The South-South governors’ forum has kicked against President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to review with dispatch 368 grazing sites in 25 states across the country.
The forum said the law had given governors the control of land in their states and it is the governor who “gives the Certificate of Occupancy to every individual and allows them to have full ownership of the land.”
The Southern governors and groups expressed shock at the decision of the Federal Government to go ahead with the plan to review the establishment of grazing sites across the country despite the stiff opposition to it by the people of Southern Nigeria.
Seventeen southern governors, under the aegis of the Southern Governors’ Forum, had on May 11 met in Asaba, Delta State capital, to deliberate on the prevalent insecurity and other issues affecting the region.
In a 12-point communiqué after the meeting, dubbed the Asaba Declaration, the forum, chaired by Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), resolved that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria.
The governors said the incursion of armed herders and bandits into the southern part of the country had presented a severe security challenge such that citizens were no longer able to live their normal lives.
Southern Nigeria comprises the states of Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Imo, and Rivers.
Eight weeks after their meeting, the 17 state governors again met in Lagos on July 5 to reaffirm their stance on the Asaba Declaration after a wave of criticisms by the Presidency, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, and the Attorney General of the Federation/Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
However, unbothered by the southern governors’ opposition to the revival of old grazing routes or sites, President Buhari on Thursday approved the recommendations of a committee to review with dispatch 368 grazing sites in 25 states in the country to determine the levels of encroachment.
However, the Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and Delta State Governor, Okowa, resisted President Buhari’s decision and subtly reminded him that governors had the authority over the lands in their states.
Okowa, who spoke through the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said the state House of Assembly had already passed into law the anti-open grazing bill into law.
He said, “We are in a country of law and the law has given governors the control of land in their states. The governor is the one who gives the Certificate of Occupancy to every individual and allows them to have full ownership of the land.
“We are convinced that very soon, the Federal Government will begin to have a rethink, knowing well that it is not legal for Mr President to be the one to map out land in the states.”