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Buhari does not support open grazing – Presidency

A spokesman for the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said the president is not in support of open grazing of cattle.

“The president wants to see an end to open grazing; he wants to see ranching, but he wants it in a way that’s organised and he has a plan for it and the plan will take off in June,” presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu said during an interview on Arise News.

Shehu said the objective of the president and that of other parts of the country must align.

He had initially claimed that Buhari does not support the ban on open grazing by the 17 governors of southern Nigerian states, claiming that it does not proffer any solutions.

The governors had resolved to ban open grazing and movement of cattle by foot in the region over cases of kidnappings and killings that have been traced to criminal elements amongst herders.

The governors also called for restructuring the Nigerian system and urged Buhari to address the nation.

While the resolutions were cheered by many, Nigeria’s attorney general Abubakar Malami and the Presidency publicly opposed the ban on open grazing by the southern governors.

Malami said the governors’ decision was against the constitutional right of freedom of movement for other Nigerians who are herders.

But the chairman of the Southern Governors Forum Rotimi Akeredolu challenged Malami to sue southern governors over the ban.

However, Shehu after retreating from his earlier stance, said that the only difference between the positions of both parties is the approach to achieving the aim, adding that the president is insistent that it should be done in an organised manner.

Reacting to backlash from his previous statement on behalf of Buhari, Shehu said all the ongoing attacks on the president are from people who are in the mood for a public fight.

He said states that were able to meet the minimum requirements would be encouraged to embark on ranching, and expressed optimism that those opposed to ranching will change their minds when it becomes fully functional.

Shehu said the president viewed open grazing as old-fashioned and was looking forward to a replacement for the medieval practice.

But he reiterated that banning open grazing without an alternative is not a good approach to the issue.

He said the president was worried about the crisis generated by the matter, adding that the generalisation of every herder as criminals is not the right thing to do.

While admitting that the ranks of the nomads had been infiltrated with people now bearing AK-47 rifles to kill and maim, Shehu called for calm as the issue won’t be solved by a public show of strength.

“Let us stop this shadowboxing,” Shehu said. “You just brought one or two people here who said things that nobody said from our own end. Did the president say he didn’t support… ? He’s opposed to the way the governors have chosen to do it.”

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