The decision of southern governors to ban open grazing may prove abortive as President Muhammadu Buhari has publicly declared his decision to frustrate it.
The governors banned open grazing because they believe that bandits and other criminal elements are hiding behind Fulani herdsmen to vandalise farms, rape women, kidnap people, commit genocide and seize ancestral lands.
But attorney-general Abubakar Malami declared the ban unconstitutional.
President Buhari echoed the same sentiment during an interview Arise TV aired on Thursday. The president said he has given Malami a mandate to restore open grazing nationwide.
Reacting to a question on the decision by the southern governors and if he agreed with Malami, Buhari laughingly responded: “You want me to contradict my attorney-general?”
“What I did was ask him to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, north to south or east to west, they had to go through there.
“If you allow your cattle to stray into any farm, you are arrested. The farmer is invited to submit his claims. The khadi or the judge will say pay this amount and if you can’t the cattle is sold.
“And if there is any benefit, you are given and people were behaving themselves and in the grazing areas, they built dams, put windmills in some places there were even veterinary departments so that the herders are limited. Their route is known, their grazing area is known.
“So, I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into the cattle grazing.”
The herdsmen are mostly Fulani and the president, himself a Fulani, has been accused of having an ethnic agenda and ignoring the alleged crimes of his tribesmen.
One of his accusers is Governor Samuel Ortom who banned open grazing in Benue where Fulani attackers are allegedly killing farmers and seizing their lands as the military and the police either look the other way or, according to survivors, attack locals who try to defend themselves.
Buhari attacked Ortom for his utterances and the implementation of an “aggressive” anti-open-grazing law.
“The problem is trying to understand the culture of the cattle rearers,” Buhari said.
“There is a cultural difference between the Tiv and the Fulani. So, the governor of Benue said I am not disciplining the cattle rearers because I am one of them.
“I cannot say I am not one of them but he is being very unfair to me and I told him that the Nigerian cattle rearer was not carrying anything more than a stick, sometime with a machete to cut some trees and feed his cattle but those sophisticated ones move with AK 47.
“So, from other areas, people rush to Nigeria. You know Fulani from Mauritania and central Africa look the same, so they feel they are the Nigerian ones and I assure you that we are trying to resuscitate these cattle routes, grazing areas and make them accountable.”
Strange enough, the Buhari government has been asked in the past to try to understand the culture of the other tribes and their “ancestral attachment” to their lands.
The presidency responded by sending Buhari’s spokesperson Femi Adesina to AIT to tell those “emotionally attached” to their lands to choose between their life and their lands.
“It is better to live on the ground than under the ground,” Adesina said. The spokesperson was reacting to the reluctant of locals to cede their lands to Fulan, an idea recommended by the national economic council as a solution to herdsmen attacks. The attacks are deceitfully framed as “farmers-herders clashes,” locals allege.
Here’s the Adesina video:
Another irony of the entire matter is that Buhari, in the Thursday interview, said he told southern governors to handle the security challenges that arise from open grazing and other issues on their own and stop running to Abuja for help all the time. Meanwhile, Buhari controls the military, the police and several other armed forces. The president is also against the creation of independent state police which observers say would give governors greater control of local security structures.
“These governors campaigned and won elections, they should be able to sort out issues arising in their localities, not running to the presidency,” Buhari said.
“You know these people more than I do, and you are democratically elected to protect your people. Don’t sit idly expecting me to do everything, take action,” he said.
Critics say Buhari, via the Arise TV interview, is again mocking Nigeria and reminding everyone that Fulanis own the country.