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Insecurity: 17 Southern govs ban open grazing

…say herders’ incursion threat to national unity
…reject clamour by groups for secession

The Southern Governors’ Forum, an association of governors of the 17 southern states of Nigeria, yesterday slammed an outright ban on open grazing of cattle across the region, declaring that the activities of the herdsmen had become a serious threat to security and national unity. Rising from a crucial meeting of the forum held at Asaba, the capital of Delta State, the governors observed that the incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the southern part of the country, has presented a severe security challenge to the nation’s common good.

They also expressed very grave concerns on the widespread insecurity currently plaguing the nation and strongly charged President Muhammadu Buhari to address these challenges and restore the confidence of the people. The governors at the meeting included the host, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, (Ondo), Dr Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Mr Willie Obiano (Anambra), Duoye Diri (Bayelsa), Godwin Obaseki (Edo) and David Umahi (Ebonyi). Others were, Mr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Nyesom Wike (Rivers).

Governor Hope Uzodimma (Imo) and Emmanuel Udom (Akwa-Ibom) were represented by their deputies, Prof Placcid Njoku and Mr Moses Ekpo respectively. Governors Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) and his Cross River State counterpart, Ben Ayade, were, however, absent. The governors unanimously condemned the rising spate of insecurity across the country. According to them, citizens are no longer able to live their normal lives, including pursuing various productive activities leading to a threat to food supply.

They noted that development and population growth have put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations in the South. “Consequently, the meeting resolved that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria. Given this scenario, it becomes imperative to enforce the ban on open grazing in the South (including cattle movement to the South by foot); the meeting also recommended that the Federal Government should support ‘willing’ states to develop alternative and modern livestock management systems,” the governors said.

Chairman of the forum, Akeredolu, who read the 12-point communiqué, said the meeting reviewed the state of the nation generally, but with special focus on the current security situation, agitations for restructuring, prospect for inter-state collaboration and partnerships as well as on the incidence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The governors rejected the call for secession by some separatist groups in the country and pledged their unalloyed commitment to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity, unity and peaceful co-existence among its peoples. Akeredolu said that the people of Nigeria must focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity. They observed that the incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the Southern part of the country has presented a severe security challenge to the nation’s common good.

They unanimously agreed that the progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation leading to the evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism.

They recommended that in view of widespread agitations among various ethnic nationalities for greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements, the Federal Government should convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency. The meeting also recommended that in deference to the sensitivities of our various peoples, there is need to review appointments into Federal Government Agencies (including Security Agencies) to reflect federal character given Nigeria’s heterogeneous population. The governors also resolved to foster cooperation among the Southern states and the nation at large.

They expressed concern on the continued gridlock on the Oshodi- Apapa Expressway and the chokehold it has exerted on the nation’s economy being the sole outlet from Apapa Wharf and recommended the reactivation and establishment of ports in other states of the federation to create new jobs and promote socio-economic activities in the country. They expressed concern on the economic implications of another lockdown on the country, and, therefore, suggested greater coordination and cooperation between federal and state governments in evolving strategies for dealing with the pandemic.

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