Grazing Reserves: Governors Advised To Seek Counsel From Traditional Rulers, Stakeholders – Hon Gyang
A member representing Barki-Ladi, Riyom constituency, Hon Istifanus D. Gyang, has observed that one issue of concern that has recently generated heated debate in Nigeria is the decision by the Federal Government to create Grazing Reserves.
He made the observation in a statement issued to newsmen in Jos, Thursday, in which he said, “This policy decision may have arisen out of the desire to seek a solution to the increasing spate of herdsmen insurgency, which has devastated many farming communities across the nation.”
He said the most affected areas are the North Central States of Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue States with extension to some communities in Kaduna, Zamfara, Taraba, Ekiti and Enugu States, among others.
According to him, the Grazing Reserve option is said to have received the endorsement and consent of some Northern State Governors, including Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State.
“This revelation came to the open through a media engagement by the Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe. One would have thought that, given the far-reaching implications of the Governor’s decision, he might have consulted thoroughly with critical stakeholders on the Plateau like the State House of Assembly, Plateau State Traditional Council.”
Hon Gyang observed further that, “The fears and contention over this policy decision of the Government is ominous given the devastation and violent attacks, which host communities have suffered from herdsmen leading to displacement from their ancestral habitat.”
According to him, the Federal Government, being aware that it has no constitutional powers to administer land matters, has resorted to the powers vested on Governors under the Land Use Act embedded in Section 315 (5,d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by seeking the consent and approval of willing Governors to allocate land within their states for the implementation of the Grazing Reserves Policy.
Hon Gyang further stated that, “My talking on this matter as it relates to Plateau State, especially the Barkin-Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency, which I represent, a constituency that is fast recovering from over a decade of violent attacks and a people whose lands are still under forceful occupation by herdsmen, is that the constituency or any part thereof, should not, ought not and cannot be within the contemplation of housing a Grazing Reserve,” stressing that, “already, there is palpable fear among the indigenous people in my constituency that, the grazing reserve policy is simply a ploy to legitimize their displacement and forceful occupation of their ancestral land and heritage by herdsmen.”
He also observed that, “to insist on creating any grazing reserves in this constituency or anywhere near it will rather not solve the problem but create a new one,” adding that such a development is not welcome.
According to him, government should rather adopt the implementation option of Animal Husbandry and Cattle Ranching as a viable alternative for economic activity for herdsmen. “This option is the much needed panacea against herdsmen insurgency that will engender lasting peace. It is the globally tested and accepted best practice!”
He observed that cattle owners and herdsmen being introduced to ranching may seek the prior and mutual consent of their host communities as against the seeming outright and unilateral imposition of the grazing reserves policy by government.
He said, “After all, the security and wellbeing of citizens is the primary constitutional responsibility of government as enshrined in Section 14 (2,b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended);” adding that, the same government cannot be seen to be adopting policies that set citizens and communities against one another in hostility, acrimony and violent conflicts.
According to him, “As for the widely circulated Grazing Reserve Bill at the National Assembly, one needs not re-state the fact that the Bill clearly contradicts and violates the Land Use Act as embedded in section 315 (5) (d) of 1999 Constitution (as amended), and is, therefore, doomed by reason of its inconsistency.”
The Member stated that, having been recycled for the third time in the 8th Assembly, it should suffer the same fate of being thrown out as was the case in the 6th and 7th Assemblies, more so that it affects a matter that is constitutionally under the purview of State governments.
“The Grazing Reserve option, either by way of a legislative Bill or a policy decision of the Executive arm of Government, is neither suitable nor feasible given the fact that it will worsen the problem it is intended to solve. Simply put, private ranching for cattle breeding is the most reasonable policy option in this instance,” he said.
He urged government to accept and adopt the option of “facilitate access” for herdsmen to loanable funds, saying that this will enabling them establish and own their private ranches; and in the same way, he said, government should facilitate loans for rice and wheat farmers.
“Look before you leap,” so goes an age-old adage. In the spirit of Grazing Reserves, therefore, the Plateau State Assembly is saying to governors across the country, thus: “Seek Counsel before you leap.”