THERE is a confusion over the identities of the 25 states where 368 grazing reserves, which Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari intends to revive, are located.
Buhari had, on August 19, directed an immediate review of 368 grazing reserves across 25 states in the country to determine the levels of encroachment.
The directive signals Buhari’s plans to revive the grazing reserves despite opposition from several sections of the country, including state governments which had banned open grazing.
However, the statement through which the directive was announced, issued by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu, did not disclose the identities of the concerned 25 states.
Some officials in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, who refused to speak on the record when contacted by The ICIR on August 20, could not disclose the identities of the concerned states.
Checks at other ministries represented in a committee headed by Buhari’s Chief of Staff Ibrahim Gambari, which advised the president on the review of the grazing reserves, also failed to offer any clue on the identities of the 25 states.
The ministries include: justice, water resources and environment.
But an official in the Ministry of Justice explained that the identities of the 25 states would likely be made known when the committee concluded the review directed by the president.
The official suggested that the statement issued by the presidency to announce the review of the 368 grazing reserves would have disclosed the identities of the 25 states if it was necessary at the moment.
The Gambari-led committee, which advised Buhari, had its inaugural meeting on May 10 but its activities were not publicised until the presidency on August 29 announced that Buhari had, based on its recommendations, directed a review of the controversial grazing reserves.
* Buhari ‘craftily’ concealed identity of 25 states… Benue governor Ortom
With confusion surrounding the identities of the 25 states, various state governments, particularly those in the southern part of the country, have come out to declare that they would not allow grazing reserves in their territories.
Governors of the 17 states in the South, under the aegis of the Southern Governors Forum, had earlier banned open grazing in the region.
The 17 southern states are: Delta, Ekiti, Rivers, Edo, Ogun, Oyo, Lagos, Bayelsa, Abia, Enugu, Ondo, Ebonyi, Anambra, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Osun and Cross Rivers.
In the wake of Buhari’s directive for review of the grazing reserves, Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum and Delta State governor Ifeanyi Okowa, on August 20, pointed out that grazing reserves were not allowed in the southern states, most of which had already passed anti-open grazing laws.
Southern groups, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and the Southern Nigeria Frontier, have also kicked against the plan to revive grazing reserves in the country.
Benue State governor Samuel Ortom, who has been leading the campaign against open grazing after series of attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen led to the death of hundreds of Benue indigenes, said Buhari deliberately concealed the identities of the 25 states where the said 368 grazing reserves were located.
“The Federal Government craftily concealed the names of the states where Mr. President has ordered that grazing reserves be foisted on the people,” Ortom said in a statement issued by his Spokesman Terver Akase on August 20.
But Ortom insisted that no part of Benue would be allocated for grazing reserves or cattle routes.
“There is no gazetted land or cattle route in Benue State. Our state should be counted out of the proposed grazing reserves programme,” the governor said, adding: “If President Buhari must actualise his cattle agenda in Benue State, he should be ready to kill all of us. We know that grazing reserves and cattle routes are the only project that the President has for Nigeria, but Benue is not interested in such a project.”
* Nigeria has 415 grazing reserves in 21 states… Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development director
However, in a recent report, Director of Department of Animal Husbandry Services at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Winnie Lai-Solarin said there were 415 grazing reserves in Nigeria.
According to Lai-Solarin, the 415 grazing reserves were located in 21 states.
One hundred and forty-one of the grazing reserves were gazetted, she said.
The 141 gazetted reserves make up about 2.7 million hectares of land but in all, all the grazing reserves cover 4,275,326 hectares of land.
Out of the 415 grazing reserves, only two are in the South – one each in Ogun and Oyo states.
Lai-Solarin said, “In all, we have 415 grazing reserves in 21 states. Adamawa has 69 grazing reserves and 31 gazetted and it is the highest. The number of grazing reserves ranges from 69 to some states that have only one.
“Other states that have grazing reserves include Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara, Plateau, Ogun, Oyo, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).”
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development official added that some states did not gazette their grazing reserves.
Going by the August 19 directive, Buhari intends to gazette hitherto ungazetted grazing reserves.
Lai-Solarin noted that Nigeria’s grazing reserve law, known as the National Grazing Reserve Law, was passed in 1965.
The then Northern Nigeria Legislative Assembly had, in 1965, enacted the Grazing Reserve Law to provide legal grazing rights and land titles to pastoralists, particularly Fulani herdsmen, as a response to tensions between the herdsmen and farmers.