Open Grazing: IYC Slams Defence Minister, Lauds N’Assembly

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By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

Ijaw youths on Thursday lambasted Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Maj.-Gen Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd), over his comments that states currently enforcing the anti-open grazing laws should rescind them to stop the killings by herdsmen throughout the country.

Coming under the auspices of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, the youths of Ijaw descent aligned themselves with the resolution of the National Assembly directing the minister to withdraw the statement immediately.

The Secretary General of IYC, Mr Alfred Kemepado, in a statement in Yenagoa, commended the ‘courage’ of both legislative houses on the issue, insisting that state governments have the right to make laws for the good governance of their people without recourse to a federal minister.

The Senate, the House of Representatives, Taraba, Ekiti and Benue State governments had recently berated the minister for calling on state governments to suspend their anti-open grazing laws, describing the call as illegal.

At present, the anti-open grazing law is operational in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba States, with Abia State passing its own version of the law meant to regulate the movement of herdsmen and their cows in the state on Wednesday.

Kemepado noted that Dan-Ali’s statement could only emanate from somebody who does not truly understand the workings of a federal system of government, maintaining that it is part of the distortions the current cry for restructuring would address when heeded.

“We want to specially thank the Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives for the courage they have displayed in calling Dan-Ali, the Minister of Defence, to order. These kind of comments, only reflect a mind-set by some of our leaders who still think Nigeria is some kind of garrison.

“The minister should be told in clear terms that by the dictates of the constitution, Nigeria is still a federal system in which states can make laws for the good governance of their people.

“Asking states to repeal the anti-grazing laws duly passed by their respective Houses of Assembly does not only smack of some level of arrogance, if not ignorance at that level, but also reveals the true state of mind of some of our leaders,” the IYC said.

Kemepado insisted that Ijaw youths were gladdened by the resolution of the National Assembly, maintaining that the minister must apologise to Nigerians for such “insensitive and unacceptable” comments capable of worsening an already bad situation.

He added that the situation had become so bad that an Ijaw leader, Dr Chris Ekiyor, a former IYC president narrowly escaped death along the East-West road, when he was shot at while his car was badly damaged by the rampaging herders.

“Our so-called leaders must weigh their pronouncements before uttering them to avoid adding fuel to an already raging fire. Asking states to rescind laws meant to protect their people who are butchered daily by herdsmen is like asking the head of a family to fold his hands while the family is being attacked,” the IYC said.