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Ortom urges federal lawmakers to be vigilant, reject grazing reserve bill



Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has called on members of the National Assembly to remain vigilant and resist what he called last minute attempts, under whatever guise, to pass a bill that seeks to deprive Nigerians of their God-given lands in favour of pastoralists across the country.

According to Ortom, it is curious that since 2016, the Presidency has sent the grazing reserves bill to the National Assembly bearing different names, adding that despite the public outcry, the Presidency is not giving up the idea of having the bill passed.

“If the current administration had concentrated on tackling insecurity in the manner they have pushed for the enactment of a cattle grazing reserves law, the country would have been safer for every Nigerian’, the governor said.

Ortom stated this in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Terver Akase on Monday, adding that in November 2016, the Senate rejected the controversial bill seeking to establish a Grazing Management Agency which was to ensure the creation of cattle grazing areas across the country.

The statement reads in part: “In 2017, the Federal Government again tried to influence the passage of a bill adorning the same regalia which was called National Grazing Routes and Reserves Bill. That bill was similarly rejected following the alarm raised by some patriotic Nigerians.

“The government subsequently introduced the National Water Resources Bill which also came with a singular objective of bringing all water sources (surface and underground) and river banks under the control of the Federal Government, a move that attracted an avalanche of condemnations from Nigerians.

“The Federal Government introduced Ruga, Cattle Colonies and several other programmes, all aimed at creating settlements for pastoralists in all the states of the federation. It is on record that Governor Samuel Ortom was the first to speak out against the draconian bills.

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“In August 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari approved recommendations of a committee to review “with dispatch, 368 grazing sites, across 25 states in the country, and to determine the levels of encroachment.” Again, Benue and other states rejected the presidential approval and the idea eventually lost steam.

“We understand that those who are bent on taking over the ancestral lands of Nigerians to give to pastoralists are looking for the opportunity to hastily pass the bill which they have now renamed as National Grazing Reserves Council Bill. The proposed law has been in the National Assembly after it was reintroduced, and its sponsors, sensing the mood and suspicions of the people, have been trying to find the right moment to have it passed.

“If passed by the National Assembly, the law will establish a Council with the powers to take over land in any part of the country for grazing reserves and pay ‘compensation’ to the land owner(s). Beneficiaries of the usurped land will be pastoralists whose animals will enjoy unfettered access to the land.

“The National Grazing Reserves Council Bill is not only a violation of the Constitution and the Land Use Act but is also a fang of impunity, subjugation and a deeply rooted conquest agenda against Nigerians. The bill is a direct land-grabbing legislation designed to make Nigerians slaves in their country while serving the selfish and parochial interests of herdsmen.”

Governor Ortom, who urged members of the National Assembly to act as true representatives of the people for the sake of posterity, and to remember that the future and unity of this nation lies in their hands, encouraged the federal lawmakers to remain dogged in their rejection of the bill and any other surreptitious attempt to mock millions of innocent Nigerians who have fallen victim to the occupation agenda.

“It must be emphasized that the stand of the Governor on national issues is borne out of patriotism and not for any personal agenda or gain. He believes in fairness, justice and equity”, the statement claimed.

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