Governors of Nigeria’s southern states on Monday gave a clear indication that they are not ready to back down on their opposition to open grazing, whether the Muhammadu Buhari Federal Government likes it or not.
They set Wednesday 1st of September as deadline for all states in their jurisdiction to pass laws to that effect.
The governors, who met at the Lagos State Government House, Ikeja, also hinted of their opposition to the July 1 invasion of the Ibadan, Oyo State home of Yoruba nationalism champion, Mr. Sunday Igboho, by security operatives.
In a statement issued at the end of the meeting and signed by its chairman Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, the Governors resolved that “if for any reason security institutions need to undertake an operation in any State, the Chief Security Officer of the State must be duly informed.”
In the statement, the governors said that they reviewed the situation in the country and focused on the current security situation, constitutional amendment, and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
When the southern governors first made a joint declaration banning open grazing in May this year, and expressed support for ranching, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, declared it as unconstitutional, and likened it to Northern Governors banning the sale of vehicle spare parts in their domains.
President Buhari also shared the minister’s sentiments. In a press statement signed by his media aide Garba Shehu, the President said that the southern governors’ action was of “questionable legality, given the constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT)-regardless of the state of their birth or residence.”
Open grazing by herdsmen, mostly of the Fulani ethnic stock who trek thousands of kilometres with cattle from the North to the south in search of water and pasture, has led to constant clashes with host communities. The herdsmen are known for attacking host communities, levelling whole villages in mortifying orgy of violence.
The attackers are never known to be arrested by security forces, and President Buhari also a Fulani has in the past urged host communities to accommodate their fellow citizens.
In exasperation, the southern governors in May banned open grazing.
Rising from the meeting on Monday, the Forum of Southern Governors agreed on the following:
1. Re-affirmed their commitment to the unity of Nigeria on the pillars of equity, fairness, justice, progress and peaceful co-existence between and amongst its people.
2. The Forum reiterates its commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimously agrees that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region.
a. The Forum reviewed the security situation in the country and commends security operatives for their relentless efforts in restoring security and safety and commiserates with families and loved ones of those who have fallen in the line of duty;
b. Re-emphasised the need for State Police;
c. Resolved that if for any reason security institutions need to undertake an operation in any State, the Chief Security Officer of the State must be duly informed;
d. the forum frowns at selective criminal administration of Justice and resolved that arrests should be made within the ambit of the Law and fundamental human rights;
e. Set a timeline of Wednesday, 1st September, 2021 for the promulgation of the anti open grazing law in all member States; and
f. Resolved that Funds deducted from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund should be distributed among the States and Federal Government to combat security challenges.
4. Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Law:
i. The Forum commends the National Assembly for the progress made in the passage of the PIB;
ii. the Forum rejects the proposed 3% and support the 5% share of the oil revenue to the host community as recommended by the House of Representatives;
iii. the forum also rejects the proposed 30% share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins;
iv. However, the forum rejects the ownership structure of the proposed Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC). The Forum disagrees that the company be vested in the Federal Ministry of Finance but should be held in trust by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) since all tiers of Government have stakes in that vehicle.
5. In order to consolidate our democracy and strengthen the Electoral process, the Southern Governors’ Forum reject the removal of the Electronic transmission of the election result from the electoral act; and also rejects the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.
6. The Forum unanimously chose Lagos State as its permanent secretariat and appreciated the Governor of Lagos State for the wonderful hosting of this meeting while commending him for his good work in the State.