Asaba Declaration: We owe no apology on open grazing, restructuring – Okowa

June 3, 2021
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Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa of Delta State has berated critics of the resolutions of the Southern Governors on the ban of opening grazing of cattle and the call for national dialogue to restructure Nigeria.

These were part of the 12 resolutions of the southern governors at their meeting in Asaba on 11 May, 2021 in Asaba. The governor had also made decisions on the need for state police and devolution of powers from the Federal to the State governments.

Some principal officers in the Nigerian presidency had reacted differently to the resolutions of the southern governors in Asaba, which is widely perceived as the Asaba Declaration, though, admitting the urgent need to develop ranches in states that are willing to provide land for the herdsmen.

Governor Okowa, however, chided the elements in the Nigerian Presidency who are still supporting open grazing of cattle in the 21st century.

the Delta Governor had declared: “We owe no apologies, because we spoke the truth and we thought that the truth we spoke was in the best interest of this nation.
“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.

“We 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.”

Governor Okowa pointed out that the enforcement may not be a one-day affair.

“It may not be 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.”

The Delta Governor cautioned 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 the food security of this country,” he said.

Okowa noted that ranching, besides safety issues, is more beneficial for both cattle owners and herders.

“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.

“We may not go into the big ranches but we can start in some form by acquiring some lands for that purpose and it may not be owned by individuals. “Government can own the ranches where individuals can come and populate and pay some form of token,” Okowa emphasized.

The governor maintained that the voices for restructuring have been very strong out there. He then questioned: “Why will somebody even criticise on restructuring;” saying, “The only thing you need to know is that restructuring is of various facets, you only have to bring forth your arguments.”

The  Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity,  Mallam Garba Shehu, had in their self-defeatist arguments, criticized the governors decision on open grading but admitted, in contradiction, the need for ranches.

governor Okowa had expressed: “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 had on receiving the Senate sub-committee on review of the 1999 Constitution led by Senator James Manager, in Asaba, made a case for the writing of a new constitution, not an amendment, to accommodate emerging issues of good governance and greater interest of Nigerians. Okowa had enlightened the committee that a new Constitution for the country had become imperative in view of observed inadequacies in the 1999 Constitution and called for the insertion of a clause to allow for the re-writing of the present Constitution while it would continue to be in operation until a new one was ready.

“I believe 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.

“We first proclaimed as a people and as governors who run the various States in Southern Nigeria that we believe in the Federation and unity of this country, because there has been a lot of voices on secession here and there.

“There is nobody that has not talked about restructuring. Even the APC government constituted a restructuring committee headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai and they agreed that restructuring was inevitable. It has to be done. “That is why we asked for the national dialogue so that we can sit down and look at the issues and agree together as a nation, as peoples of same nation on what and what will be needed and I think it is very important.

“It is important and it will help to enhance the peace and recreate hope amongst our people that truly we are in a federation that is united in the best interest of the federating units. I don’t see why people will need to criticise that,” Okowa said.

The governor also pointed out that the way the federal police is structured “is such that they won’t be able to police this nation, it’s impossible. We are not saying that they are incompetent.

“But when the police hierarchy is already calling for vigilantes, they are calling for state police. So, the state police can be organized in such a manner that it assists the federal police, because the level of insecurity in this country now is too high and we need to do something about it.”

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