At ICAN Conference: Presidential Candidates Fault Open Grazing, Endorse State Police

Nigeria may finally see an end to the archaic system of cattle breeding – open grazing – that is responsible for a series of violent clashes between cattle herders and farmers across as the country goes into the polls in 2023.

Six presidential candidates in the coming general election, except the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu, have all agreed that the current open grazing practice is no longer fashionable and would be replaced with ranching if any of them is elected Nigeria’s president in the February 2023 election.

The candidates made their position known on the controversial open grazing debate yesterday at the ongoing 52nd annual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), in Abuja.

The event is co-sponsored by MTN Nigeria.

Those present at the event were Labour Party’s Peter Obi; vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Ifeanyi Okowa; Prof Christopher Imumolen of Accord Party (AP); Omoyele Sowole of the African Action Congress (AAC); Prof Peter Umeadi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and vice-presidential candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Isaac Idahosa.



The candidates who took turns to speak on the focus of their manifestoes agreed that Nigeria was drifting towards anarchy, amidst widespread poverty, insecurity and rising debt stock, which they say are no longer sustainable.

Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, told the gathering that any country where government officials or politicians are richer than the country was doomed.

Mr Obi decried the deep-rooted official corruption in Nigeria, saying the scourge must be dealt with for Nigeria to survive.

He said open grazing is no longer sustainable, and promised to set up a stakeholders’ forum to agree on ways to implement ranching in a way that will be pleasing to every party.

“In terms of corruption, it is easy to fight,” Obi said.

Despite the general belief that it’s difficult to fight corruption in Nigeria,  Mr Obi said, “It’s not difficult. The buck stops on your desk. If what I served is not stealing, those around me are not,” adding that no money got missing on his watch as Anambra State governor.

He also flayed the police authorities for failing to tame Nigeria’s heightened insecurity, especially kidnapping, saying with modern technology, it is easy for the security forces to detect crime scenes.

“We want to be able to move the country from consumption to production,” he stated, adding that Nigeria’s vast arable land could be used to improve agricultural production.

According to him, Yobe and Borno states alone can contribute about N1.5 trillion to the national economy through agriculture.

“We want to move the country forward, make it productive, stop corruption, use agriculture to stabilise the currency – which is collapsing today, pull people out of poverty because the more you pull people out of poverty, the more you reduce criminality and make the country sustainable.

“In a situation where gangsters have taken over your country, you can’t talk about sustainability when you have about 33 percent unemployment. You can’t talk about sustainability when you have 20 million out-of-school children,” Mr Obi said, adding that the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGS) sustainability was already embedded in his campaign manifesto.”

On his part, the Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who is also the vice-presidential candidate of PDP, said his party will ensure the amendment of the Nigerian constitution to allow for state police with a focus on addressing the rising insecurity that has stemmed from open grazing.

“But very importantly, this country cannot survive where we are at the moment without state police force,” he stated.

Okowa told the accountants who thronged Sheraton Hotel in Abuja that if the PDP is elected into office, it will midwife a national discourse to devolve more powers to the sub-national and local governments, insisting that the federal government can no longer sustain the enormous powers in the exclusive list.

The Delta governor insisted that open grazing is no longer sustainable, and said for Nigeria to find a permanent solution to open grazing, there must be collaboration by all stakeholders that will include the federal, state and local governments which, he said, need to sit together to agree on a practicable model to address the issue.

Okowa said, “So, we have to work with the state governors, find a way to encourage the private sector and the state governments to have access to funding at cheap rate so that, with such funding, we are able to actually have what we refer to as grazing reserve and there will be improvement, because now when you have grazing places and they are secured, and you have provided facilities, you have developed ranches.

“There needs to be a sitting down with the Miyetti Allah and all those people who are involved in cattle rearing. Let them know that it is not profitable. And when they begin to see the profitability of having their cattle in that place, you will find that they will begin to take their cattle there; you will find that you will have restored hope and more people will begin to go into it.”

Okowa who represented the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, at the event, said most states that have made anti-grazing laws are not able to enforce such laws because they do not have their own police force.

“So, whatever laws you are making come to naught because we are not going to use federal police to do whatever we want to do,” he said. adding that his party is committed to ensuring constitutional provision for state police.

“We are committed to allow states have police force and when people begin to realise that the economy will grow with ranching, or by taking their cattle to well-structured reserved areas, it will definitely work for all,” he said, adding that with state police, “governments will be able to ensure that the herders do not just roam around farmlands and begin to destroy crops with cattle.”

The PDP vice presidential candidate said his party would be prioritising job and wealth creation by coming up with a model that will ensure micro, small and medium scale enterprises have access to cheap loan facilities to operate.

Meanwhile, Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC), who chided the presidential candidate of the APC for failing to attend the panel discussion, also described the federal government’s 2023 budget as illegal because the deficit component in the budget is higher than the allowed three percent threshold.

“The budget violated section 12(1) of the Nigerian constitution by way of the Fiscal Responsibility Act which says that deficit to GDP ratio of the national budget must not be more than 3 percent. We are now at 5 percent. That’s unsustainable,” Sowore said.

He stated that electing a sound leader in 2023 is one of the major requirements for ensuring the sustainability of Nigeria.

“I hope and pray that we are not going to elect sick leaders because our country is sick,” he said, adding that there is no country in the world that can achieve industrialisation without stable energy.

The AAC candidate said corruption has destroyed Nigeria’s capability to exist as a people and promised to appoint a lot of accountants to audit the Nigerian books, adding that no corrupt person will be spared in his government.

On his part, Prof Imumolen of Accord Party said for Nigeria to grow as a nation, the power sector must be liberalised.

“We need to first stop the cause of insecurity in Nigeria to be able to stop open grazing with proper data,” he said.

For the NNPP candidate, Senator Kwankwaso, Nigeria is at a critical crossroads and all hands must be on deck to redeem the country.

He promised to prioritise poverty eradication, focus on economic recovery and sustainability.

According to him, the pattern of development adopted so far has created social and environmental problems.


Northern Elders, Others To Engage Atiku, Tinubu, Obi

Meanwhile, a number of key Northern Groups under the umbrella of Arewa Joint Committee has collaborated to engage presidential candidates, namely Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and presidential candidates of the PRP and that of the SDP.

The Arewa Joint Committee is made up of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation (SABMF), Jamiyyar Matan Arewa (JMA), Arewa House (Centre for Historical Development and Research) and Arewa Research and Documentation Project (ARDP).

Addressing a press conference at the headquarters of the SABMF in Kaduna, secretary of the committee, Abubakar Gambo Umar, who read the text of the briefing, said, “Together, we have pooled our energy and commitments to interests of the North and Nigeria and other resources to engage some presidential candidates of political parties who seek the mandate of Nigerians to govern from May 29, 2023.

“The engagements will start on Saturday, 15th October, and conclude on the 17th of October, 2023. The candidates who will interact with a select group of leaders and elders from across the North will be those of the APC, NNPP, PDP, PRP, LP and SDP”.

He said other candidates may be invited at a later date.

Umar expressed gratitude to the candidates and parties who had agreed to participate in the engagements, adding that “the goals of the engagements are basically to improve the understanding of presidential candidates over issues that are central to the interests of the North as we embark on the defining search for good leaders that should emerge in 2023, given the state of the North, particularly in terms of its security, economy and infrastructure, preparation of its young to become responsible and productive adults; its relationship with the rest of Nigeria; the critical need for good, effective and inspirational leadership and possible changes in the structures and systems of governance to make them more effective, and our need to exercise vigilance over who assumes responsibility over our security and progress.”

According to the northern elders, these engagements have become necessary to avoid mistakes of the past when leaders emerged with no popular inputs into their plans and programmes, and with virtually no efforts to interrogate their capacities and vision if they became leaders.

“We also expect that candidates will share with us their own plans and visions, not just for the North, but for the country as a whole.

“Our hope is that these engagements will serve a major goal of affording candidates an opportunity to share ideas and perspective with a critical segment of the North, submit to the values of accountability and enlist the North in their quest for leadership in 2023,” Umar said.

He further stated that this initiative will be part of a series of steps northern leaders would take to improve their understanding over which candidate is best prepared to lead the country and address key challenges and aspirations of the North.

“We will follow candidates as they campaign, and we will encourage citizens and groups to subject them to critical scrutiny. If it becomes necessary to undertake an overall assessment of the candidates and advise voters who will benefit from our opinions, we will do so, strictly on the basis of the interests of the North and the nation. In the meantime, we will provide a level playing field for all candidates” he assured on behalf of theregion,” he concluded.


Address Wike’s Grievances For Peace To Reign, Nwuke Tells PDP

A former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, has said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must address the complaints of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, if it is sincere and wants peace to reign.

This is as he said that Wike’s camp was waiting for the report of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PDP, which had paid a visit to the governor recently.

Nwuke, who is also a former Commissioner for Information and Communications in Rivers State, spoke yesterday with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt, the state capital.

He said, “What we know is that if the PDP is sincere, if the PDP wants peace in its midst, if the PDP wants to run as a unit, then, it will address the complaints that have been put forward.”

The former federal lawmaker stated that the Rivers State governor was not fighting a personal fight but for the rights of the entire Southern part of the country.

Nwuke said, “I am of the view that it will not be necessary to cross the bridge until you get there. What we know is that they have visited all of those who are aggrieved at this time and they have heard the reasons for their grievances.

“They have also shown that they understand the enormity of the complaints they have received. I think the BOT chairman said the other day that every situation has two sides and they had come and they had heard the other side.

“They said they were going back to Abuja to continue their work. It will be necessary, needful at this time to all take that decision. Let’s not deal in something that is speculative.

“The point I want to make here is the danger in seeing what is playing out as Wike’s concern. What Wike is standing for is the interest of the South.

“I think we should remove the personification, the impression that Wike will be either the winner or the loser. The loser and winner at this point in time is the PDP if issues are not properly handled.

“It will be nice to hope that the PDP, in its own interest, will do that which is justifiable, justiceable, fair and equitable. It is not Wike; this thing has gone beyond Wike. Wike is not the issue. The issue is what is being put on the table on behalf of a section of this country. I think if it were to be Wike’s position, I think all those supporting the position would have gone home by now.

“Will those who abridged the right of the South claim that they don’t know that it is not right to have the chairmanship and presidential candidate of the party from one zone?  Will they say they don’t know? I think we should wait and see. An appropriate reaction will come when the report is made public because you cannot predict what is in that report.”


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