On the TVC news programme “Big Talk” last week, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state was the guest of the host Sam Omatseye.
Sam Omatseye asked the Governor several questions about herdsmen attacks, agriculture, why he deserves a second term, mining etc. Governor Lalong answered the questions cogently and succinctly with great composure.
However on one of the questions he was asked, the answer he put forward was “pregnant” with several implications for generations yet-unborn. And understandably, this drew a lot of ire, disdain and criticism from much of Plateau’s citizens.
The Governor said “………even the current Government House in Jos is built on a grazing route” – that was in response to Sam Omatseye’s questions about herdsmen attacks etc.
Given that this statement generated a lot of scorn, derision and debate on social media, we at ViewPointNigeria thought it was prudent to analyse the statement in order to understand its implication on Plateau’s citizens in the short, medium and long terms:
- The Political Harvest (Short term): In an election year such as this, a statement of such magnitude carries a lot of weight and will translate into very bumper political harvest in the Hausa/Fulani community. Because for the first time in Plateau politics, a sitting governor has officially confirmed that the “seat of government” is sited illegally on a grazing route. This singular confirmation will endear the governor to the entire community.
- The Legal Angle (Short – Medium Term): Governor Lalong is the “number one” citizen of the state, as such any statements he makes carry a lot of weight. Saying that the “seat of Government” (which he resides in) is built illegally on a grazing route -gives legitimacy to herdsmen and puts the entire state’s position in Jeopardy. The state is therefore on the wrong side of the law, by this admission.
- Potential Lawsuits for Compensation (Short – Medium Term): Legally speaking, herdsmen can now seek redress through the courts (using the Governor’s pronouncement as evidence). If Grazing reserves were gazetted by the Federal Government in the 1950s and now a state government comes and contravenes it, it simply means the government is on the wrong side of the law -ultimately this could lead to massive financial compensation claims. Herdsmen are now in a strong position to put forward a litigation to the effect of the “denial of access” to grazing routes. Of course they cannot put a claim for owing the grazing routes, because these routes/lands ultimately belong to the government, but they can surely approach the courts to claim billions for loss of cattle due to encroachment by buildings etc.
- Danger to communities around Little Rayfield (Medium – Long term): By Governor Lalong’s statement about the little Rayfield Government House, it means much of Rayfield, Mai-Adiko, Fwavwei, Gurra-Topp, Shaka and other areas fall within the infamous grazing route. Identifying such a route with vivid clarity and specifics puts the lives of all the people living in those areas in danger. It could fuel the ongoing attacks and challenges, because herdsmen can simply use the statement as reason to commence displacing or attacking people in those areas as they seek pastures for their cattle. Or worst still, they will feel emboldened to graze openly in those areas because these are designated grazing routes and any confrontation with locals will be met with massive resistance.
- Burden on Posterity and Future Generations (Long term): Our grandchildren and their children will have a lot to contend with, given the fact that the “seat of government” has now been officially confirmed to sit illegally within a designated grazing route. Herdsmen will continue to quote this confirmation by the Governor for centuries to come -as they seek to consolidate their position and bolster their argument about the ownership of the metropolis.
In hindsight, we are sure the governor would have chosen his words more carefully before making such assertions on such sensitive subjects.
We are confident that his remarks were not ill-motivated but simply made in a bid to drive home his points that grazing routes have since ceased to exist. In this regard, we draw the attention of our readers to the fact that he mentioned the fact that 3000 cows coming into a state will struggle to find grazing lands because all the routes have been overtaken by developments etc.
However, we consider the choice of words and the specific mention of the seat of government as a mistake and ill-judged because of the potential of this to exacerbate the current challenges.
ViewPointNigeria has already swung into action to obtain the map of grazing routes in Nigeria in order to confirm the assertion by the Governor.
By Dr. Chinnan Mclean
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