From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri

The Igbo National Movement (INM) and Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL) have rejected the proposed open grazing routes policy of the Federal Government.

 In separate statements  in Owerri, yesterday, they warned against its implementation in Igbo land.

The groups alleged that  the President Muhammadu Buhari-led  administration was on a land grabbing scheme and the target was to appropriate lands belonging to other ethnic nationalities  for the interest of Fulani herdsmen.

INM National Director,  Anthony Okolo, described  the grazing routes policy as a deliberate action only the Federal Government to encourage armed Fulani herdsmen to further perpetrate their heinous activities in the South East.

“INM categorically asserts that no grazing routes exist in Igboland. We urge the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to steer clear of extending this desperation to seize lands for Fulani herdsmen away from Igboland. In Igboland, open grazing of whatever domestic livestock is abhorred and in most communities’ sanctions are placed against owners of livestock found openly grazing or loitering in the community.

“Buhari’s desperation encourages brazen conducts by Fulani herdsmen across Nigeria. INM is deeply worried by the fact that the continuing efforts by the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to appropriate lands belonging to other indigenous ethnic nationalities in Nigeria for the benefit of Fulani herdsmen is directly encouraging the said Fulani herdsmen to act in audaciously brazen manners across Nigeria. Acting in manners to suggest they are above the laws and basically getting away with the commission of mass atrocities,” Okolo said.

President General of COSEYI, Goodluck Ibem, on his part condemned the policy saying Igbo youths were disappointed with the President for not concentrating on winning the fight against banditry and terrorism instead of creating more crisis in his grazing routes policy.

“We condemn in strongest terms the approval for review of 368 grazing routes with dispatch by President Muhammadu Buhari despite condemnations by Nigerians. This is an intentional show of wicked ignorance by the President whose interest should be what will bring peace and security.

“The President has not done anything to address the killings in Benue State and other states,  nor has he addressed the assassination attempt on the life of the Governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom by his Fulani kinsmen. But he is rather interested on how to acquire land through the back door for his Fulani kinsmen,” Ibem said.

On Thursday, August 19, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari, approved 368 grazing routes in 25 states. The approval followed the recommendations of a committee set up to review “with dispatch” 368 grazing sites in 25 states to determine the levels of encroachment.

But the approval kept on attracting criticisms from different parts of the country, especially states where open grazing has been banned based on criminality and insecurity associated with it. Some said cattle rearing ought to be a private business and the government should not use the country’s commonwealth to promote one ethnic group to the detriment of others.  Some even accused Buhari of trying to turn the country to a cow republic.

One such group, a pan-Yoruba self-determination group, Oodua People’s Sovereign Movement (OPSOM), has vowed to resist establishment of grazing routes in Yoruba land.

But a statement from the presidency said the Federal Government took the step to curb the bloody clashes between herders and farmers across the country. The statement read in part: “The President’s directive followed his approval of the recommendations of a committee chaired by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.

“The committee also recommended production of maps and geo-mapping/tagging of sites, analysis of findings and report preparations as well as design appropriate communication on grazing reserves and operations.

“The number of the Grazing Reserves and States were deduced from considerations of existing security concerns and other pre-existing socio-economic conditions. The President directed that the assignment be undertaken with dispatch to bring more understanding on the grazing reserves and implementation.”

But Oodua People’s Sovereign Movement (OPSOM) made a commitment at the inaugural meeting of its governing council or the organisation, chaired by the Convener, Mr Maxwell Adeleye, to resist any attempt to establish grazing routes in any part of Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti states. The group argued that grazing routes would not solve any problem as it would aggravate the existing ones.

The meeting ratified the objectives of the organisation, which is public interest advocacies with a view to supporting the self-determination rights of the Yoruba people.

OPSOM, registered under the umbrella body of Yoruba self-determination groups, Ilana Omo Oodua (IOO), led by a renowned historian, Prof Banji Akintoye, expressed its displeasure in the way the “Federal Government has consistently devised means to ensure the establishment cattle colonies in Yoruba land through a backdoor policy of tracing and reclaiming abandoned and archaic practice of grazing routes that was in existence in the 1960’s.

“The council resolved to apply the instrumentalities of the law, media and intellectualism to fight what is considered illegality and a subtle attempt at land grabbing in favour of certain part of the country.”

Director of Media and Communications, OPSOM, Mr Femi Oluwajuyitan, stated that the council also ratified the appointment of some people as interim management executive of the group, comprising Mrs Tosin Adeleye, as deputy coordinator; Oladapo Kayode, as Director of Legal and Compliance; Sola Adefehinti as Director of Finance and Administration; Mayokun Irekefe as Director of Research, Planning and Strategy; Kehinde Timilehin as Deputy Director of Administration and Finance and Desmond Adeyeye as Director of Contacts and Mobilisation.

The council agreed to give more room for consultations on the appointment of national coordinator as the deputy coordinator, Tosin Adeleye, was mandated to act as coordinator, pending the formal appointment of national coordinator.

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