January 29, 2022

Grazing reserves, a gunpowder keg

Agenda for 36 governors meeting tomorrow

WE wish to, once again, urge President Muhammadu Buhari to abandon his intention to “revive” what he refers to as “grazing reserves” allegedly gazetted in the First Republic.

This issue returned to the front burner last week when he approved the so-called review of 368 “grazing reserves” in 25 states of the federation as presented by a committee led by his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari. The Buhari government is moving “with dispatch” to identify the said gazetted lands and to gazette more lands.

The missionary zeal with which government is pursuing this agenda runs at cross-purposes with the equal assiduity with which many Southern states are working to meet the Wednesday, September 1, 2021 deadline for the promulgation of their anti-open grazing laws.

We wonder how the 25 states the Buhari government refers to was arrived at. There are 19 states in the North where the Fulani pastoralists are indigenous to. Out of those, Benue and Taraba states already have anti-open grazing laws.

If the Southern Governors live up to their collective decision, it means that at least 19 states will have laws that will clash with the grazing reserves that the Buhari government wants to revive.

The states are in a pole position under the law to assert their rejection of the open grazing policy of the Buhari administration because of the constitutional backing of the Land Use Act. The Act vests power over land on state governors to hold in trust for the people of their respective states.

The only way the Federal Government can take land from unwilling states is to ignore the law with impunity and deploy “federal might” (the armed forces, police and security agencies) to take the land by force for the benefit of the Fulani pastoralists.

If this happens, it will create a strong impression that government and the violent militias masquerading as “herdsmen” and forcefully occupying forests and committing atrocities throughout the Middle Belt and South share the same agenda.

Federal forceful confiscation of people’s ancestral patrimonies could force otherwise law-abiding Nigerians to respond to the calls by Defence Minister, Bashir Magashi; former Defence Minister, T.Y. Danjuma; Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom; Governor of Taraba State, Darius Isyaku; and Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari, to take up arms and defend themselves. That will spawn anarchy.

No group will sit by and allow themselves to be deprived of their land without resistance. Then open grazing policy will set Nigeria ablaze. The best option is ranching. Animal husbandry is a private business.

President Buhari should spend his final 21 months in power to leave a legacy of lasting peace for all Nigerians, rather than endless wars.