Southern Nigeria leaders, under the aegis of Southern Nigeria People’s Assembly (SNPA), have condemned the rumoured existence of a bill in the National Assembly seeking the establishment of grazing reserves across Nigeria. They described the move as anachronistic and antiquated, adding that private commercial ventures should not be elevated into national or government business.
The statement, which was read by the Coordinating Secretary of SNPA, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, in Asaba, the Delta State capital, deplored the rampaging attack, raping and killing of innocent Nigerians, especially the recent killings in Enugu, Benue and other states by the notorious Fulani herdsmen.
Among the people at the three-day meeting were former Vice President Alex Ekwueme (represented by former Anambra State governor, Chukuwuemeka Ezeife; Ijaw National Leader Chief Edwin Clark, represented by Senator Roland Owie and Senator Femi Okorounmu, who stood in for Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi.
Ekwueme represented the South East while Clark and Gbonigi represented the South-South and the South West respectively.
They said that the grazing bill portends danger to the nation as it will institute a source of permanent conflict in the land, especially the federal structure of the country and the 1999 Constitution, which vested the power to hold land in the 36 states of the country and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
The leaders said: “The President should deal decisively with the issue of Fulani herdsmen in the manner government is dealing with the insurgency problem, that if unchecked, has the capacity to snowball to another Boko Haram.
“Consequently, he should set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate all Fulani herdsmen attacks between May 2015 till date and all those found to be directly or remotely involved in those attacks should be arrested and brought to book.”
The leaders observed that the inability of President Buhari to begin the implementation of the resolutions of the 2014 National Conference was objectionable, as the resolutions, if implemented, may help in resolving many political, socio-economic and security challenges of the country.
While calling on Nigerians to support Buhari in his anti-corruption drive, war on insurgency and his effort at reviving ailing industries, the Southern leaders urged the president to respect the rule of law, the protection of citizens’ fundamental human rights and the pronouncements of the courts.
They advised that the war on corruption should neither be vindictive nor selective as selective justice amounts to injustice, and the immediate release of all Nigerians which various courts have given bail and have subsequently met their bail conditions.
Also, they advised the Northern Elders Forum to desist from infusing in the present administration the “we and they” mentality, which they say usually creates division and confusion in the polity.
“The Northern Elders Forum should realise that President Muhammadu Buhari is the President of Nigeria and not the President of Northern Nigeria.
“The government is therefore for the entire Nigeria, and programmes and projects should be for the overall development and growth of the country and not a section of it.”
They urged government to look into the gaps that existed in the foreign exchange market and bridge it and to also find solutions to the lingering fuel supply gaps and the epileptic electricity supply in the country.
Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who was represented by his Special Adviser of Labour, Mr. Mike Okeme, charged the assembly to use the platform to promote the unity of the country as development could only thrive in a peaceful and secured atmosphere.
He said: “You are here to deliberate and proffer solutions to some of the national issues.
“As you discuss, you should ensure that you represent the county in a positive light.
“You should also use this platform to keep Nigeria united.”