Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has criticised President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval to review grazing reserves in 25 states in the country.
According to a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Terver Akase on Friday, Governor Ortom said with the move, it appeared that the President was turning Nigeria into a ‘cow republic’.
“We were shocked and disappointed to read a statement from the Presidency indicating that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved recommendations of a committee to review “with dispatch,” 368 grazing sites across 25 states in the country, “to determine the levels of encroachment,” the statement read in part.
“In a country where insecurity has reached an all-time high with hundreds being killed by armed herdsmen, bandits and other terrorists, the Presidency is only bordered about animals and their safety and is deploying all machinery and arsenals of government to impose grazing reserves and cattle routes on Nigerians. This is unacceptable!,” he added.
Speaking further, the governor accused the Buhari administration of “turning a blind eye to the unimaginable levels of encroachment on lands belonging to Nigerians by cattle”.
“Mr President has never come out even once to condemn activities of herdsmen and the attacks they visit on innocent people. The only time the President is heard speaking about atrocities of the herders is when he defends them.
“It is now clear that the Presidency wants to plunge the country into avoidable crisis. Otherwise, what is the justification for President Buhari’s insistence that grazing reserves be established across the country when Nigerians have openly kicked against the policy and have embraced ranching in place of open grazing?”.
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The decision comes at a time when the nation is battling insecurity, especially the lingering crisis between farmers and herders.
Efforts by the Federal Government to resolve the age-long clashes including the introduction of the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) have met stiff opposition.
The Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) had met on February 9 and agreed that the current system of herding mainly by open grazing is no longer sustainable, in view of the growing urbanisation and population of the country.
The Forum, consequently, resolved to sensitise herders on the need to adopt ranching as an alternative method of rearing animals.
This is also the stance of the Benue Governor who has, long before now, lamented that millions of Nigerians have been displaced following attacks by armed herders and are currently suffering in IDP camps.
“Benue State for instance has over 1.5 million displaced people with thousands living in camps and many more forced to flee their ancestral lands to stay under dehumanizing conditions in open fields.
“The Buhari administration does not seem to be worried about the food crisis already ravaging the country. Farmers have been chased into IDP camps by herders and children are dying of starvation in addition to being denied education, yet what is more important to their President is the wellbeing of cows,” Governor Ortom was quoted to have said in part.