President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the return of open grazing, which he said was practised during the First Republic when herdsmen used designated grazing routes to move their cattle across the country.
To that end, the President stated that he had directed the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to begin the process of reclaiming land from individuals who have converted cattle grazing routes for personal use.
Buhari made the remarks in an interview with Arise Television, which aired on Thursday, June 10, 2021.
The President stated that the grazing routes were designated during the First Republic when “Nigerians used to obey laws,” but that they had been converted.
Buhari also responded to a question about 17 southern governors’ decision to ban open grazing.
Recall that the AGF had objected to the governors’ declaration, claiming that it was akin to northern governors prohibiting spare part trading, a job that is synonymous with southerners.
When asked if he agreed with the AGF’s position, Buhari joked, “You want me to contradict my attorney-general?”
“What I did was ask him to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws.” There were grazing areas and cattle routes. Cattle routes were used for herdsmen to travel up country, from north to south or east to west.
“You will be arrested if you allow your cattle to stray into any farm. The farmer will be invited to file his claims. The khadi or judge will tell you the amount to pay, and if you can’t, the cattle will be sold. And if there is any benefit, you are given, and people were behaving themselves, and in the grazing areas, dams were built, windmills were installed, and in some places, there were even veterinary departments to limit the herders. Their route is well-known, as is their grazing area.
“But I tell you, this rushing to the Centre (sic) so I requested the gazette to ensure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to restore some order to the cattle grazing.”
He also criticized the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, for not only enacting an aggressive anti-open grazing law but also accusing Buhari of failing to take action against herdsmen because he is also a Fulani herder.
Buhari stated that he is a Fulani man, but Ortom was treating him unfairly. He claimed to have informed Ortom that the herdsmen carrying out the attacks were not Nigerian.
The President went on to say that for a long time, the Tivs, who make up the majority in Benue, and the Fulanis had been at odds over cultural issues.
“The problem is trying to understand the culture of cattle rearers,” he added. The Tivs and the Fulanis have distinct cultural differences. So, Benue’s governor said, “I am not disciplining cattle rearers because I am one of them.”
“I cannot say I am not one of them, but he is being very unfair to me, and I told him that the Nigerian cattle rearer was not carrying anything more than a stick occasionally with a machete to cut some trees and feed his cattle, whereas those sophisticated ones moved with AK 47s.
“So, from other areas, people rush to Nigeria, and Fulanis from Mauritania and Central Africa look the same, so they think they are Nigerians, and I assure you that we are trying to resuscitate these cattle routes, grazing areas, and hold them accountable”, the president stated.
Buhari supports open grazing