By Chief Mike Ozekhome
The Northern elites, including the Hon Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, miss the point sorely when they compare Igbo peaceful spare-parts dealers who go about their normal spare parts business legitimately, (building or renting their shops), with savage, maniacal AK-47-wielding herdsmen. Igbo traders do not kill or attack Northerners with their stock of motor-tyres, rims, spanners or chassis. They do not pour petrol from fuel tanks that they sell, on Fulani herdsmen. They do not use car bumpers or wind shields to smash the heads of herdsmen.
How does open and street grazing of cows by fully armed foot-patrolling youth which is now clearly anachronistic, diluvian, primitive and antiquated, be likened to legitimate spare parts business being carried out in shops or designated areas, with the Igbo traders paying tenement rate, taxes, water electricity and light bills? Have you ever heard of any herder paying tax? How do you equate spare parts dealers with mindless violence unleashed on poor helpless and hapless farmers in their own farms, and destruction of their crops with reckless abandon by these rampaging nomadic pastoralists who are on a mission of conquest and expansionism?
How do you compare apples with oranges, by equating Igbo spare parts dealers (who maintain log books, cash books, and accounting systems in their secluded and approved environments of peace and tranquility), with rampaging fully armed murderous bandits (passing for headers), who unleash terror and mayhem on innocent citizens? These open grazers kidnap travelers on the way, invade homes, rape mothers and their daughters and slash people’s throats, unprovoked, unmolested and undisturbed? Do Igbo traders overrun Northerners or Fulanis in their homes? Is it not the spaces legally allotted to them by the Federal Government, Local Governments, cities or MDAs, that they legitimately and quietly operate from?
How do armed herders who freely trespass on people lands, destroy their crops and other means of livelihood, and slaughter them, compare with peaceful traders plying their legitimate business? Do spare parts dealers pose security threat to their host, or anyone else? The Igbos do not foist any pre-determined supremacist hegemony and irredentism agenda or other races as the herders (many of them from neighbouring countries) are currently doing.
Freedom of movement is only for human beings. It is not for cattle, sheep and goats. Will the Northerners tolerate the open sale of alcoholic beverages in their States, even though it is the constitutional right of other ethnic groups to move about and sell beverages of their choice.
Are these Northern elites seriously arguing that Southern State Governors cannot ban open grazing in their states, to protect their innocent citizens from deadly killer herdsmen?
The freedom of movement guaranteed in section 41 of the Constitution (though for human beings, not animals), is not even absolute at all. Section 45 is pretty straightforward as regards derogation from section 41. It provides:
“(1) Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society:
(a) in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or
(b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.”
Thus, the right to movement in section 42 of the Constitution can be overridden by section 45 of the Constitution which allows any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health. Considering the incessant cases of Boko Haram killings, maiming, stealing, kidnappings, rape, armed banditry and robbery foisted on the Southern part of the country, Southern leaders have rightly taken it upon themselves to put in place laws and measures that will protect their citizens. To this end, it is safe to assert that individual rights to movement have not in anyway been violated by the various states’ anti-grazing laws because the laws were enacted in the interest of public safety, public order, public defence and public morality. The laws of and declaration by the Southern Governors are also to protect the peace, privacy and homes of Southerners as highlighted in section 37 of the 1999 Constitution. They are also for the “purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons”.
In the case of KALU v. FRN & ORS (2012) LPELR-9287(CA), the Court of Appeal made it clear that the rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement are not absolute and can be derogated from:
“The rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement, guaranteed respectively by Sections 35 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution, are not absolute…Section 41(2)(a) of the Constitution says that the right to freedom of movement may be deprived under a law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society that imposes restrictions on the movement of any person who has committed or is reasonably suspected to have committed a criminal offence in order to prevent him from leaving Nigeria”. An application for enforcement of a party’s fundamental right presupposes the right has been, is being or is likely to be violated otherwise than in accordance with the procedure permitted by law. That argument will be defeated when it is apparent that the right has been deprived of in accordance with the procedure permitted by law”, Per EJEMBI EKO, JCA (as he then was) (Pp 44 – 45, Paras G – E).
The above position of the law is further strengthened by the combined effect of the provisions of sections 4(7), 5(2), 11(2), 14(2) and 176(2) of the 1999 Constitution. Section 4(7) states that the House of Assembly of a State shall have powers to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State. Section 5(2) provides that the executive powers of a State shall be vested in the Governor of that State. Section 11(2) gives the Governor of a State powers over the maintenance of supplies and services. Section 14(2)(b) enjoins the Governor to ensure that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Section 176(2) makes the Governor of a State its Chief Executive. So, where have the Governors of Southern States gone wrong? I cannot see it. Or, can you?
In ASARI DOKUBO V. FRN (2007) NGSC 106 (decided June 8, 2007), the apex court of Nigeria held that national security overrides personal individual rights, where it is discovered that the individual’s right poses threats to national security. Substitute for this, States’ and groups’ rights and security supersede the individual rights of few rampaging, fully armed, AK-47-clutching and wandering Fulani herdsmen who are not merely grazing their cattle, but actually on a predetermined mission of conquest, expansionism and neo-colonialism of other ethnic nationalities. Such must be fully resisted within all legal boundaries as the Southern Governors are now doing.
WHAT THE STATE GOVERNORS MUST NOW DO
The 17 Southern Governors should immediately sue the Federal Government, invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under section 232 of the 1999 Constitution. They should ask for a determination of their right to preserve their States from insecurity. Indeed, as held by the Supreme Court in AG OGUN STATE V. AG FEDERATION (1982) LPELR-11(SC), the making of law for the maintenance of law and order and securing of public safety and public order is the responsibility of both the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly. Consequently, the Southern Governors are clothed with legality and constitutionality to ban open grazing. The Governors should therefore not be burdened by the opinions of other Northern States Governors, and elites, as to do so will be limiting the Executive powers of the Governors as regards the states which they govern.
By banning open grazing, the governors are merely putting a stop to one of the greatest known sources of wars and terrorist convergence in their respective states. In my humble opinion, the Governors’ call is part of their responsibilities to the people of their states as the main mandate of each and every Governor is to protect the lives and property of the people of the states they govern. The openness of the Governors to the idea of yet another National dialogue to curb the insecurity (which I however consider unnecessary in view of the unused over 600 recommendations of the 2014 National Conference) can be seen as a honest bi-partisan call to see to the end of insecurity menace in Nigeria.
PRO-ACTIVE STEPS ALREADY TAKEN BY SOME STATE GOVERNORS
Some State Governors and Houses of Assembly in Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Oyo and Osun States have since taken steps by getting anti-grazing laws passed by their Houses of Assembly. For instance, there existed and extant, section 42(e) & (g) of the Ondo State Forestry Law which prohibit cattle tresspassing and cattle pasteurisation without the authority in writing of a prescribed Government Official. Indeed, Governor Samuel Orton of Benue State has already taken proactive steps to stop being the wailing Chief mourner of his people being murdered daily in cold blood by Fulani herdsmen (many a time with the active connivance of federal troops). He got the House of Assembly to enact the anti-RUGA (Rural Grazing Area) and Cattle Colony Law, called the “Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law”, No 21 of 2017. He went further by challenging the Federal Government RUGA policy at the Federal High Court, Makurdi, in the case of AG OF BENUE STATE V. AG OF THE FEDERATION. On 4th February, 2020, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon of the FHC, Makurdi, held that any move by the FG to acquire land for RUGA or cattle colony in Benue State without the State Government was null and void. The Judge granted an order nullifying every action of the FG to establish RUGA or cattle colony. Many constitutional provisions such as sections 5(6), 9(2), 20, 44(1), 58 and 315(5) and 6(b) were considered. Also considered were sections 1, 2, 5, 6, 26, 28 and 49 of the Land Use Act vis-à-vis sections 4, 5, 6, 7 and 19(c) of the Benue State Anti-Grazing Law.
It must be pointed out that the Governor of a State is the Chief Executive and Chief Security Officer of that State (sections 176(1) and 214-216 of the 1999 Constitution). By virtue of Section 1 of the Land Use Act, 1978, all land comprised in the territory of each State in the Federation have been vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians. Thus, a Governor of a State commands great power in the usage of the land in his State. See the Supreme Court case of NIGERIA ENGINEERING WORKS LTD V. DENAP LTD & ANOR (2001) LPELR-2002(SC).
SHOULD SOUTHERN GOVERNORS HAVE FIRST CONSULTED THE NORTHERN ESTABLISHMENT?
The answer to this is a capital NO!
It must be emphasized that the decision of the Southern Governors does not in actuality impede the rights of cow rearers to own cattle. It merely limits their ability to openly graze on lands that are not theirs in the first place and inflict misery on the indigenous owners. The ban will also ignite more anti-grazing laws in other states in Nigeria.
Those Northern elites arguing that consultation ought to have been first made by Southern Governors before making such resolutions have not advanced any plausible argument anchored on the Constitution. In fact, they ought to applaud the Southern Nigerian Governors for willfully choosing to dialogue with their Northern counterparts and avoiding an impending doom.
The few wailing Northern elites have not explained to Nigerians why they never consulted their Southern counterparts before passing and enforcing Sharia Law in their States; or passing the various Hisbah laws. Did some of these Governors not cut off citizens’ hands for various offences, to the angst and condemnation of international communities? Did they not order for some others to be stoned? Recall the unfortunate cases of Buba Jangebe (2000), Auwalu Abubakar (23), Lawalli Musa (22), Abubakar Aliyu (15), Attahiru Umaru, Sani Rodi, Sarimu Baranda, Safiya Hussein, Amina Lawal and many others for merely either stealing a cow, bull, N32,000 or committing adultery. Did the Northern Governors consult their Southern counterparts? They did not explain why Southern Governors who are the Chief Security Officers of their States should first obtain their permission (like a pupil from a Headmaster) before dealing with security matters in their various States. It only shows their mindset of a relationship of masters and servants; conquerors and vassals; slave owners and slaves. They failed to tell Nigerians that all the Northern Governors had actually pro-actively taken a unanimous position to ban open grazing, at its virtual meeting held on February 9, 2021, presided over by their Chairman, Simon Lalong Governor of Plateau State. They had unanimously agreed that the “current system of herding conducted mainly through open grazing is no longer sustainable in view of growing urbanization and population of the country”. While urging all the Governors to meet over this matter, they agreed on other methods such as ranching. These critics of the Southern Governors hid the fact that in response to the Northern Governors’ call, the entire Nigerian Governors’ Forum of the 36 State Governors held a virtual meeting on February 11 (two days later) and unanimously agreed to end nomadic and pastoral cattle wandering, “to address the rising insecurity in the country and the activities of herdsmen…and the need for the country to transition into modern systems of animal husbandry that will replace open, night and underage grazing in the country”. They also encouraged ranching as alternative. The Northern elites carefully screened away the fact that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano State Governor’s had openly supported adopting anti-grazing measures.
Ganduje had argued in February, 2021, during his meeting with President Buhari and other APC Governors that such a ban would not only solve incessant clashes between farmers and herders, but also prevent cattle rustling. Inspite of attempts by some Northern groups to cow in, Ganduje stuck to his guns.
These Northern elites hid the fact that, as far back as 26th April, 2018, (over 3 years ago), the National Executive Council (NEC) had approved the recommendation of its sub-committee that open grazing of cattle be banned across the country.
The three-man sub-committee on herdsmen/farmers clashes constituted by the Buhari Government in February, 2018, was headed by the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi.
It was specifically mandated to unravel the causes of herdsmen/farmers clashes (wrong usage: herdsmen’s unproved attacks on farmers is better). It was to dialogue with relevant stakeholders to end the killings of innocent citizens.
Other members of the sub-committee included Governors Simon Lalong (Plateau), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Darius Ishaku (Taraba), and Bindo Jubrilla (Adamawa). The panel was mandated to visit Benue, Taraba, Zamfara and Adamawa states.
Umahi had told Nigerians after the NEC meeting at the Presidential Villa presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, that the panel submitted its report to the Council which okayed the recommendation to ban open grazing, opting instead for the establishment of ranches in states affected by the herdsmen onslaught.
Governor Umahi, who said his team visited five states Benue, Taraba, Plateau Adamawa and Zamfara, said there were three main categories of herdsmen in Nigeria. These, according to him, are foreign herdsmen, nomadic herdsmen and migrant herdsmen, whose continued activities have resulted in clashes with farmers.
He said the NEC also agreed that the states affected by herdsmen killings should donate land for the establishment of ranches that will include nomadic schools and health facilities for their family members. Said Umahi:
“Niger and Kaduna have given lands, and Plateau is also giving land. We also agreed that through the agriculture ministry, we have to introduce new species of cows…… and to stop the further influx of foreign herdsmen into the country”.
So, where did the Southern Governors go wrong in reaffirming Federal Government and Northern Governors position? I cannot see it. Or can you?
Recall also that on September 10, 2019, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, had also inaugurated the National Livestock Transformation Plan at the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve, in Mayo-Belwa LGA of Adamawa State. Inaugurating the said project, Osinbajo said the plan was designed to run from 2019-2028, as part of Federal Government’s initiative in collaboration with States under the auspices of the National Economic Council. He said the plan, targeted at supporting the development of Nigeria’s livestock sector, was to be implemented in seven pilot states of Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
According to the Vice President, the plan will be implemented as a collaboration project between the Federal and State governments, farmers, pastoralists and private investors. He said:
“In this plan, the State Government or private investors provide the land, the federal government does not and will not take any land from a State or local government…Any participating state will provide the land and its own contribution to the project. The federal government merely supports…It is a plan that hopes to birth tailor-made ranches where cattle are bred, and meat and dairy products are produced using modern livestock breeding and dairy methods…This solves the problem of cattle grazing into and destroying farmlands. It ensures a practical response to the pressures on water and pasture by forces of climate change”.
He noted that the plan was designed to provide modern meat and dairy industry and, in some cases, integrated crop farming. According to Osinbajo, the unique feature of the plan is that any participating state will determine its own model. Osinbanjo continued:
“I wish to emphasise that this is not RUGA. Because the idea of RUGA settlements launched by the Ministry of Agriculture created a problem when it was perceived as a plan to seize lands to create settlements for herders…RUGA was not the plan designed and approved by the governors and the President rightly suspended the implementation”.
Thus, even the Federal Government at the centre had already opposed anti-grazing and embraced ranching. So, where did the Southern Governors go wrong? I cannot see it. Or, can you?
SALEH’S ILLOGICAL AND PROVOCATIVE INANITY
Did you read the provocative inanity uttered by one Alhassan Saleh, National Secretary of Miyetti Allah? I read it, and became more convinced that our dire national situation may be hopeless afterall. Hear him deliver his gibberish sermon:
“If the south feels because they have oil, they can show this open hatred to the Fulani, I bet you, they are late.
You cannot expel an ethnic group that has a population of 17 million people from an entity. So, if the agitators want to divide the country today, or this minute, we will help. We are ready to go. We are more prepared than any other tribe.
Nowhere is this type of ban done. You can only control it. But the Fulani, by nature, move about with their animals. They are not only in Nigeria; they are all over Africa…
They (Southerners) want to force us to react but we don’t react that way. Compared to what we went through in Guinea and Sudan and we survived, this is even a child’s play.
We understand that 2023 is also part of the game plan. They want to get power on a platter of gold. Nobody will give them power like that. They must seek our support. People who want power don’t behave in this matter…
Today, we are ready, let them divide the country. Let them not wait till tomorrow. We are better prepared than any other ethnic nationality. So, we are ready, let them divide the country. Let us die, we that don’t have the oil.”
QUESTIONS BEGGING FOR ANSWERS FROM SALEH
Let me interrogate Saleh’s thesis with some questions. Is Saleh really telling us that cattle breeders (just like Igbo Alaba shop owners, or Yoruba cocoa farmers, or Ijaw fishermen (examples not used in any derogatory sense but to make the point), have so cheapened the proud Fulani race of Shehu Usman Dan Fodio (born Usman bi Fudi; 1754 – 1817), that they have actually become the Fulani’s mouthpiece, their spokespersons? I cannot understand this. Or can you? So, to ensure peace, Fulani herders who “are not only in Nigeria, but all over Africa (moving) about with their animals”, should be allowed to commit genocide against other Nigerians?
Let me ask Saleh one question: who is the aggressor? Did other Nigerians invade Fulani towns to attack them? So, Saleh is saying that Fulani herdsmen who migrate from all over Africa through open borders of the North (those of the South are firmly shut) should be allowed unchallenged, as they have been doing, especially since the last 6 years of the Buhari government, to continue to attack innocent people in their homes, spill blood and rape their wives and daughters? So, Fulanis should be allowed to invade helpless farmers’ farms, kill the farmers with their sophisticated AK-47 riffles, destroy their farms and freely graze on their crops with their cattle? Oh, Fulanis must be allowed to walk leisurely with herds and hordes of cattle across the Federal Secretariat buildings and Three Arms Zone of Abuja, with vehicles and trekking human beings stopping and waiting for them to pass? So, that is Saleh’s own warped idea of living together? So, Southerners should be wiped out from the face of Nigeria in a carefully choreographed genocidal script, and they must not complain just because they will seek power, and must need Fulani support? So, the Southern Governors hate the Fulanis for telling them to stop open grazing and movement of cows by road across the South, thereby killing innocent people and destroying people’s means of livelihood? So, the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being?
I cannot understand Saleh and his Miyetti Allah’s reasoning and illogicality. Or can you? So, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State is a “vagabond-in-power”, simply because he cried out that he was tired of being a helpless undertaker, coffin maker, an elegy orator and chief mourner presiding over daily slaughter of his own people?
So, because the Fulanis are all over Africa, and they had successfully overrun Guinea and Sudan (predominantly Muslim countries), they should also be allowed to overrun plural Nigeria (there are actually more Christians than Muslims even in the North) and wipe out the other 373 ethnic groups of Nigeria (according to Professor Onigu Otite)? I cannot comprehend this man. Or can you?
More questions please, Saleh: So, a personal profit-making venture such as cattle rearing should be forced willy-nilly on all other Nigerians as a fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy? So, the yam produce, cocoa palm kernel and tomatoes farmers of other ethnic groups, should equally be allowed to invade and seize Fulani lands and impose their trade on them? How would the Fulanis feel if the Igbos insist that because they are excellent traders, shops must be built for them by the Federal and State Governments across Nigeria, free of charge, to ply their lucrative trade? How will they feel if rearers of pigs (even when the Muslim Fulanis forbid pork meat) overrun their territories with hordes of pigs, all in the name of keeping Nigeria together?
Nigeria’s population projection by the United Nations for July, 2021, is 210,665,492. Of this number, only 17 million people are Fulanis, according to Saleh. There are three classes of Fulanis based on settlement patterns: the Nomadic/Pastoral or Mbororo; the Semi-Nomadic and the “Settled” or “Town Fulanis”. Thus, the Miyetti Allah nomadic or pastoral group constitutes only one-third of Fulanis in Nigeria. This means, speaking arithmetically, 8% people out of Nigeria’s population of 210.6 million people. So, going by Alhassan Saleh’s puerile vituperations, a tiny, but powerful, well-connected, power-dominating minority of 8% of Nigeria’s population must be allowed forever to tyranise the vast majority, impose their will; govern them by force; kill them; wipe them out of Nigeria, all in the name of peace, unity, indissolubility and indivisibility of Nigeria? So, the other 92% Nigerian majority should be held down by the jugular, just to make Nigeria work and prevent Fulanis from leaving Nigeria? Haba! I can never understand this man and the cattle rearers he spoke for. Or can you?
Nigeria is a Federation that operates the principles of federalism. Under this, the FG, States and LGAs have their respective rights and spheres of influence. There is the exclusive, concurrent and residual lists under the Constitution. This was why Justice Olajuwon of the FHC, Makurdi, held that since land in every State is controlled and managed by the Governor and LGs of such States, the FG cannot whimsically and capriciously grab lands in States; but must go through either the Governor or LG of such State.
*Ozekhome is a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)