Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa of Delta State has said that Southern governors will not apologise for banning open grazing of cattle and calling for national dialogue to restructure Nigeria.
Speaking with journalists in Asaba on Wednesday, Okowa reiterated the call for state police and devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the States.
Okowa expressed surprise that some elements in the Presidency are still advocating for the retention of open grazing of cattle.
He said: “We owe no apologies, because we spoke the truth and we thought that the truth we spoke was in the best interest of this nation.
“Can we truly at this moment be promoting open grazing? Thank God that the President was misrepresented, because I have seen news headlines that the President is not opposed to the ban on open grazing.
“We need to begin to look into what is best for us. Where we were 50 years ago should not be where we should be today and tomorrow.
“It may not be but the process has to start and there must be a programme that must become evident, a programme in which we will begin to see actions being taken.”
He warned that Nigeria’s growing food insecurity may soon spiral to a tipping point on account of the threat posed by the open grazing of cattle.
“Today, a lot of money is being spent by the Central Bank of Nigeria to encourage farmers to ensure that we are food sufficient but a lot of these efforts are lost, because of insecurity.
“Farmers can’t go to the farm, their crops are destroyed, they are maimed and raped and some are even killed. We cannot continue like this, because if you have a programme you are spending billions on, we must secure it and we must ensure the food security of this country,” he said.
Okowa called for wholesale adoption of ranching given that, apart from safety issues, it is more beneficial for both cattle owners and herders.
He said: “Ranching obviously is the only way out as is happening in other climes and it’s not impossible in this place. In some parts of Taraba State, ranching has been on for so many years and we can actually create those ranches where the cattle will have more meat, more milk and then the children can actually afford to go to school”, he said.
“We may not go into the big ranches but we can start in some form by acquiring some lands for that purpose and it may not be owned by individuals. Government can own the ranches where individuals can come and populate and pay some form of token.
“The voices for restructuring have been very strong out there. Why will somebody even criticise restructuring? The only thing you need to know is that restructuring is of various facets, you only have to bring forth your arguments.”