Buhari would not ignore the calls of Southern Governors on three point agenda for peace – Akeredolu.

Ondo State Governor, Chief Olurotimi Akeredolu, has said there is no chance in hell that President Muhammadu Buhari would ignore the call by Southern Governors’ Forum for a national dialogue, restructuring and respect for the principle of federal character in his appointments.

Akeredolu spoke Wednesday night on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspaper, and said he was sure that Buhari would examine the issues raised by the governors and act appropriately.

The 17 governors of the southern parts of the country had congregated in Asaba on Tuesday to deliberate on the state of the nation and agreed to end open grazing and called on the president to address the nation on the worsening security situation in the polity.

Asked what the governors would do if the president ignored them, the Ekiti State governor, who presided over the Asaba meeting, said although he did not envisage that, the chief executives of the southern states would cross the bridge when they get there.

He said the conclusions of the forum were not new, popular and acceptable to most of their counterparts the north.

Reacting to question about the possibility of Northern governors opposing the decision of their Southern counterparts, Akeredolu said: “If Northern governors ever go against the lines we have spoken, I Know that their ranks and files would be broken. We have a number of Northern governors who support our position. I give an example with the governor of Kano State who had over and over again, vehemently opposed open grazing. “He is a Fulani man and he continually says that open grazing is not in the interest of his own people and that to continue in this mode of animal husbandry in this age and time, is also not in the interest of the Nigerian economy.”

Akeredolu further said: “The Kaduna State governor had said he had enough land and we are saying that the federal government should support any state that want to do ranching. Government should support them so that people can keep cows there and do their business from there.”

Akeredolu was of the view that Northern state governors would not oppose the decision on open grazing, stressing that Benue and Kogi states were also in support of putting an end to open grazing.

He said disclosed that many states were facing security challenges because of open grazing, including the herders.

The Ondo State governor argued that modern system of animal husbandry had shifted from open grazing to ranches, which he added, must be supported and adopted by the federal government in the interest of all Nigerians.

Speaking about restructuring, Akeredolu said the federal government should see the need for restructuring, because there would also be division in the rank and file of government officials, since a good number of them believed in restructuring Nigeria.

“I know of a number of my colleagues in the North, who also believed that there must be state police because there have been danger all over the country and we cannot afford to continue with one command. Everybody is talking of multi-policing and all of us have agreed. So, I do not see any reason why anybody will be against restructuring,” Akeredolu said.

He explained that the 17 Southern governors would take the decision reached at the meeting, to their various states for implementation, adding that the governors would also need to have a consensus with members of the National Assembly on the decisions reached at the meeting of the Governors’ Forum.

“As governors, we are elites of the society and if we can come together, we should be able to stem the tendencies of insecurity that we are facing in the country today. The challenge is clear; it is glaring even to a blind man that we have problems that need urgent solution and that is why we has to take those decisions,” Akeredolu further said.

On whether the planned national dialogue would not go the way of the previous ones, Akeredolu explained that there was nothing that the governors have said about national dialogue that was new.

He said it was agreed that there should be several conferences and discussions on restructuring and constitution review.

According to him, “There are so many papers that exist today on restructuring and we are saying there must be a national dialogue which will not be a jamboree but must involve ethnic nationalities and a number of other persons where we will collectively take a decision from the number of papers that will be presented at such conference.”

“The issue of revenue allocation has been debated over and over again. We need to have that put in proper perspective also, and if all of us agree, I am not sure there is any state in the country today that will say it is comfortable the way the federal government continues to control the resources of the country, while the states continue to suffer,” Akeredolu said, adding that there is too much money and power at the centre, which ordinarily should have gone to states for project execution.

He stressed that the state police, which most of the governors have agreed to, cannot be run on the meager money going to the state.

“We need to have a revenue formula that will help the states to have sufficient financial independence to run their own state police. I am sure that all of us will come together to discuss it. We want to take all the discussions and ratify them before implementation,” Akeredolu said.

Meanwhile, Southern Senators’ Forum, members of the House of Representatives from the 17 southern states of the federation, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, have hailed the governors decisions.

The Southern Senators’ Forum (SSF) praised the governors for banning open grazing of cattle and advocating the immediate restructuring of the Nigerian federation.

The senators said such deft and unanimous policy would help in reining in those hiding under cattle grazing to unleash terror on residents of the region.

A statement jointly signed by the SSF Chairman, Secretary-General and Publicity Secretary, Senators Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti), Mathew Urhoghide (Edo) and Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu), respectively and made available to journalists in Ado Ekiti yesterday, said the step taken by the governors would serve as a buffer to wanton destruction of farmlands, kidnappings and carnages.

The senators lamented how southern farmers were losing hundreds of millions of naira to the plundering of food crops through encroachments on farmlands and exposing the region to famine and acute food scarcity.

They said: “At this critical point of our national life when the economy is being bedeviled by galloping inflation, youth unemployment and insecurity, food security is very crucial to mitigate the effects of these diverse evils on the citizens.

“Available records have shown that attaining food security status would remain a mirage in the South owing to the ravaging effect of outdated livestock grazing policy being unleashed on farmlands by some unscrupulous herders.

“Most appalling were the seemingly unabated kidnapping, raping and killing of our people by suspected herdsmen, who have become bandits heating up the system.

“With this uniform resolve by our governors to initiate no-open grazing policy, the region will return to its peaceful and agriculturally self-sufficient status it had assumed even long before Nigeria’s amalgamation in 1914.”

Members of the House of Representatives from the 17 southern states of the federation too applauded the resolutions of the Southern governors.

The lawmakers, in a joint statement, signed by the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu; Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu; and 20 others said the position was a firm restatement of their insistence that the nation must exist and be governed on the platform of democratic tenets of social justice, equity, fairness, mutual respect, true federalism, rule of law and constitutional order.

The lawmakers said such an action was a sure step towards checking the infiltration of bandits, armed herders and terrorist elements that are heightening security challenges in the region.

They cautioned individuals kicking against the clamor for the devolution of power and review of revenue control and allocation formula, to desist from their vested parochial interest, noting that such reviews are the only way to stabilize the nation.

While commending the Southern governors for their patriotism and courage, the lawmakers called on the federal government to provide alternative and modern livestock management that does not constitute a security and economic challenge to the nation.

”The platform of Southern members in the House of Representatives also support our governor’s restatement of the demand for true federalism through restructuring that will lead to the devolution of power, creation of state police, review of resource control and revenue allocation formula as well as strict adherence to federal character principle in federal appointments in the shared interests of the federating states,” they said.

Ortom commended the 17 governors for their decision to ban open grazing, describing it as a decision long overdue.

Ortom who spoke through his Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, said the decision was in the best interest of Nigerians.

He said there is nowhere in the world where open grazing is still being practiced. “Open grazing is archaic and should be rejected everywhere. Our focus should be on ranching, which is far better for even the animals, which is what we stand for in Benue State for long,” he said.

According to him, countries such as Senegal and Mali have since abandoned open grazing and wondered why it is still being practiced in Nigeria.

PANDEF, in a reaction by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, while welcoming the decisions taken by the governors, however, stated that their resolutions, though belated, were better late than never.

“With the goings-on in the country, we had expected them to meet before now but it is a good thing that they have met. It is a welcomed development. This would not only foster cooperation among the governors and people of the Southern states but also strengthen the nation’s democracy,” it said.

According to PANDEF, the governors’ resolutions, particularly, on restructuring, ban on open grazing and on insecurity are in tandem with its position. It added that open grazing is outdated, archaic and should not be allowed to continue in a society like Nigeria.

“It is, therefore, pleasing and reassuring that the governors discussed these issues at their meeting and made those far-reaching resolutions,” it said. It added: “The positions they have taken are in tandem with the thoughts and expectations of the people of Southern Nigeria. So, PANDEF commends them for the elaborate decisions reached.

“Kudos to the Southern governors; we congratulate them. We are pleased with what they have done; our hope and desire are that this meeting would be regular as we see the 19 Northern governors meet, from time to time, and when necessary.”

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