• AGF an agent provocateur, says Afenifere, Ohanaeze
• Umahi: Those supporting open grazing want killings to continue
• Senate spokesman seeks Malami’s sack over utterance
• Open grazing is outdated, says MACBAN patron, Jibrin
It was a barrage of condemnation, yesterday, after the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami proclaimed the ban on open grazing by southern governors unconstitutional.
Malami, who spoke on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme on Wednesday evening, said the decision of the governors “does not align with the provisions of the Constitution, hence it does not hold water.
“For example, it is as good as the northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the north. Does it hold water for a northern governor to come and state expressly that he now prohibits spare parts trading in the north?”
He, however, advised the governors to work towards the amendment of the 1999 Constitution in their move to prohibit open grazing. “If you are talking of constitutionally guaranteed rights, the better approach to it is to perhaps go back to ensure the Constitution is amended. It is a dangerous provision for any governor in Nigeria to think he can bring any compromise on the freedom and liberty of individuals to move around,” he said.
It was a cacophony of reactions and bashing that countered the AGF’s submission. First to flay the Justice Minister was Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who as the Chairman of Southwest Governors’ Forum, asserted that: “Our decision is irreversible and will be enforced.”
Akeredolu said: “It is most unfortunate that the AGF is unable to distill issues as expected of a Senior Advocate. Nothing can be more disconcerting. This outburst should, ordinarily, not elicit response from reasonable people who know the distinction between a legitimate business that is not in anyway injurious and a certain predilection for anarchy.
“Clinging to an anachronistic model of animal husbandry, which is evidently injurious to harmonious relationship between the herders and the farmers as well as the local populace, is wicked and arrogant.
“Comparing this anachronism, which has led to loss of life, farmlands and property and engendered untold hardship on the host communities, with buying and selling of auto parts is not only strange. It, annoyingly, betrays a terrible mindset.
“Mr Malami is advised to approach the court to challenge the legality of the laws of the respective states banning open grazing and decision of the Southern Governors’ Forum taken in the interest of their people. We shall be most willing to meet him in court.” Without mincing words, Ondo Governor declared that: “The decision to ban open grazing stays. It will be enforced with vigour.”
Also rising in stout defence of the resolutions by the 17 Southern governors now termed ‘Asaba Accord’ yesterday was Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, who declared that those who oppose the idea of a ban on open grazing actually want the killings to continue. Umahi made the remark at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he had gone to feature on the Presidential Ministerial Press Briefing.
Asked to respond to the claim by the AGF that banning opening grazing in the south was like banning the sale of spare parts in the north, the governor said those who hold that view lacked understanding of the situation.
Umahi, who pointedly declared that the south has no grazing routes, argued that allowing cows to freely roam would mean trespassing on other peoples’ property.
He said it was the development that gave rise to crises and killings, which has also resulted in the setting up of the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
Similarly, the pro-Yoruba social and political group, Afenifere, said the comment by Malami was not only sectarian but also described it as emotional vituperation. Secretary General of the body, Chief Sola Ebiseni, said the AGF is an “agent provocateur,” adding that his comment “did not come to discerning Nigerians as a surprise.
“It only pitiably exposed him as being most unfit for the office of an Attorney General having always allowed his sectarian disposition becloud his eminent qualifications.
“Any time Malami perceives a threat to the interests of Fulani herdsmen, he is quick to latch on to constitutional provisions, which are not relevant to the object of discourse. He was readily on hand to vehemently denounce the Amotekun South West regional security initiative as being targeted against Fulani herdsmen and so declared it unconstitutional. When challenged to approach the court, he had since developed cold feet.
“For the attention of Malami, most of the states already have laws banning open grazing and the pronouncement of the governors was merely to give effect to an existing law. It is the animal that is being prohibited from grazing openly and being moved by foot except Malami intends to extend the inalienable human rights in the Constitution to animals in the defence of a culture, which gives more care to cattle than human beings.
“Malami was mischievously playing the role of an agent provocateur when he was inciting Northern governors to place a ban on spare parts trading in which southerners are involved. In deference to their religious and cultural sensibilities, some of the northern states made laws banning trading in alcoholic substances and have been seen destroying such wares in their millions notwithstanding that they share in the VAT collected on those goods and no one is crying over it.”
Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday chided the AGF, describing him as a “chief law officer that twists the law at will.”
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia, restated support for the position reached by the southern governors in their meeting at Asaba.
“Malami knows that there has never been a report of a clash between the Southern motor spare parts sellers and the indigenous Northerners. The motor spare parts sellers render their services to the populace from a shop or a shade and are in no way comparable to the Fulani herders who invade farmlands, destroy crops, debauch women, maim, abduct and kill. ”
EMINENT lawyers also faulted the position of the AGF on the recent ban of open grazing by the Southern governors. Constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, said it is within the authority of the governors to stop the danger of open grazing in their states.
According to him, if the way cattle are being grazed now does not fit the safety and security of the states they are ruling, they have the right to call the state Assemblies to make laws to control the situation and there is nothing emotional about it.”
He urged the state Houses of Assembly to immediately come up with laws to put the resolution in paper. Similarly, human rights lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa (SAN), disagreed with the position of the AGF. He stressed that since the proponents of open grazing support it with the right to freedom of movement granted under section 41 of the Constitution, this section cannot be interpreted to violate other constitutional provisions, especially section 43 that grants the right to private or public property.
According to him, “you cannot deploy the right to movement of person and cattle to violate the right of another citizen to own property, such as land or farmland, or else you become a trespasser.”
Another SAN, Oladipo Olasope, said Malami was wrong for that stance. “The land within the state belongs to the state government under the Land Use Act. Therefore, the state governors have the rights to what land is used for. So, Malami should not say that. He cannot have any force of law. Let him go to court and see if the court will grant his claim to say so. The land is held in trust by the governor for the people. Malami is very wrong.”
A former Nigerian Ambassador to Philippines, Dr. Yemi Farounbi, said the statement is bereft of logical reasoning and lack of understanding of law. He added that his qualification as the Chief Law Officer of the country is moot .
Ambassador Farounbi said: “The Attorney General of the Federation in declaring that the governors have no right to make laws for the orderly governance of their states has contributed so much mental poverty that one begins to wonder if he really has the so much qualification that entitles him to be Attorney General. A governor of a state has the responsibility of good governance for the provisions of security of life and property. In pursuance of that, the governor said there would be no open grazing and the Attorney General who is supposed to be the chief law officer of the federation begins to doubt the constitutional responsibility of the governor to govern the state. There is something very wrong.”
REACTING, Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, has charged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately remove the AGF for comparing open grazing of cattle to auto spare parts business. The lawmaker said equating the activities of “archaic nomadic herdsmen destroying peoples means of livelihood with others who legitimately carry on businesses by selling spare parts in their shops stands logic on its head.”
The Senator noted that the statement of the Attorney General is one capable of derailing the unity, peace and progress of Nigeria and therefore called for the immediate removal from office of the AGF saying “anyone who cannot rise above primordial sentiments and pursuit of parochial ethnic agenda needs not occupy position of trust especially at this time of sectional agitations.”
Also, a Fulani leader and patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Senator Walid Jibrin, has supported the call for the ban on open grazing of cattle in the country. Açcording to Jibrin, who is the Sarkin Fulani Nasarawa, Nigeria is far behind other countries that have modernised grazing of cattle.
He said: “With the current international concern on cattle rearing in Africa, especially Nigeria, there is need to look at how best this practice will be carried out successfully. We must note that land in Nigeria is being owned by individuals, families, federal, and state governments.”
Jibrin added: “As a full blooded Fulani man, Sarkin Fulani, and Patron Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, I have a free mind on anyone recommending a ban on open grazing, free movement of herders, and cattle in Nigeria because the practice is getting outdated internationally and is therefore necessary for Nigeria, especially Fulani race, to study critically the traditional open grazing.”