hear this in Nigeria and in West, you don’t hear it anywhere else. We (PANDEF) condemn what the federal government has said about this issue because times have changed. Herders don’t have to destroy another man’s business because of their own.
“Last Sunday somebody was killed in Ikot Ekpene Local government area because they carried cows into his compound about 3 a.m, he came out and asked them why they carried cows into his compound by that time of the night and they hacked him to death.
“The brother is still in the hospital, so why should it be like that? It is not right in this 21st century. So our position is that whoever wants to do herds business should buy land for ranch and not to expect government of a State to give you land free.”
Grazing routes not constitutionally feasible, states own land not FG – MBF
Similarly, Middle Belt Forum, MBF, in its reaction signed by the National President, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, said: “We are advocates of ranching, which should be community-based because every community knows its local Fulani.
“And the federal government should come out with a policy where our local Fulani who are Nigerians will be accommodated and made to ranch their cattle in the community where they are known.
“We had in the past rejected the programme of Live Stock Transformation, RUGA, Cattle Colony and now the latest which is cattle routes.
“Anyway, it is archaic, it is unfounded and we are also saying no to it. It should be ranching which is the solution.
“And then, the federal government does not even own land, by the provisions of the constitution which we are operating, which many of us advocates of restructuring are saying is faulty, vests ownership of land on the people and the state governors and local government chairmen hold it in custody for the people.
“The federal government does not have land, that is why the president only has the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, as his territory where he is in charge and appoints a minister to supervise it for him.
“So, he who owns the land is the one that would determine whether there is a cattle route or not and not the federal government.’’
Listen to Nigerians, CAN urges FG
Also reacting yesterday, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, asked the Federal Government to listen to the cries of Nigerians and suspend the recovery of grazing routes.
CAN in a statement by the Vice Chairman (Northern region), Reverend John Hayab, said: “The government must not violate our laws to please some people. What is the constitutional provision for?
“Or what is contained in the national gazette about grazing routes across Nigeria? Is it because the government is refusing to obey court orders that it is insisting on recovering grazing routes, even when they know it will only add to our many conflicts?
“If we truly want to nurture this democracy, then our government must learn to listen to the opinion of citizens.’’
While calling on the government to do only what will give peace a chance, CAN claimed that some wealthy Nigerians controlled a sizeable share of the cattle market and could afford ranching.
“Many pastoralist we see out there are taking care of the cows for some faceless rich men who can afford to ranch.
“But since they love to have everything for free, they are risking the lives of innocent Nigerians with their selfish demands for grazing routes.
“Therefore, we are appealing to the government to pay attention to the cries of Nigerians and do only what will give peace a chance,’’ it stated.
Lagos Assembly moves to end open grazing, considers VAT bill
The Lagos State House of Assembly says the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill, when passed will ensure harmonious relationships between herders and farmers in the state.
The assembly made this known after the bill was read on the floor of the house for the second time, by the Acting Clerk, Olalekan Onafeko, at plenary on Monday.
It said the bill would also protect the environment of the state and the South-west zone.
The House also read for the first and second time, the state’s Value Added Tax (VAT) bill, and asked the Committee on Finance, which was handling it to report back on Thursday.
The Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, who described the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill’ as timely, thereafter, committed the bill to the committee on agriculture for public hearing.
The speaker also suggested that the bill should make provision for the registration of herders, and prepare them for ranching.
“Allocating parcel of land is not enough, but there should also be training for those who will go into ranching, as ranching is expensive and requires adequate preparation,” he added.
Concerning the VAT bill, the speaker said it would further lead to an increase in revenue and infrastructural development.
”This is in line with fiscal federalism that we have been talking about,” he said.
Mr Obasa said the VAT law, when passed, would help the state meet challenges in its various sectors.
He also urged the Lagos State government to do everything legally possible, to ensure the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, was sustained even up to the Supreme Court.
The speaker lamented a situation where about N500 billion would be generated from the state, while N300 billion was generated from other South-west states, but paltry amounts would be disbursed to Lagos State in return.
Mr Obasa said it was an opportunity for the state to emphasise again, the need for the consideration of true federalism.
Speaking earlier on the bill on open grazing, Bisi Yusuff (Alimosho 1) lamented that farmers had continuously become afraid to visit their farms, thus causing shortage of food.
Mr Yusuff also said many farmers had become indebted, as they now found it difficult to pay back loans they secured.
His position was supported by Kehinde Joseph (Alimosho 2) who noted that the bill would ensure peaceful coexistence, reduce crime and help to guide the activities of herders.
Olumoh Lukeman (Ajeromi-Ifelodun 1) suggested that the high court should be made to handle cases from enforcement of the bill when passed, or that the state should establish special courts for such purpose.
Also, Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti-Osa 1) expressed support for the bill, noting that it would give a level of security to the state and help reduce economic losses.
He added that Lagos had 250 hectares of land in Ikorodu and another 750 hectares in Epe for ranching.
David Setonji (Badagry II), said: “There was a time we went on oversight function in a school here in Lagos. We were embarrassed by cattle. We had to wait for the herder to move the cattle before we embarked on our oversight function.”
Mr Setonji suggested a collaboration between the Neighbourhood Safety Corps and the police, in the implementation of the law when passed and assented to.
Other lawmakers who contributed during the plenary were Adedamola Kasunmu (Ikeja II), Rasheed Makinde Ifako Ijaiye II), and Sanni Okanlawon (Kosofe I).
Ngige: FG to recover millions wrongly paid to 588 doctors
The federal government says it is planning to recover “millions of naira wrongly paid to 588 medical doctors” across the country.
While fielding questions from state house correspondents, Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, said the affected doctors wrongly benefitted from the medical residency training fund meant for a particular category of doctors.
The minister said the names of the doctors were uncovered after a scrutinisation of the 8000 names submitted by chief medical directors of federal government health institutions for the training programme.
Ngige said a substantial amount of the money has been refunded by some of the affected doctors while efforts are being intensified to recover the remaining balance.
He said the delay in making the refund by the affected doctors is holding back the residency fund payment by the government.
“Ministry of health has gotten the list of doctors who supposedly are to benefit from the medical residency training fund,” he said.
“Total submission of about 8000 names were gotten and the ministry of health is scrutinising them.
“We have done the first round of scrutinisation and they will now compare what they have with the Post-Graduate Medical College and the chief medical directors who submitted the names.
“The Association of Resident Doctors, in each of the tertiary centres, worked with the CMDs to produce those names, but now that the names are being verified.
“We discovered that about 2000 names shouldn’t be there because they don’t have what is called Postgraduate Reference Numbers of National Postgraduate Medical College and (or) that of the West African Postgraduate Medical College.
“So, this is it and that is the only thing holding back the residency fund payment because it is there already for incurred expenditure has been done by the finance minister and it’s in the accountant-general’s office.”
“So, once they verify the authenticity of those they are submitting, the Accountant-General will pay.
“We are doing that verification because we do not want what happened last time in 2020 to reoccur.
“In 2020, the submitted names didn’t come through the appropriate source, which is the Postgraduate Medical College and payment was affected and it was discovered that about 588 persons, who were not resident doctors benefited from such money.
“They are now finding it difficult to make the full refund. But they have to refund that money. Some are refunding, but there is no full consideration of the account.
“That account has to be reconciled to enable the accountants pay the next round of funding for 2021.”
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has been on strike for a month over “irregular payment of salaries”, among other issues.
Efforts by stakeholders, including the national assembly, to mediate between the federal government and the resident doctors have not yielded results.
Insecurity: Kaduna suspends weekly market, bans livestock transportation
The Kaduna State government has suspended trading at the popular weekly Kawo market.
The order on Thursday came days after the government suspended similar markets in five other local government areas of the state.
Kawo market is one of the largest weekly markets in Kaduna North.
It is located in the same area as the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), the Hassan Usman Katsina House popularly know as State House and the Legislative Quarters.
According to a statement by the state commissioner of Internal Security and Homeland Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, on Thursday, “the Kawo weekly market which usually holds every Tuesday in Kaduna North LGA has been suspended with immediate effect”.
“The Government of Kaduna State wishes to highlight that the previous directives suspending weekly markets, and selling of petrol in jerrycans in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kajuru LGAs, as well as banning the felling of trees for timber, firewood and charcoal and other commercial purposes in Birnin Gwari, Kachia, Kajuru, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kauru LGAs, are still in force.
“Citizens are hereby informed that all these directives will be vigorously enforced by security agencies.”
Also, the statement said the state government banned the transportation of livestock.
“The ban also prohibits the transportation of livestock into Kaduna state from other states. Both bans take effect immediately, from today 2nd September 2021.
“The government also wishes to reiterate that the transportation of donkeys into the state is a criminal offence and anyone found engaging in this will be prosecuted accordingly.”
Kawo Market ban
Many traders who spoke with news men in Kaduna welcomed the suspension of the weekly Kawo market.
Apart from the larger weekly trading, trading also takes place daily among residents of the neighbourhood.
Danladi Bala, a grain transporter, said the state government’s decision to suspend weekly trading in the market is right.
“Yes, we are traders here, but the recent suspension of weekly markets in other local government areas will make the Kawo market the target for criminal activities. They will all come here. It is a wise decision from the government,” he said.
Hajiya Mama, a trader, also said she was not suprised by the announcement.
“I trade in the market, but in the last two weeks we have been witnessing the influx of traders with large commodities.
“With the closure of weekly markets in Zamfara and other part of the state, this market will be an option for good or bad traders,” she said.
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