- Lawyers: FG must enforce existing laws to curb open grazing
Should the National Assembly promulgate law banning cattle movement from the North to other parts of the country in order to stem the rising tide of farmers and herders clash? Lawyers say yes, no. AKEEM NAFIU reports
“Governor Ganduje is not wrong. We have continuously advocated for ranching so that a cattle will not cut short the life of a corn. It is good for all of us if the cattle are ranched by their owners,” one said.
Another said: “The call by Governor Ganduje for the Federal Government to enact a law prohibiting movement of cattle from the North to other parts of the country is unconstitutional, lacking legitimacy and it cannot stand.”
The above quotes were part of the divergent views expressed by some senior lawyers in response to a call by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State on the National Assembly to come up with a law banning cattle movement from the North to other parts of the country to resolve the incessant incidences of clashes between farmers and herders.
The governor recently made the proposal to the Federal Government as a way of tackling the recurring clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
He bared his mind on the issue in Daura, Katsina State, while speaking with journalists after the meeting he had with President Buhari alongside his colleagues from the All Progressives Congress (APC). In his comments, Governor Ganduje also expressed optimism that should the Federal Government heed his advice, the problem of cattle rustling will also be addressed.
He said: “My advocacy is that we should abolish the transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the Northern part of Nigeria to the Middle Belt and to the Southern part of Nigeria.
There should be a law that will ban such movement, otherwise we cannot control the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers and cannot control the cattle rustling which is affecting us greatly. “We are building a Ruga settlement in Samsosua Forest, our border with Katsina, and we have succeeded in curtailing the effect of banditry in that area.
So, we are building many houses, we are constructing a dam; we are establishing a Cattle Artificial Insemination Centre; we are establishing veterinary clinic and already we have started building houses for herdsmen”.
Ganduje and the Senate
The Senate caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had in the meantime expressed its support for the proposal by Governor Ganduje, saying it’s a good idea as it would also help in tackling the menace of cattle rustling.
Speaking on the issue, Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) called for a thorough deliberation of the proposal by his colleagues upon resumption. He said: “I cannot say anything until we reopen. I don’t speak for the Senate.
However, the minority caucus welcomes his idea and would urge the Senate to carefully consider it as part of the solutions to the security problems of the Nigerian State.” However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru (APC, Osun Central) was against the proposed law.
The senator was reported to have said such a law would infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of Nigerians. “I don’t think such a law will be constitutional.
Nigerians have right to freedom of movement, irrespective of state of birth or nativity. The challenge largely is law enforcement and security as well as need for modernized animal husbandry system in the country”, he said.
The Green Chambers had equally promised to look into Ganduje’s proposal in order to see how it can be put into legislative framework. A statement signed by its spokesman, Benjamin Kalu, indicated that a number of factors such as the scale of value addition, legality, constitutionalism and the true principles of democracy will determine how lawmakers at the House of Representatives will treat the proposal
He said: “The weight of such propositions on the scale of value addition, legality, constitutionalism and the true principles of democracy will determine the way we treat such propositions. “It’s either we treat such propositions against the time, handle it immediately or we keep it in abeyance or we reject it absolutely.
So, the way the House of Representatives treats propositions from the public, which is one of the ways we make laws; you must respect the opinion of the masses if they pass through this test I have just mentioned.
“We will either say yes to it, no to it or keep it in waiting until it is ripe for us to look at such propositions, in view of what is currently happening in the country. “There are so many good propositions but the timing is wrong. So, you have to wait and follow it one after the other.
On the issue of movement of cattle, we do a critical analysis of the position of very intelligent Governor Ganduje. Ganduje has been an expert in agriculture. He is a stakeholder in animal husbandry. He ought to know the challenges of the sector. “He also ought to know what will be the solution.
So, we have to look at such propositions well and see whether it will go as a private bill before the House. We will see the credibility of such propositions.
As a proposition, the House will look at it. Nothing stops any private bill from coming up. And it is not the position of any single person to say we are accepting or not. It is the House that will debate it on its merit during the debate stage, that is the second hearing. ‘’Then we will be able to know whether it will pass through or not but the idea is what we will critically analyze and see how we will put it into a legislative framework”.
The proposal by Governor Ganduje had elicited divergent of opinions from some senior lawyers. The lawyers while baring their minds on the issue at the weekend spoke for and against the proposal. In his comments, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Biodun Layonu, said the governor’s proposal is the only way to curb incessant herders and farmers clash in the country.
He said: “This is not new. It had been recommended on several occasions but not implemented as the Federal Government lacks the will to do it and enforce. Miyetti Allah is not likely to accept it.
However, it’s the only way. Once that’s done, we will be able to identify the criminals more as there won’t be justification for staying inside the forest and carrying AK47 under the guise of being a herdsmen.” Layonu was echoed by another silk, Mr. Olukayode Enitan, who also threw his weight behind Ganduje’s call.
“It’s a move in the right direction. The Federal Government should hearken to him and do the needful. If the Federal Government agrees and passes a law to that effect, then it will be clear that whoever is still engaging in such action is in flagrant breach of federal law as well as state laws and would be dealt with accordingly.” Enitan said.
Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu also aligned himself with the Kano governor’s proposal.
He said: “It has long been established that the way to go is ranching. It’s less cumbersome, less dangerous and even more productive. To the extent that crimes and criminality will be moderated thereby, I align myself with his views.
“But we must go beyond merely mouthing ranching and insist that the political leadership in the North including the Governor of Kano State must sufficiently mobilise and massively sensitise their people including herders on the benefits of ranching as against their preferred nomadic expeditions by which process they destroy lives and property and even kill in the event of reprisals.
“The same political class must move promptly to fund the programme and sustain same. A few culprits identified in these acts must be arrested and prosecuted as clear deterrents to other intending perpetrators.”
Mr. Oluwole Kehinde urged the Federal Government to reason along with the Kano governor’s proposal. “Stopping the indiscriminate movements of herdsmen around the country is long overdue. They have become a big threat to security in the country, destroying farms and farming activities.
“In fact, famine and starvation are looming in most parts of the southwest as a result of the activities of the herdsmen. We hope the Federal Government will see a reason for the call by the Governor of Kano State and respond appropriately,” he said.
Mr. Ige Asemudara was also in support of Ganduje’s proposal. “Governor Ganduje is not wrong. We have continuously advocated for ranching so that a cattle will not cut short the life of a corn. It is good for all of us if the cattle are ranched by their owners.
The farmers and their produce are as important to us as the herders and their herds. It is unreasonable for one to create hardship for the others. “As regards the bandits, who hide under inter-state cattle grazing, the solution to their menace is beyond outlawing “inter-regional” or “inter-state grazing.” Whilst stopping open or interstate grazing may help,
there is a need for proper policing of our national borders and guaranteeing internal security. “There is a need to give proper orientation to various groups in Nigeria about the culture of one another and the need to respect same within this same enclave. Our government and politicians are treating the issues with kid gloves.
They know the financiers and backbones of these bandits and kidnappers. They should act by stopping them. Enough of playing to the gallery”, he said. However, a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Adekunle Ojo, faulted Ganduje’s proposal saying it’s not the way out. He said:
“My first and present reaction to the statement credited to Dr. Ganduje was to laugh the suggestions off as mere sarcasm or putting it in another perspective, a statement of mockery. What wisdom will be ascribed to a man who chooses to cut off his head to stop a biting headache?
“In all honesty, I may not have studied Dr. Ganduje rightly I think he was close to telling us that the North would deny the South the benefits that come with cow business.
He must have concluded that the clash between herdsmen and farmers and the incidences of kidnapping perpetrated under the guise of cattle rustling in places like Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Zamfara, Plateau, Katsina, Kaduna and other parts of the North is a suitable headache that they can coped with.
“That may not be correct because affected northerners are far from happy. Cattles can be bought by southerners or northerners from the Northern part of Nigeria and be transported to the South, should that be banned? My answer is capital no. Should cattle rustling through other people’s farmlands etc be banned? My answer is resounding yes.
“The culture of traversing from Sokoto to Port Harcourt with a handful of cattle is not only hazardous to the rustlers, it smacks of hardship on also the rustler as much as it is not economical to the rustlers, but destructive to the farmers and the people. It also constitutes a big menace to road users.
“The herdsmen have now decided largely that there is a greater goldmine in kidnapping for ransom. We may have to look at other countries of the world like Brazil, New Zealand where the business of animal husbandry especially cattle rearing contributes substantially to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Commercial ranching is the way out.”
Dr. Fassy Yusuf said the Kano governor’s proposal lacks legitimacy and is unconstitutional.
“The call by Governor Ganduje for the Federal Government to enact a law prohibiting movement of cattle from the North to other parts of the country is unconstitutional, lacks legitimacy and it cannot stand. “Firstly, freedom of movement is guaranteed by the Constitution. Besides, rights to own business, associate and relate with each other were also backed by Constitution.
Therefore, no law can ban the movement of cattle from the North to other parts of the country. Such a law will be transgressing the Constitution and it will be null and void to the extent of its inconsistencies with the Constitution.
“What the government can do is to enforce existing laws, particularly the one banning open grazing especially in the southern part of the country. Ranching is the way to go.
We are just begging the issue because as long as we allow open grazing, the rights of other people will be violated and as we say in law, where someone’s rights stop, others’ rights begin. “So, if herds of cattle are allowed to be grazed openly, then, what about people’s farm’s produce?
So, I want to advice the Federal Government to be alive to its responsibilities and do what is desirable. The truth is that the lack of sincerity on the part of government is not helping matters. So, I advise governments at all levels to be sincere in addressing this issue.” Yusuf said