Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has threatened legal action against President Muhammadu Buhari if he decides to implement the recommendations of a committee that reviewed the Grazing Reserve Policy.
Buhari last Thursday approved the recommendations of a committee chaired by the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari to review “with dispatch, 368 grazing sites, across 25 states in the country, and to determine the levels of encroachment.”
Presidential spokesperson, Shehu, confirmed this in a statement in Abuja.
But the move has been criticised by Southern state governors.
The governors in a swift reaction tackled the President over the order to review with dispatch 368 grazing sites in 25 states across the country.
Several southern groups, including Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere; Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze; and the Pan Niger Delta Forum, have also condemned the move.
But speaking with journalists in Makurdi on Sunday, Ortom noted that Benue State would not accept grazing reserves within its boundaries.
According to him, the Constitution of Nigeria supersedes the Northern Nigeria Law that made provisions for grazing reserves.
He said Buhari’s insistence on grazing sites despite the general support for ranching shows Buhari has a hidden agenda.
He said, “The truth is that if the entire country had accepted ranching, then why is Mr President insisting on open grazing when there is no land for such.
“In the 50s when this policy was initiated, what was the population of Nigeria? It was less than 40 million but today we are more than 200 million. The 923 square kilometres is not even enough to cater for the population. The reason Mr. President is insisting, to some of us, I think there is a hidden agenda.
“Mr. President has aides. The Attorney General of the Federation, (Abubakar) Malami (SAN), and other lawyers around him should advise him. For God’s sake, it is laughable and it appears we do not know what we are doing.
“Under my watch, this state will not accept open grazing. I have already briefed my lawyers should Mr. President insist on going ahead with the policy.”
The Southern governors and groups have always insisted that herders interested in raising cattle in their region must embrace ranching to curb herders-farmers’ clashes.