Members of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) during a virtual meeting unanimously resolved to ban open grazing.
According to the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the Forum noted with concern “the growing wave of insecurity in the country particularly as it relates to the circulation of unverified video clips on social media portraying violent attacks on persons in some parts of the country.”
The Forum, however, called on political leaders and stakeholders to distinguish between criminal and social groups in their regions with a view to treating criminals as criminals.
The Forum vehemently condemned every form of criminality from herders, hunters, or farmers occupying forest reserves illegally. It also noted with concern “the tension generated by the eviction order issued to herdsmen in some parts of the country. And it expressed concern that this is heating the already fragile security atmosphere with threats of reprisals which the Northern governors are working assiduously to contain.”
The forum also noted with concern that “the current system of herding conducted mainly through open grazing is no longer sustainable in view of growing urbanization and population of the country.” From the foregoing, the Forum resolved to aggressively sensitise herdsmen on the need to adopt new methods of herding by ranching or other acceptable modern methods.”
The forum appealed to the Federal Government “to support states with grants to directly undertake pilot projects of modern livestock production that will serve as springboard and evidence for breaking resistance to the full implementation of new methods of livestock production (and) resolved to engage elders and youths in a robust discussion with a view to dousing the tensed security environment in the North and called on all the citizens of the north to continue to live in peace with all Nigerians irrespective of their origins and backgrounds.”
The forum stressed the urgent need for the Forum to meet and thoroughly discuss pending issues that threaten the precarious situation in the country and the rising tide of insecurity.
It was further stated in the Communiqué that: “State governments are encouraged to put in place systems to accelerate the grazing initiative of the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP and ranching in the country.” However, the Forum urged state governments to respect “the right of abode of all Nigerians and strongly condemns criminality and the ethnic profiling of crime in the country in an effort to frame the widespread banditry and the herders /farmers crisis.”
The Southern Governors Forum reiterated the decision of the NGF to ban open grazing in the country. Professor Usman has argued that the decision of the Southern Governors Forum could not be justified under the Land Use Act. Such divide-and-rule tactics are designed to further polarise the masses of our people.
However, the decision accords with section 1 of the Land Use Act which has vested the entire land in every state in the governors on behalf of the people. Accordingly, any person or corporate body that wishes to use land in any state is required to apply for a certificate of occupancy issued by the governor.
Also, the power to approve the physical planning of the land in every state is the exclusive responsibility of state governments. Forest reserves owned by state governments are equally regulated by laws enacted by the Houses of Assembly. Under such laws it is stipulated that it is a criminal offence to occupy any part of such reserve without authorisation of the state government.
Thus, pursuant to such laws the Federal Government has directed state governments to take charge of all the forests in all states. It is, therefore, grossly misleading to argue that herders have unquestionable power to graze their cattle on any land without the authorisation of the appropriate authorities.
No doubt, every citizen is, by virtue of sections 41 and 43 of the Constitution, entitled to the fundamental right to freedom of movement and right to own and acquire land in any part of Nigeria. To that extent, herders, like other citizens, are at liberty to acquire land for cattle business under the Land Use Act. But it is grossly misleading on the part of Professor Usman to say that governors are required to secure the permission of herders before banning the dangerous practice