Two gaffes and one attempt at clarification appear to be the description of what is going on in the Presidential Villa over the open grazing debate and the concern about banditry and kidnapping associated with it. The confusion started with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami attempting to respond to the resolution of the 17 Southern governors banning open grazing throughout Southern Nigeria. The governors rising from a meeting in Asaba, Delta State on May 11, announced that open grazing of cattle in any of the 17 Southern states of Nigeria is prohibited. Incensed by the Southern governors’ announcement, the Minister of Justice, Malami, in an interview, described the decision of the governors as unconstitutional, likening it to Northern governors deciding to prohibit the business of sale of spare parts in Northern states in the country. His analogy has drawn a lot of anger across the country, with critics describing it as disingenuous and self-serving.
As if Malami’s attempt at redefinition of constitutionally guaranteed rights for persons, rather than cattle was not outrageous enough, presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu went further to announce the ‘discovery’ of the final solution to farmers/herders clashes in Nigeria and the menace of herder kidnappers in the country. According to Garba Shehu, Agriculture Minister, Sabo Nanono had come up with a solution to the problem, which has been endorsed by the President as an end to the clashes – grazing reserves. Under this plan, the government will acquire and support the creation of grazing reserves. The Southern governors were however quick to respond, with Ondo State governor responding on their behalf and stating that Garba Shehu could not have been speaking for President Buhari. He described Shehu as an “agent provocateur” who did not speak for Buhari. Governor Akeredolu stated that, “No inch of the space delineated and known, currently, as South West and indeed the whole South, will be ceded to a band of invaders masquerading as herdsmen under any guise.” Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom, praised the Southern governors for their decision and also asked to be counted out of the Federal Government grazing routes/grazing reserves plan. Attempting to clarify his statement, Garba Shehu stated that President Buhari is opposed to open grazing and is rather in support of ranching. He added that to this end, the President has an implementation strategy which will kick off by June 2021.