Afenifere: Local Govt Autonomy Ploy to Grab Land for Fulani Herdsmen

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• Lambasts South-west Senators

By Gboyega Akinsanmi and Shola Oyeyipo

The Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) yesterday disclosed that the proposed bills to grant autonomy to 774 local government areas (LGAs) under the ongoing constitution amendment exercise was a ploy to grab land for Fulani herdsmen in all states of the federation.

The ARG, a socio-political organisation, therefore, asked the 36 State Houses of Assembly to through the proposed bills to grant autonomy to all local government independent under the on-going amendment of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly.

The group rejected the proposed bills in a statement by its National Chairman, Hon. Olawale Oshun, noting that the proposals “will destroy our federalism and turn it effectively into a unitary state.”   

The group said the National Assembly had passed two bills, which it said, sought to abrogate Joint Allocation Accounts Committee and another one to guarantee funding only for LGAs with democratically elected executives.

These two bills, if passed by at least 24 state Houses of Assembly, will make LGAs independent of state governments, noting that there “are traps hidden in the Land Use Act which the National Assembly cleverly refused to remove from the 1999 Constitution.”

As contained in its statement, the ARG cited section 6(1) (b), which states that it shall be lawful for a local government in respect of land not in an urban area…to grant customary right of occupancy to any person or organisation for the use of land for grazing purposes and such other purposes ancillary to agricultural purposes…”  

The group explained that the customary right of occupancy could be as much as 500 hectares if granted for agricultural purposes, or 5,000 hectares if granted for grazing purposes.  

It noted that the main reason for the push “to remove LGA from under the control of state governments is to make this clause in the Land Use Act enforceable.

“The so called autonomy therefore is a Greek Gift and states with recent history of herdsmen attack had better collaborate with other states to reject it. ARG will work with states in the southwest to totally agitate against it.”

It noted that the advocates of autonomy for LGAs need “to convince Nigerians of the benefit of such, despite the glaring fact that it is an aberration in any federalism and it works against development.

“If Nigeria is yet to get the possible maximum good governance from 36 executive powers granted to states, what will creating additional 774 executive powers bring? Total waste and failure.

“This plan will further destroy federalism in Nigeria and turn it effectively into a unitary state. However, we must remind Nigerians that there is nothing the federal government has taken over, since the enactment of the Unification Decree 34 of 1966, that has flourished.”

It cited the example of Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, noting that the stadium “had started hosting international boxing fight before it was taken over. Today, it cannot even host national championships.

“In the same vein are WNTV, Obafemi Awolowo University, Cocoa Research Institute (CRIN), Moore Plantation and many other notable institutions. We can assure you that LGAs will be worse off if this so called autonomy is allowed to pass.

“This is because those controlling Abuja have no better plan for the country other than as a conquest. ARG warns all state Houses of Assembly to resist this legislation,” the ARG said.

Meanwhile, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has castigated the elected representatives from the South-west region in the Senate over their perceived lackadaisical attitudes to issues concerning the people of the region, particularly their absence from the Thursday, July 27 sitting where the issue of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project was discussed.

Afenifere National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, in a statement signed on behalf of the body yesterday, described as “embarrassing and alarming” that at the last Thursday sitting only two out of the 18 senators from the South-west were in attendance.      

The body noted:  “This figure is appallingly embarrassing on a normal legislative day but is more of a treason against the people they represent given that an issue of critical importance to the South-west was on the table for discussion. 

“It was a sad day for the South-west that  when the issue of Lagos-Ibadan rail project was debated and loan request approved by the Shehu Sani-led Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, there were only two senators from the zone in the chamber even when our representatives were not unaware that the issue was coming up for discussion.”        

Odumakin underscored that fact that it took intense lobbying by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to save the project from being stalled by senators from other zones in the country in spite of the persuasive argument by Senator Sani Committee that the Lagos-Ibadan project was a pilot one  by the funders to see how effective we can be before approving the requests in other zones. Lagos Ibadan rail project is funded by loans from China sourced by the federal government.

“We  appreciate what was done  by senators from other zones leading the efforts to save the project when our own representatives were not available at their duty posts. Our absentee senators owe their constituents explanation on this gross dereliction of duty at the most crucial moment.

“The Yoruba nation has had quality and effective representation at the National Assembly in the past not to be shocked by this unserious approach to legislative duties. We seriously admonish a rethink and more dedication to duty by our elected representatives,” Odumakin stated.