…Buhari backs open grazing, directs AGF to recover land
…Asks him to dig up First Republic gazettes on cattle routes for implementation
…Says security agents have been directed to be brutal on criminal elements
…Insists military will speak the language they understand in coming weeks
DESPITE bloody conflicts between herders and farmers over grazing land, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday approved the return of open grazing practice of the 1st Republic, where herdsmen used designated grazing routes to move their cattle to several parts of the country. The president, who disclosed this while reacting to question asked about open grazing ban by the Southern Governors on Airse Television said he has asked the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to begin the process of recovering land from persons who have converted cattle grazing routes for their personal use. According to him, the grazing routes were designated in the 1st Republic when “Nigerians used to obey laws” but those routes had been converted.
When asked if he agreed with the AGF’s kick against the declaration by the governors, Buhari responded, “You want me to contradict my AttorneyGeneral?” Explaining further, he said, “What I did was to ask him to go and dig the gazette of the 1st 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. “But I am telling you, this rushing to the centre (sic) 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,” he said. It would be recalled that the 17 southern governors had after a meeting in Delta State imposed a ban on open grazing in the region, following herders and farmer crisis across the states. Buhari, however, lamented the style and utterances of Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, who had not only implemented an aggressive anti-open grazing law but had accused Buhari of failing to take actions against herdsmen because he is also a member of the Fulani herders.
The president said, indeed he is a Fulani man but Ortom was being unfair to him, adding that he had told Ortom that the herdsmen perpetrating the attacks were not the Nigerian ones. The president further explained that the Tivs, which form the majority in Benue, and the Fulani, had been engaged in cultural conflicts for a long time. “The problem is trying to understand the culture of the cattle breeders. There is a cultural difference between the Tivs and the Fulani. So, the governor of Benue said I am not disciplining the cattle breeders 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 breeders were not carrying anything more than a stick sometimes 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 and 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,” he said. Speaking on rising cases of violent crimes across the country, the President said he has directed the military and the police to be brutal and deal ruthlessly with criminal elements saying “from now, we will speak the language they understand and in the coming weeks, you’ll get exactly what I am saying.” He said the problem of Boko Haram in the north east is difficult and that the Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum told him that members of the sect are Nigerians saying that “you can’t kill innocent people and say God’s great.”
Identifying the cause of insecurity in Nigeria, Buhari said “I think we have a problem of unemployment, poverty. A lot of youths are basically looking for what to eat, not to talk of accommodation. The level of poverty is almost unimaginable and it’s a huge problem.” On allegation of lopsided appointments, Buhari insists that all his appointments are based on merit asking if someone who had gone through military and police training all his life should not be appointed to lead the military or police department he works with just because ‘we must balance appointments?’ “What are you saying? The system didn’t restrict anyone from joining the military or the police, and if you decided not to join, we will not force you but you too will not force us to bring someone who is not qualified in training and experience when it comes to leadership of these institutions just because we want to balance some appointments,” he added.
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