Buhari: FG will reclaim grazing routes for herders

• Asks Attorney General to commence recovery process
• FG sets up account on Indian’s Koo as Buhari keeps mum on Twitter ban
• Reiterates shoot-on-sight directive to security agencies
• Respect your citizens’ right, reverse Twitter suspension, U.S. tells FG
• PDP faults President on infrastructural achievement claims
• Ndigbo, town unions decry Buhari’s stance on Igbo

President Muhammadu Buhari has given approval to the return of open grazing practiced during the First Republic where herdsmen used designated grazing routes to move cattle to several parts of the country. The President made this known in an exclusive interview with Arise TV aired yesterday.

While fielding questions in the 44-minute long interview, the President said he had asked the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to begin the process of recovering land from persons who have converted cattle grazing routes for their personal use .

The AGF had kicked against the declaration by 17 Southern Governors to ban open grazing, noting that it is like Northern Governors banning spare parts trading.

Reacting to a question on the decision by the Southern Governors and if he agreed with the AGF’s position, Buhari laughingly responded: “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 cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, north to south or east to west, they had to go through there.

“If you allow your cattle to stray into any farm, you are arrested. The farmer is invited to submit his claims. The Khadi or the judge will say pay this amount and if you can’t the cattle is sold. And if there is any benefit, you are given and people were behaving themselves and in the grazing areas, they built dams, put windmills in some places there were even veterinary departments so that the herders are limited. Their route is known, their grazing area is known. So, I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into the cattle grazing.”

He flayed Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, for his utterances, implementation of an aggressive anti-open grazing law and for accusing the President of failing to take actions against herdsmen because he is also a member of the Fulani herders.

Buhari said indeed, he is a Fulani man but Ortom was being unfair to him. He said he had told Ortom that the herdsmen perpetrating the attacks are not the Nigerian Fulani.

“The problem is trying to understand the culture of the cattle rearers. There is a cultural difference between the Tiv and the Fulani. So, the governor of Benue said I am not disciplining the 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, sometime with a machete to cut some trees and feed his cattle but those sophisticated ones move with AK 47.x

“So, from other areas, people rush to Nigeria. You know Fulani from Mauritania and Central Africa look the same, so they feel they are the Nigerian ones and I assure you that we are trying to resuscitate these cattle routes, grazing areas and make them accountable.”

He also tasked state governors to rise up to the challenges facing their states, recalling how he sent back two southern governors to his state after submitting reports of violence.

“These governors campaigned and won elections, they should be able to sort out issues arising in their localities, not running to the presidency. You know these people more than I do, and you are democratically elected to protect your people. Don’t sit idly expecting me to do everything, take action,” President Buhari said.

INTERESTINGLY, the President was mum regarding the ban on Twitter in the country. When asked for his comment, he said: “On Twitter ban, I will keep that to myself.”

The country has been at loggerheads with the micro-blogging platform, following its deletion of President Buhari’s tweet, which Twitter claimed was derogatory and inciting.

Yesterday, Koo, Indian-made rival to Twitter, said the Federal Government has set up an official account on the platform, which is looking at making deeper inroads into the African nation. Koo co-founder and CEO, Aprameya Radhakrishna, in a post on Koo said: “The official handle of the government of Nigeria is now on Koo!”

He also shared the information on Twitter saying: “A very warm welcome to the official handle of the Government of Nigeria on @kooindia! Spreading wings beyond India now.”

Koo said the platform is available in Nigeria and that it is keen on adding new local languages for Nigerian users. Koo was launched last year to allow users to express themselves and engage on the platform in Indian languages.

This is amid more calls on the need for the country and Twitter to have a constructive dialogue and resolve the matter. The Public Relations and Communications Association, International Communications Consultancy Organisation, and BlackHouse Media have jointly said the ban has serious implications for free speech, public discourse, trade, and Nigeria’s reputation globally.

“We call on the government of Nigeria to lift the ban immediately and we call on Twitter to demonstrate it is ready to work closely with the government to understand the concerns raised,” they stated.

THE United States government on Thursday kicked against last Friday’s decision of the Federal Government to suspend operations of Twitter. It also expressed concerns over threats of arrest and prosecution of violators issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

The U.S. government’s position was contained in a press statement by the spokesperson of the US Department of State, Ned Price. It advised the Federal Government to respect the right of its citizens to freedom of expression by reversing the suspension.

The statement read: “The United States condemns the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government and subsequent threats to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use Twitter. The United States is likewise concerned that the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission ordered all television and radio broadcasters to cease using Twitter.

“Unduly restricting the ability of Nigerians to report, gather, and disseminate opinions and information has no place in a democracy. Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies. We support Nigeria as it works towards unity, peace, and prosperity. As its partner, we call on the government to respect its citizens’ right to freedom of expression by reversing this suspension.”

HOWEVER, President Buhari has reiterated the shoot-at-sight directive he gave to security agencies on any person or persons found illegally wielding AK-47s and other assault weapons. The President also vowed that his administration will act firmly and decisively ‘‘against any person fomenting or carrying out attacks on the police and other security personnel.”

Speaking at the handing over of security equipment procured by the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to the Lagos State Police Command, President Buhari warned that “a nation that turns its police personnel and infrastructure into targets of violence and destruction is a nation on the path of self-destruction.”

He further said: “As Commander-in-Chief, my primary responsibility remains the security of the country and the safety of all citizens. Despite the many challenges we are facing, I want Nigerians to rest assured that we will secure this country. ”

THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, accused President Buhari of laying claim to achievements recorded by past administrations. It also expressed disgust that the President bungled the opportunity of addressing issues affecting Nigerians.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, noted that “instead of addressing issues and providing direction for our nation, President Buhari exposed his cluelessness, paucity of ideas for development while making very provocative comments that could embolden terrorists as well as serve as recipe for further division and violence in the country.

“On infrastructure, it is ludicrous to us in the PDP that Mr. President can disingenuously seek to subtract the deliverables achieved by past PDP administration from his so-called achievement on infrastructure.”

The PDP placed it on record that President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was elected on the platform of the PDP, introduced a 25 years national development plan upon assumption of office in 1999.

According to the opposition party, “this included the massive construction and expansion of road network, power plants, railways projects, inland and coastal waterways, airports, housing, agricultural and health projects as well as establishment of new universities and other legacy projects in various parts of our country.

“We want to inform President Buhari, since he is not always aware, that successive governments elected on the platform of the PDP built on these development plans leading to the expansion of major trunk roads across our country, railways and other legacy projects which, probably, his handlers are making him to believe are his.”

On the issue of fuel subsidy, the PDP said: “The fundamental issue which Mr. President dodged in the interview is the sleazy nature of subsidy policy under his administration.

“Mr. President failed to tell Nigerians how the volume of PMS used in our country progressed exponentially from 35 million liters per day to the current fictitious 100 million liters per day, upon which his administration’s subsidy payout is calculated.”

APEX Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said President Buhari has a choice between dialogue on one hand and an avoidable war against the Igbo on the other. Buhari was quoted as saying in his Arise TV interview that “tougher times await the people of the Southeast,” stressing that “this time around, they would not allow them any access to the outside world by sea.”

National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Chiedozie Ogbonna, said the president’s remarks have been unfair on the zone. He added that the country needs, as a matter of urgency, dialogue, mutual toleration and shared values; not the use of force. “Ndigbo will not support break-up of Nigeria but Ndigbo will not be victims of Nigeria’s unity.”

Some town unions in Igboland have described President Buhari’s interview, especially his position on the uprisings in the region, as some justifications for the genocide, which his administration wants to carry out against the defenceless and vulnerable Igbo people.

In a statement released in Enugu, signed by its National President, Chief Emeka Diwe, the group, which condemned the violence and agitations in the region, stated that they were products of alleged marginalisation by Buhari’s administration.

“We have severally said that if the injustices against Ndigbo in Nigeria are erased today, the agitations will end the next day. The ferment of Biafra that you see today is therefore the symptom of a disease inflicted on Ndigbo by this government and the previous ones.

“On a daily basis, Fulani herdsmen kill our people. They rape our women. They sack our communities. They destroy our farmlands. Our livelihoods are now sorely imperiled by the activities of the herdsmen. Yet, no single herdsman has ever been arrested, not to mention being punished for the atrocities against our poor rural dwellers.”

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