Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has berated critics of southern governors on the ban of opening grazing of cattle and the call for national dialogue to restructure Nigeria.
It will be recalled that these were part of the resolutions reached when Governor Okowa hosted his 16 other colleagues on May 11, 2021 in Asaba, where they also called for state police and devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the states.
He said “We owe no one any apologies, because we spoke the truth and we believe the truth we spoke was in the best interest of this nation”.
Okowa expressed surprise that some elements in the Presidency are still advocating for the retention of open grazing of cattle.
“Can we truly at this moment be promoting open grazing? Thank God that the President was misrepresented, because I have seen news headlines that the President is not opposed to the ban on open grazing.
He said there is need to begin to look into what is best for us. Where we were 50 years ago should not be where we should be today and tomorrow.
He acknowledged that it might not be a one-day affair. He said, “it may not be a one-day affair but the process has to start and there must be a programme that must become evident, a programme in which we will begin to see actions being taken”.
He warned that Nigeria’s growing food insecurity may soon spiral to a tipping point on account of the threat posed by open grazing of cattle.
“Today, a lot of money is being spent by the Central Bank of Nigeria to encourage farmers to ensure that we are food sufficient but a lot of these efforts are lost, because of insecurity. Farmers can’t go to farm, their crops are destroyed, they are maimed and raped and some are even killed. We cannot continue like this, because if you have a programme you are spending billions on, we must secure it and we must ensure there is food security of this country.”
Okowa called for wholesale adoption of ranching given that apart from safety issues, it is more beneficial for both cattle owners and herders.
He noted that ranching obviously is the only way out as is happening in other climes and it’s not impossible in this place. In some parts of Taraba State, ranching has been on for so many years and we can actually create those ranches where the cattle will have more meat, more milk and then the children can actually afford to go to school, he said.
He said the voices for restructuring have been very strong out there. Why will somebody even criticise on restructuring? The only thing you need to know is that restructuring is of various facets, you only have to bring forth your arguments”, Okowa said as he spoke with selected journalists in Asaba.
His stand came against the backdrop of the criticisms of the Asaba Declaration by Abubakar Malami, Federal Attorney and Minister of Justice including Mallam Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman.
“I actually thought that the voices who tend to criticise the meeting failed to have an understanding. People should learn to approach things after a very deep thought rather than just looking at the surface ,picking one thing and speaking about it.
“We actually came in as state governors to reaffirm our belief in the Nigerian state and secondly we do also realise that there are things going on very wrongly and there was a need to address them”, the governor said.
He had earlier called for the writing of a new constitution, not an amendment, to accommodate emerging issues of good governance and greater interest of Nigerians when he received on a courtesy visit, the Senate sub-committee on review of the 1999 Constitution led by Senator James Manager in Asaba.
He stated that the southern governors’ meeting was in the best interest of this nation and not just the southern part of the country, because the voices of our people have continued to ring loud and ours was just to reflect their voice, he said.