[CHRIS EZE, Yenagoa]
Bayelsa Governor, Douye Diri has told President Muhammadu Buhari that there is no grazing route in his state.
Reacting to President Buhari’s claims during an interview on Arise TV, Thursday, when he disclosed that he has directed relevant authorities in the country to resuscitate cattle grazing routes across the country, as solution to the contentious issue of open grazing of cattle that has caused untold loss of lives and property in violent clashes between herders and farmers.
Only last month, governors of the Southern regions after a meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, banned open grazing of cattle by herders in the entire southern region of the country, a move which was rejected by the Attorney General of the Federal (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
While Malami described the ban as illegal, Buhari on his part had equally called the action as unconstitutional.
However, speaking, Saturday in Government House, Yenagoa, during his maiden media chat that was broadcast live on all Yenagoa-based radio stations, Diri explained that though he was not countering the federal government’s decision to resuscitate grazing routes, his administration had put in place a legal framework to ban open grazing and movement of cattle on foot.
The media interaction was part of activities to commemorate this year’s Democracy Day celebration
The Bayelsa governor also emphasized that the southern governors had adopted the same position on the issue as part of measures to check farmers/herders clashes across the country.
Diri maintained that his government could not afford to expose its citizenry to the looming danger.
“For us, there are no cattle grazing routes in Bayelsa State. Our people are traditionally and occupationally fishermen. The idea of cattle grazing routes in Bayelsa is very strange to us in this part of the country.”
Senator Diri, who pointed out that in a federal system of government, states have rights to enact laws to regulate the activities of its people, stressed that the prohibition on open grazing of cattle would be fully implemented in the state.
“There may be cattle grazing routes in the north but what is applicable in the north may not be applicable to us in the south. I don’t want to believe we are running a unitary system of government”, he wondered.
Speaking on this year’s Democracy Day celebration, the governor said democracy was about the people and that Nigeria had come a long way with 22 years of uninterrupted civilian rule, which he observed had not been smooth but worth celebrating.
He noted that the urban renewal programme among other projects and policies of his administration were part of the drive to give the state a new look and make it more attractive to investors.
Diri said the state had a lot of tourism potential and that his government was open to discussion and ready to sign memorandum of understanding with partners to develop projects in the tourism sector.
He explained that the ongoing demolition of illegal structures in the state capital was in line with the administration’s urban renewal policy.
He expressed concern over the proliferation of shanties across the state capital coupled with the obstruction of traffic by traders along the major roads, which he said was unacceptable.
The governor noted that as a result of the demolition, sanity had been restored in most of its major markets in areas like Swali, Kpansia and Tombia-Etegwe, adding that some of such illegal structures serve as hide-outs for criminals.
On the issue of the federal government’s infrastructure development refund to the state, Senator Diri clarified that the actual amount it received was N27.5 billion and not N38.4 billion as being speculated.
He further explained that the total refund due the state was N38.4 billion but that according to the federal government, its release would not be possible in the next four years and offered the state a second option of a discounted amount of N27.5 billion through the Debt Management Office, which it got last December.
The governor also said the refund had been committed to constructing critical capital projects such as the Yenagoa- Oporoma road in the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District and the Sagbama-Ekeremor road in Bayelsa West as well as the Opolo/AIT-Igbogene ring road project, the dualised Glory Drive-Onopa road, the Nembe unity bridge and the installation of street lights in the state capital among others.
On the state-owned international airport, Senator Diri announced that commercial flights would commence next month as it was in partnership with United Nigeria Airline to operate daytime flights pending when the runway lights for night flights would be installed.