The 17 Southern Governors have lambasted Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, for saying that their ban on pen grazing in the region ”is of questionable legality.”

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, and South-West Governors Forum, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, accused Garba Shehu of creating confusion in the polity by his utterances and working “assiduously, for extraneous interests whose game plan stands at variance with the expectations of genuine lovers of peaceful coexistence among all the people whose ethnic extractions are indigenous to Nigeria.

Akeredolu in the statement by his Senior Special Adviser on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr Doyin Odebowale, entitled: “Mr Garba Shehu; On the Trail of An Agent Provocateur,” said: ”Garba Shehu must disclose, this day, the real motive(s) of those he serves, definitely not the President.

“He cannot continue to hide under some opaque, omnibus and dubious directives to create confusion in the polity. The easy recourse to mendacious uppity in pushing a barely disguised pernicious agendum is well understood.

“The declaration that the recommendations of the Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, a mere political appointee like Garba Shehu, are now the “lasting solutions” which eluded all the elected representatives of the people of the Southern part of the country, exposes this man as a pitiable messenger who does not seem to understand the limits of his relevance and charge.”

The statement continued: “Mr Garba Shehu just released a press statement purporting to represent the position of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on the farmer-herder ‘clashes’ and what he termed as ‘Deep Rooted Solutions to the herdsmen attacks.’

“He also attributed a unilateral decision to the President who ‘clears way for ranching and revival of forest reserves ‘as part of the ‘permanent solution’ to the frequent clashes between them, as well as the associated problem of the gun-wielding ‘killer-herdsmen.’

“Anyone who has been following the utterances of this man, as well as his fellow travellers on the self-deluding, mendacious but potentially dangerous itinerary to anarchy cannot but conclude that he works, assiduously, for extraneous interests whose game plan stands at variance with the expectations of genuine lovers of peaceful coexistence among all the peoples whose ethnic extractions are indigenous to Nigeria.

“Mr Garba contends that their announcement is of questionable legality,” referring to the 17 governors of the southern states, but the decision of certain elements to take the ancestral lands of other people to settle their kinsmen, including the ‘gun-wielding killer herdsmen’ and their families, and provide ‘veterinary clinics, water points for animals, and facilities for herders and their families including schooling through these rehabilitated reserves’ for which ‘the Federal Government is making far-reaching and practical changes allowing for different communities to co-exist side-by-side,’ does not appear to him as a comprehensive plan for land-grabbing, a precursor to internal colonialism.

“He wants to ‘revive forest reserves’ but seems particularly uninterested in the current position of the same law, that he and his cohorts often misinterpret to serve parochialism and greed. Governors no longer have powers over the lands in their territories. They must take instructions from appointees of the Federal Government on such matters.

“lt is superfluous, and that is being charitable, for anyone to remind us of the constitutional right of bona fide citizens to enjoy rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT)-regardless of their state of birth and residence.

“There has never been any contention on this provision. It is clear that Mr Garba seems to have issues understanding the difference between licentious criminality and qualified rights under our law.

“It is our duty to continually nudge him off his current state of cognitive dissonance. His pronouncement betrays dubiety and mischief.

“May we warn Mr Garba Shehu and his cohorts to desist from hurling insults at the elected representatives of the people.

“He lacks the authority to make policy statements for the Federal Government, unless directed, expressly. His acts are clearly those of an agent provocateur. Other closet dreamers, aspirers to colonial fantasies, must be weaned off their delusion.”

Akeredolu therefore declared 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.”

Also, Governor Ortom said the Federal Government’s insistence on re-introducing grazing reserves and cattle routes in the country is indicative of a hidden agenda.

Ortom insisted that Benue State would not be part of any policy that is short of the resort to ranching, which he said remains best global practice in animal husbandry, to check the killings of farmers by armed Fulani terrorists invading communities across the country.

The governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, was reacting to a statement by Mallam Garba Shehu in which he flayed the decision of Southern Governors to ban open grazing adding that the Federal Government would commence rehabilitation work on grazing reserves in the country, next month.

Taking a swipe at the position of the presidency, Governor Ortom said: “We find the move not only shocking and curious but also as a misplaced priority. At a time the country is worried about the worsening security situation and many Nigerians are calling for national dialogue to address the fundamental issues that have led to the present state of affairs, the Federal Government considers the reopening of cattle grazing routes as the only solution available to it.

“It is now clear that there is a hidden agenda which only the Presidency knows. Otherwise, all the regions of the country have accepted the fact that open grazing of animals is no longer fashionable and should be banned to pave way for ranching, yet, the government at the centre is insistent that grazing reserves/cattle routes must be created across the country.

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