Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has said the critics of the ban on open grazing in the southern part of the country want killings to continue.
Umahi, who is the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, said this while responding to questions at a press briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the State House, Abuja.
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The governor, who said the crises and killings that trailed open grazing, gave rise to the setting up of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), said allowing cows to move freely would mean trespassing on people’s property as the south has no grazing routes.
He called for the funding on cattle ranches through the Federation Account, saying many northern states were ready for ranching but the idea was being sabotaged.
Asked to react to the claim by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, that banning open grazing in south is like banning the sale of spare parts in the north, he said those who hold that view misunderstand the situation.
Umahi said: “I may not want to comment so much on what he said. I read it on social media but I will like to put the fact the way it is. A lot of us do not understand what this open grazing is and what closed grazing is. My faith says that if your right hand will cause you to sin, cut it off, that it’s better to go to heaven with a hand that is short of one than to go to hell fire.
“Now, from the beginning of age, our relationship with the farmers and the herders, don’t forget my father and mother were farmers all through. I and my brothers and sisters were all trained from the proceeds from farming activities. The traditional situation has been that we have cows in a farm settlement and then after a season, the farmers will ask them to move to a certain location because they will fertilise the land which will also benefit the herders because there will be grasses in those places.
Returning to traditional methods
“We have never had cattle roaming the roads. For the cattle shit, once it drops on the asphalt road it messes it within seconds. They pass through this road and pass through these farms. In the southeast, we don’t have grazing routes but in the north, we have cattle routes. Nobody is going to say ban open grazing in some areas in the north where they are cattle routes, where they move constitutionally from one point to the other. But in the south, there is no cattle route and for you to move from one point to the other, you have to move through farms, through population dense areas. And this is what the southern governors, southeast in particular are saying. Let’s go back to our traditional method of relationship, we will no longer allow you to take your cattle from one local government to the other.
“And the implication is that these foreign herders also come as mobile herders with AK47, and that is the source of conflicts. So, anyone that is saying that there should be no ban is on the other hand saying that these killings should continue and that is what has given birth to ESN. Whether we support it as governors or we don’t, the people tend to support it because of the foreign herders pretending that they are rearing cattle and they are killing people.
I don’t support cattle to move from one state to the other
“In my village, a white man handling construction was kidnapped. So, what the southern governors are saying is that let’s return to our traditional kind of relationship. I don’t support cattle to move from one state to the other and the northern governors have said we will ban this. Let us encourage the federal government, let’s treat this cattle rearing as a business. Take money from federation account and develop ranches, there are designated ranches in the north. The northern governors are willing but are being frustrated. I know once you develop these ranches in the north, a lot of movement will stop in the south. We want to live in peace, we want to live as brothers and sisters. And if the right hand will cause you to sin, cut it off. It is the same thing as saying let the cattle moving from one point to the other be stopped. Nobody is saying the herders should not be in the southeast but it should be treated as a business. When people go to other areas, they buy a land, they rent a shop, that is how business are done. You don’t enter people’s land without their knowledge, it is not done anywhere. I don’t think there is any southeast person that enters any region and sets up a business without proper permission. So, that is the truth about the open grazing thing, I think people misunderstand it, they don’t really understand what we mean.”
The governor said although the people of the region have justifiable grievances, their agitation has been hijacked.