In a move that is at variance with the position of Nigerian governors, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said he had asked the attorney-general of the federation to revive the First Republic gazette on cattle grazing routes and areas across the country so that herders can move their cattle in them.
The president, who stated this in an interview with Arise TV yesterday in Abuja, said his administration will resuscitate the grazing routes and areas as provided for in the gazette, noting that those who have encroached on such lands will be evicted.
The president’s position on the grazing routes comes two weeks after the 17 southern governors declared a ban on open grazing in the region, opting instead for ranching.
Earlier, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the northern governors had also declared support for ranching rather than open grazing.
Similarly, the umbrella body of cattle farmers, Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) had also declared that ranching was the way forward and said it was waiting for the government to bring out the policy to guide its implementation.
But addressing the issue during the interview yesterday, Buhari said, “I have asked the attorney-general of the federation to dig up gazettes of the First Republic. There are cattle routes and grazing areas. The routes and the areas are known. You have to stay there and if you allow your cattle to stray into another person’s farm, you will be arrested.
“So, the herders are limited; their route is known; grazing area is known. So I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on the cattle route and grazing areas will be dispossessed.
“There’s a cattle thing between the Tivs and Fulanis so the governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom, said I’m not disciplining the cattle rearers because I’m one of them.
“I cannot say I’m not one of them but Ortom was unfair to me and I told him that the Nigerian cattle rearer was not carrying anything more than a stick or machete to cut some trees.
“But those sophisticated ones are going with AK 47 (rifles). Fulani from some parts of Africa look the same. So they think they are the Nigerian ones, so I assure you that we are trying to resuscitate these cattle routes and grazing areas and make them accountable,” he said.
Buhari also said his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), and not him, will determine which zone will produce the party’s presidential candidate in 2023. According to him, it will be unfair for individuals to determine the party’s zoning formula. “It will be unfair for someone to sit in Lagos and dictate the party’s zoning formula for the 2023 general poll,” he said.
The president expressed hope that his party will continue to retain power after his tenure ends in 2023.
He said, “My desire for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the centre to outlive his government after 2023.
“The hope of this administration is to see APC last beyond it. Therefore, we should allow the party to decide. You cannot sit here in Lagos, for instance, and decide the fate of APC on zoning.
“The restructuring of the party has begun from the bottom to the top with the membership card registration. Every member of the party must be involved.
“We will soon conduct our convention. No single member of the party will be allowed to go against the wish of the party. We should allow the party to decide. We started from bottom up and I gave the acting chairman till the end of this month for the committee to develop terms on the convention that we are going to conduct and then arrange all the elections.
“We will start this from bottom up. The zoning depends on the party; the party sits and make its decision by the constituency and so on.”
The president also dismissed insinuations that he appoints people mainly from his region, saying his appointments are based on merit.
He, however, said he would not pick somebody to fill a particular position “just to balance up” while neglecting those who had passed through training and ranks.
“When you look at NNPC, military, the people who have been there for 18 years or ten years trained in Zaria, or Abeokuta.
“They came through the ranks and because they served under all the circumstances and they gradually rose to that status. Those positions have to be earned. There are people who have been there for 10-15 years. When you join, you go through the programme and you rise through the system.
On his choice of army chief, he said: “You can’t just pick somebody because of seniority. You put somebody who has been in the mill, worked and fought with the soldiers; they know him.”
President Buhari said he had given the military and the police the order to “be ruthless” against bandits terrorising the north-west region of the country.
Buhari explained that he was nearly overwhelmed by the insecurity in the North East.
He stated, “The ones from North East, we know; the ones from South South, we know; the problem is the North West. The same people killing each other, stealing each other’s cattle. Like I said, we are going to treat them in the language they will understand.
“We’ve given the police and the military power to be ruthless, and, you watch it, in a few weeks’ time, there will be a difference, because we told them people cannot be kept away from their farms.”
The president also described the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as “a dot in a circle,” saying the group is isolated in its call for secession.
He said IPOB will not have “access to anywhere” even if they eventually secede from the country.
Reactions last night trailed the directive of the President Buhari’s to the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar
Malami, SAN, to revive grazing routes in the country.
Mr. Abdul Balogun, SAN, said the herders and farmers clashes should be addressed before it gets out of hand.
He said in the next few months, the government may be unable to handle the farmers/herders crisis.
”The directive of the president to the AGF is apt and it is timely. The grazing routes directive to the AGF may save the situation. I know that something urgently needs to be done to put an end to the crisis across the country”, he said.
Another senior lawyer, Olumide Akolawole, commended the president for the directive.
He said the grazing routes will go a long way to put an end to the crisis between the herders and farmers.
”I think it is a right step in the right direction and it will go a long way to end the crisis”, he said.
But Abdullahi Bello, on his part, said the government needs to do more to end the crisis.
He said reviving the grazing routes is good but more needs to be done to end the crisis.
”The ban on open grazing by the southern governor is one of the ways to go in resolving the issue.
”The gazette on open grazing is good but more efforts should be put in place to bring an end to the protracted crisis between the farmers and herders”, he said.
….Orders Ruthless Action On Bandits, AK-47-carrying Criminals
Meanwhile, Buhari, who was in Lagos yesterday to inaugurate the Lagos-Ibadan rail line, restated that his directive to security agencies – to shoot any person or persons found illegally wielding AK-47s rifle and other assault weapons – remains in place.
The president also vowed that his administration will act firmly and decisively ‘‘against any and all persons fomenting or carrying out attacks on our police force and other security personnel.’’
According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, the president spoke at the handing over of patrol vehicles and security equipment by the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to the Lagos State Police Command during his one-day official visit to the state.
President Buhari warned that ‘‘a nation that turns its Police personnel and infrastructure into targets of violence and destruction is a nation on the path of self-destruction.’
‘‘As commander-in-chief, my primary responsibility remains the security of the country and the safety of all citizens. Despite the many challenges we are facing, I want Nigerians to rest assured that we will secure this country.
‘‘We will secure our infrastructure, our highways, our communities, and our forests, and we will secure the lives of our people,’’ he said.
The President told members of the Nigeria Police that as the government strives to improve their welfare and capacity, the citizens equally had expectations from them.
He commend the inspector-general of police and the entire Force for the recent efforts to restore peace to troubled parts of the country.
‘‘I have charged the Inspector-General to leave no stone unturned in rebuilding the morale of his officers and men, especially in the aftermath of the mindless violence associated with the EndSARS protests, as well as the recent spate of attacks on Police Stations in some parts of the country,” he said.
Commending the Lagos State governor on the newly-acquired security equipment and assets, the president noted that it would go a long way in boosting the morale of the police and further enhance their capacity to fight crimes and criminality.
‘‘This is even more touching in the light of the unwarranted violence that ensued in the wake of the ENDSARS protests last October, which saw the security architecture in Lagos State severely damaged,’’ he said.
The president commended Lagos State for showing a truly resilient spirit in the face of the massive destruction it suffered last October.
‘‘You did not allow yourselves to be deterred by the severe setback; instead you have bounced back and are now boldly rebuilding the confidence of residents and investors in the state.
‘‘I acknowledge the initiative taken to kick-start the rebuilding process, through the establishment of the Lagos State Rebuild Trust Fund, and through this very laudable effort by the Lagos State Security Trust Fund. I enjoin other state governments to emulate your bold, proactive and resourceful initiative,’’ he said.
The president also used the occasion to reiterate that the ‘‘Federal Government takes very seriously our constitutional oath to secure the lives and properties of the Nigerian people,” adding that his administration was conscious of the fact that lasting security is a necessary foundation for business, investment and true prosperity.
President Buhari declared that no federal government since 1999 had been as committed as his administration in reforming and repositioning the Nigeria Police Force and national policing architecture.
‘‘In 2019, I signed into law the Act establishing the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, the first in the history of the Force, to provide guaranteed funding to support Police welfare, logistics and equipment.
‘‘In September 2020, I assented to the Bill amending the Nigeria Police Act, which was originally enacted in 1943.
‘‘This new Act, a vast improvement over the old one, among other things, spells out the modalities for the implementation of a National Community Policing Scheme in Nigeria.
‘‘This new scheme will build confidence within our local communities and make them active stakeholders in the safety and security of their environs.
‘‘We are currently recruiting 10,000 new police officers to reinforce our personnel capacity across the country. In addition to this, I have directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to carry out an upward review of Police salaries and benefits,’’ he said.
In his keynote address, Governor Sanwo-Olu said he will leave no stone unturned to fish out criminals in the state, noting that his administration will continue to support the security architecture in the state to nip in the bud the nefarious activities of criminals.
He applauded President Buhari for gracing the occasion, and charged security personnel to take ownership of the items in order to be able to tackle security challenges facing the state.