President Muhammadu Buhari’s views on the May 11 resolutions of the Southern governors in Asaba, Delta State on open grazing ban were misconstrued, the Presidency has said.
Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said it was wrong to misinterpret his remarks as an endorsement of open grazing by the President.
The Presidency’s reaction to the Asaba declaration ruffled feathers.
The governors, through their spokesman and Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, berated the presidential spokesman, branding him an agent provocateur.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, and some senior lawyers, faulted Buhari’s opposition to the open grazing ban.
But Shehu, who in the Presidency statement questioned the legality of the Southern governors’ resolutions, appeared on Arise News Channel on Tuesday night and clarified that his views were misconstrued.
Shehu said: “The president wants to see an end to open grazing; he wants to see ranching; but he wants it in a way that’s organised and he has a plan for it and the plan will take off in June.”
According to him, the attacks on the President are from people who are in the mood for a public fight, assuring that the states that meet the minimum requirements would be encouraged to embark on ranching.
According to him, those opposed to ranching will change their minds when it becomes fully functional.
Shehu said the president viewed open grazing as old-fashioned and was looking forward to a replacement for the medieval practice.
He reiterated that banning open grazing without an alternative cannot be a good approach to the issue, stating the President was worried about the crisis generated by the matter.
Admitting that the ranks of the nomads had been infiltrated by people bearing AK-47 rifles to kill and maim, Shehu called for calm as the issue won’t be solved by public show of strength.
He said: “Let us stop this shadow boxing. You just brought one or two people here who said things that nobody said from our own end. Did the president say he didn’t support…? He’s opposed to the way the governors have chosen to do it.”
On state policing, Shehu shared the President concern on how the governors, who could not pay workers’ salaries, will fund state police.
“If it is what Nigerians want, the president would have no option but to support it,” he said.
The Presidential spokesman added: “You hire a policeman. Give him a gun and for one year, you don’t pay salaries, like you are doing to your teachers, that’s a problem,” Shehu stated.
Besides, he added that to implement state policing will require amending the 1999 Constitution and Buhari has never rejected constitution amendments.
On restructuring, he stated that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was not opposed to devolution of power, saying the onus on the legislature to do what is necessary.