Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, Governor of Delta State has slammed critics of southern governors over their decision to ban open grazing and call for national dialogue to restructure Nigeria.
Okowa while speaking with journalists in Asaba, the Delta State capital, on Tuesday, said the southern governors owed no one any apology.
The southern governors, on May 11, in Asaba, had also called for state police and devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the states.
“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,” he said.
“Can we truly at this moment be promoting open grazing? Thank God that the president was misrepresented, because I have seen news headlines (indicating) 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 explained.
“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 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.”
“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.”
Abubakar Malami, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, as well as Mallam Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, had criticized the ban on open grazing saying it it was unconstitutional.
Okowa in response said: “I actually thought that the voices who tend to criticise the meeting failed to have an understanding.
“People should learn to approach things after a very deep thought rather than just looking at the surface, picking one thing and speaking about it.
“We actually came in as state governors to reaffirm our belief in the Nigerian state and, secondly, we did realise that there were things going on very wrongly and there was a need to address them.”
He had earlier called for the writing of a new constitution, not an amendment, to accommodate emerging issues of good governance and greater interest of Nigerians when he received, on a courtesy visit, the Senate sub-committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution led by Senator James Manager in Asaba.
He told the committee that a new Constitution for the country had become imperative in view of observed inadequacies in the 1999 Constitution and called for the insertion of a clause to allow for the re-writing of the present Constitution while it would continue to be in operation until a new one was ready.
His words: “I believe that the southern governors’ meeting was in the best interest of this nation and not just the southern part of the country, because the voices of our people have continued to ring loud and ours was just to reflect their voice.
“We first proclaimed as a people and as governors who run the various states in Southern Nigeria that we believe in the federation and unity of this country, because there has been a lot of voices on secession here and there.
“There is nobody that has not talked about restructuring. Even the APC government constituted a restructuring committee headed by Nasir el-Rufai and they agreed that restructuring was inevitable.
“It has to be done. That is why we asked for the national dialogue so that we can sit down and look at the issues and agree together as a nation, as peoples of same nation on what and what will be needed, and I think it is very important.
“It is important and it will help to enhance the peace and recreate hope amongst our people that truly we are in a federation that is united in the best interest of the federating units. I don’t see why people will need to criticise that.”
On state police, Okowa said the way the police were structured “is such that they won’t be able to police this nation, it’s impossible; we are not saying that they are incompetent.
“But when the police hierarchy is already calling for vigilantes, they are calling for state police.
“So, the state police can be organized in such a manner that they assist the federal police, because the level of insecurity in this country now is too high and we need to do something about it.”