Open grazing ban: South’ll resist attempts to deride it ― Clark

• Says Fulanis not superior to other races

The leader of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), Chief Edwin Clark, has warned that southern Nigeria will resist any attempt to deride it over the recent ban on open grazing declared by the region’s governors.

His warning at a press conference in Abuja, on Monday, followed a 72-hour ultimatum to reverse the ban given to the Delta state government by a Fulani group.

Clark, who is also the leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), warned of serious economic and political consequences for the country if the Fulani people who issued the ultimatum are allowed to have their way.

While noting that the Fulani race is not superior to others in the country, he observed that since the group issued the ultimatum, no serious action had been taken against them unlike what would have happened if it was made by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The elder statesman said: “But enough is enough in this country. When these people make such reckless and irresponsible statements, no federal government agency or even the security agents take action.

“I saw one wishy-washy statement made by law enforcement agents in Delta after this statement had been made. What they said is they are appealing to Delta people to be calm and that they will be able to take care, bring peace, protect them.

“Who are these Fulani people, Miyetti Allah who has the impunity to say they will go to Delta, Niger Delta and give them 72 hours notice? It is unheard of. Enough is enough.”

While noting that he was part of the leaders that met recently to discuss how to move the nation forward, he regretted that “a group of irresponsible men are threatening us and the president and his agents particularly Shehu Garba and others kept quiet as if they don’t know what is going on.

“But when IPOB makes a statement, they will jump on it. We can no longer continue in a country where some people regard themselves as superior to others.

“Mr President should realise that southern Nigeria, particularly the south-south or the Niger Delta, provide the resources for the survival of this country and any attempt by anybody to deride us will be resisted.”

In a prepared text read on his behalf, the former federal commissioner for information further stated: “We have watched with restrained patience, the reckless and irresponsible utterances of the so-called Fulani Jihadists and the Miyetti Allah, who believe that they own Nigeria from the North to the sea, and therefore, have the impunity to warn the state governments, particularly the Delta state government and the governor to withdraw, within 72 hours, his decision against open grazing, recently taken by the 17 Governors of the South, in a meeting held in Asaba.

“We have decided to issue this advice and warning to the Federal Government and the Fulani Jihadists that the people of the Niger Delta will resist in such a way that will make it definitely impossible for the Federal Government security forces to cope with, should this action escalate.

“We are reacting because this is not the first time Fulanis and their collaborators have insulted our people.”

He recalled statements by some northerners who claimed that the southern part of the country also belongs to the north, adding: “The Federal Government has continuously condoned them and behaving as if the Federal Government is the one giving support to these Fulani Jihadists and the Miyetti Allah because what is happening today in Nigeria, which has resulted in unprecedented insecurity and bad governance in Nigeria, will be worse if they are not called to order by the Federal Government within the shortest time possible.”

Clark lamented: “For some Fulani Jihadists to issue such insulting and provocative 72 hours’ notice to the Governor of Delta State, without the Federal Government and the elders of northern extraction, ever calling them to order, is most disappointing, considering that the same Northern elders were quick to accuse Igbo leaders of not publicly condemning IPOB.

“Such impudence of the Fulani Jihadists will no longer be tolerated.

“They even claimed responsibility for the burning/bombing of the Secretariat in Asaba which also houses the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Office.”

“The decision on open grazing and other decisions taken on national interest by the 17 Southern Governors received the full support of the people of Southern Nigeria, particularly the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo of the South East, PANDEF of the South-South and the Afenifere of the South West.

“We will no longer tolerate hate and divisive statements targeted at deriding and insulting others, from these Fulanis who believe Nigeria is exclusively theirs and other Nigerians are their subjects, and not their fellow citizens.”

He added: “I repeat, on behalf of Southerners, that open grazing has been finally buried in Southern Nigeria. For Mr. President to insist that open grazing should continue whereby he asked the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to dig out the Gazette that approved open grazing in the First Republic is unbelievable, unpatriotic and unacceptable to our people.

“Mr President should regard himself as President of one Nigeria, and not as President of the Fulanis or the Northerners.

“We shall resist, at all cost, any attempt to subjugate us as citizens of one Nigeria.”

Reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s suggestion that his administration would repossess grazing routes and reserves gazetted in the first republic, Clark reminded him that state governments are separate entities in a federal system and therefore not under the president.

He argued: “Perhaps Mr President is not aware, or he has not been advised by the AG that the Land Use Act which vested ownership of land on the State Governor is entrenched in the Constitution of the country.

“Therefore, any Gazette or Law passed by any State or National Assembly is and will be null and void because the 1999 Constitution supersedes all such laws or gazette notices.

“The President has no power or authority to impose open grazing on State Governments. Such illegal action which is a breach of the 1999 Constitution, will not be accepted and will be legally resisted at all costs.

“Therefore, any law banning open grazing by State Governments is not only legal and binding but is unchallengeable and binding on any person or group of persons, including the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“There is no federal system where the federating units are not controlled by the governors, who is the chief security officer of his federating. What we are practising today, is not a federation. Rather, what we are practising is a unitary form of government which makes our President the most powerful President of any Federal system. And that is why the people want a new Constitution.

“Finally, may I, once again, appeal to Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari to call for a National Dialogue over insecurity and general violence, with Nigerians of various ethnic nationalities.

“The various calls by groups for secession and breakup of the country is not healthy. He needs to have a peaceful government until he leaves office in 2023.

“We must build up a united Nigeria where all citizens are equal and have equal opportunity to aspire to any position in their God-given land without being subjugated or reduced to become subjects without any rights in their own country.

“We must, therefore, I repeat, restructure and return to a Federal system of Government as it was in 1963 before the military took over. Enough is Enough!”

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