June 12: We have no cattle grazing routes in Bayelsa, we are fishermen – Gov Diri

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Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri has said there were no cattle grazing routes in Bayelsa, explaining that his people are predominantly farmers.

Governor Diri made the assertion while responding to questions on the President’s recent directive to revive cattle grazing routes across the country.

He spoke on Saturday in Yenagoa, during his maiden media chat as part of activities to commemorate this year’s Democracy Day celebration.

Governor Diri explained that although he was not countering the federal government’s decision to resuscitate grazing routes, he said his administration had put in place a legal framework to ban open grazing and movement of cattle on foot.

The Bayelsa governor also emphasised that the southern governors had adopted the same position on the issue as part of measures to check farmers and herders clashes across the country.

Diri maintained that his government could not afford to expose its citizenry to the looming danger.

His words: “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 the rights to enact laws to regulate the activities of their 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.”

Meanwhile, Governor Diri has maintained that he is committed to turning around the developmental fortune of the Bayelsa State through tourism and the ongoing urban renewal programmes.

The governor said democracy was about the people and 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.

Governor Diri said the state had a lot of tourism potential and that his government was open to discussion and ready to sign memorandums 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.