Lawyers: Malami’s planned herders’ commission misplaced
Is the establishment of a Commission to monitor herdsmen’s activities the panacea for herdersfarmers’ unending clashes? Lawyers say no, yes. AKEEM NAFIU reports
The recent proposition by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami (SAN), for the establishment of a Commission to monitor herdsmen’s activities in order to stem the rising tide of herdersfarmers’ clashes has generated mixed reactions from some senior lawyers.
The senior lawyers while speaking on the issue at the weekend expressed divergent views on the desirability of such a Commission. To some of them, the AGF’s proposition is not only misplaced, but has also shown that the Federal Government is only interested in protecting the interest of Fulani herders and does not care whatever happens to other ethnic groups.
However, those in support of the proposition believed the establishment of the Commission will help to reduce tension and guarantee better security, law and order in the country. The AGF had come up with the proposition while speaking recently at peace, unity and security lecture series in Abuja.
According to Malami, the crisis between the herders and the farmers had become a pressing issue and as such the time has come for government to consider the setting up of a Commission for pastoralism regulated by law. The AGF said the creation of a Federal Government’s agency to regulate the activities of herdsmen will provide recipes for resolving the protracted farmer-herder conflicts.
He also recommended the creation of regulated grazing reserves to replace the “Burtali” or “Hurumi” pastoral system. Malami restated the commitment of the Federal Government in supporting initiatives and programmes that would help resolve the lingering farmer-herder crises in the country.
He listed ways of achieving peace in the nation to include strict adherence to the rule of law, respect for the sanctity of the fundamental human rights in all ramifications, including freedom of movement and the right of citizens to stay at whatever part of the country they choose to and other provisions as contained in Chapter 4 of the Constitution. He said: “Nigeria is predominately agricultural in nature and by geography. To that extent, there is constant mobility of herders across the different belts of Nigeria. It is perhaps time to consider the setting-up of a Commission for pastoralism regulated by law.
“This might provide recipes for resolving protracted farmer-herder conflicts. The commission may even engage in or facilitate in-depth analytical studies with a view to providing lasting solutions for the benefit of people and the country.
“There is also the need to revamp the activities of the Nomadic Education Commission with a view to complementing the efforts of the government in resolving the farmer-herder clashes.
The better approach towards resolving the crisis over the short, medium and long terms is to directly involve the stakeholders in coming up with solutions at the conception, implementation and monitoring faces.
“Livestock breeders also need intensive enlightenment on the need for sedentary farming and transhumance agriculture as a complementary economic process to nomadic farming. Water holes should also be provided in remote grazing locations, subsidised veterinary care, and mobile ambulatory services for surgeries and other medical interventions for livestock.”
Notwithstanding, the desirability or otherwise of a Commission to monitor herdsmen’s activities as being proposed by the AGF has been a subject of discourse among some senior lawyers. The lawyers, who spoke for and against the proposition also came up with suggestions on what should be done to end herders-farmers’ clashes across the country.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, expressed his opposition to Malami’s proposition, saying it was uncalled for. He said: “Why should herders be given a special Commission?
I don’t think we need a Commission to take care of herdsmen. It is uncalled for. As far back as 2018, I have warned that herders will cause problem in this country if they are not controlled. I described them as neighbourhood bullies. I forecast everything that is happening now and I asked government to look into it.
The only way out of the problem is for security operatives to stop the herders from going beyond their bounds. This is the only way out. “We have to deal with the matter as it is. As long as these herders are not above the law, they must be stopped from engaging in criminal acts. All these nonsense must stop. The president should also know that all these anomalies are happening in his time and that the Nigeria handed over to him must be secured.”
Ahamba was echoed by another member of the inner Bar, Dr. Biodun Layonu, who was also against Malami’s proposal.
“I am not in support of the AGF’s suggestion. Establishing a Commission to monitor herdsmen’s activities is not going to solve the problem on ground. There are institutional bodies on ground already to deal with the problem. “The culture of open grazing and from one end of the country to another has become archaic and should be stopped. Besides a federal body will only worsen the problem. T
he states are capable of dealing with the challenge. The federal government should tackle the issue of security,” he said. Another silk, Mr. Kunle Adegoke, was also critical of Malami’s proposition, saying it is misplaced.
He said: “The call by the Attorney- General of the Federation for a Commission to attend to herders’ interests is rather misplaced and disturbing. It is a sentiment confirming the allegation that the Federal Government is only interested in only protecting the interest of Fulani herders and does not care whatever happens to other ethnic groups.
“How on earth can that stop the lunacy that has characterized the activities of the criminal elements among the herders who believe that in this modern day and age, an appropriate lifestyle is to be grazing cows on other people’s farms, raping their women and killing anyone who dares to engage them? ”
The government is not critically addressing the insecurity in the land but rather pretending that all is well. Where a Commission has to be set up for a group of criminal businessmen in order to placate them, would the government also set up another Commission for farmers, goldsmiths, lawyers, artisans etc? The fact that this government has been pampering herders at the expense of other people is undeniable.
The same way the government has been looking the other way when the issue of bandits and their atrocities are being discussed.
We have never had it this rough. “For God’s sake, the government is not even talking about bringing the criminal elements to book but rather advocating for a means of further funneling money to take care of their business and grab lands for them at all costs across the Federation.
“The government’s intention of ensuring the Fulani herders are settled across Nigeria on other people’s land led to the suggestion of RUGA. That has been flatly rejected by many states whose ancestral lands are to be converted to the exclusive use of cattle herders.
The government knows that there is more land in the north for cattle grazing if the animals must openly graze at all cost. “There is no need extending this to other states who don’t want it.
“It is high time the government took the issue of security seriously otherwise anarchy looms ahead. I repeat that any government that negotiates with bandits and allows them to occ territories unchallenged is not a serious government. Thank God the Minister of Defence has advocated that people should defend themselves against these terrorists. Nigeria has finally descended into anarchy with the concession of security to selfhelp”.
Dr. Fassy Yusuf also berated the AGF over his proposition, saying he was putting logic on his head. Yusuf said: “I honestly think the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) is putting logic on its head. It’s either he doesn’t seem to know what he is talking about or he is trying to be mischievous. I advise him to put on his thinking cap and avail us with a more strategic and tactical direction for the country to know peace.
“In the first instance, what is the significance or the contribution of these herdsmen to the economy? Why must they be protected? Why must their issue be dominating the nation’s security?
Why is it that we are contending with the issue of herdsmen amidst other better fundamental issues waiting to be resolved? “For God’s sake, the herdsmen are doing their private business and why should government be interested in setting up a Commission to monitor their activities? In the year 2021, why must cattle and sheep be roaming the streets? Honestly, something is wrong with this country and until we decide by ourselves what the nation and its strategic direction should be, we may never get out of the woods.
“Top government officials have the temerity to tell us that the herdsmen were infiltrating Nigeria from other West Africa countries. This is an indication that the security architecture of this country has collapsed.
This is a serious indictment on all our security agencies. “The solution to this problem is that government has to be sincere with us by insisting that the herdsmen should embrace ranching. These herdsmen should not be allowed to continue to disturb the peace of the country through open grazing again. Look at the pains their activities are causing the whole country now.” Speaking in the same vein, Mr. Destiny Takon, urged the AGF to rather come up with a Bill banning open grazing instead of pushing for establishment of a Commission to monitor herdsmen’s activities.
He said: “One of the major issues with the sick entity called Nigeria, is the insincerity and overt dishonesty of the North. Nigeria has reached a threshold at which continued silence, reticence or ambivalence would only help to submerge her soul and continuity under the water.
“If Southerners were the itinerant herders, who are going about instigating or provoking violence, destruction of farm produce and loss of lives across the country, the North would have been screaming blue murder and telling the whole world that it is an obsolete and now unacceptable way of life.
They would have vented their disposition to violence in very many fatal ways, against the herders and their cattle. Itinerant cattle herding and its attendant issues, has become one of the most volatile subjects in the country today.
“Rather than pushing for the setting up of a Commission, Malami should be sincere to himself and in the best interest of the continuity of Nigeria, to draft and submit a Bill before the National Assembly, to outlaw any form of itinerant cattle herding in Nigeria and prescribe harsh punishment for breach, such as seizure or forfeiture of the cattle.
“His proposal amounts to an outright insult on the intelligence of concerned Nigerians. When did cattle herding become an object of public interest in the real sense of the word? Cattle herding is private business, like cocoa farming, rubber, cashew or cassava.
Can a Southerner just walk to any part of the North and start clearing the Bush to farm cocoa without incidence, quite apart from the fact that cocoa farming unlike cattle herding, poses no danger to other farmers crops? It is time to call a spade a spade and not a hoe.” Mr. Chris Ekemezie also believe that the AGF’s proposition would not be of any help in resolving herders-farmers’ unending clashes in the country. “I think the AGF’s position is not helpful.
The world has moved on from ancient open grazing to ranching. The herdsmen should be made to adhere to modern trends of business. Farmers grow their crops to earn living.
Their crops are meant for human consumption. “Herders should in their ranch cultivate food for their herds. By ranching, so many people will specialize in animal feeds and will transport them to the herders.
The problem would have been solved. What will the proposed Commission do? Nothing. Who needs a Commission? No one,” he said. However, while expressing his support for Malami’s proposal, Mr. Oluwole Kehinde emphasized the need for a regulatory authority to monitor herdsmen’s activities.
Kehinde said: “I support the AGF’s idea. It’s long overdue. We need a regulatory authority to manage, control, and discipline herders to reduce tension and guarantee better security, law and order in the country.” Mr. Kabir Akingbolu was also in support of the AGF’s proposal, saying establishing the Commission would help in tackling herders, farmers’ clashes.
Akingbolu said: “I support the call by the Attorney General of the Federation that a Commission to monitor the activities of herders be established. I know that some people will criticize this but it is not out of place. More so that we have similar agencies like the Niger Delta Development Commission which is not different from this. I make bold to say this because the reality on ground today is that herders and their activities have become a sort of nightmare to all and sundry, but unfortunately, many people, either out of parochial sentiments or tribal inclinations, have refused to agree.
“Whether we like it or not, pastoralism has come to stay as a vocation in Nigeria. It is in fact, one of the oldest vocations in the world and thus as old as man himself because it dated back to the Bible.
Therefore, we should know that this old vocation cannot continue to be carried out the way it was done in the day of old but must be redesigned to suit modern time and situations in the country today.
“Thus, a situation where people move or graze their cattle around at will without any restriction or control whatsoever is not ideal and indeed uncalled for. There should now be ranches across the country.
“Or if you like, call it RUGA or grazing reserve. This is because such will go a long way to curb the menace of herders and farmers’ clashes across the country. “People talk about taking their lands or heritage and so on if ranches are established, but I think this should not be our problem now but the safety of people’s lives and their property.
More so that government will always pay compensation for any land that was taken.
“However, the lands so taken will serve as economic hub for commercial activities because it will provide employment for people and people’s lives will be saved while their activities will be controlled by such Commission.
The ranches so opened will not be exclusive to only the Fulani but all Nigerians. Some of those who are against such move are unaware that contrary to their thinking that everything about cattle rearing has to do with Fulani, many of our so-called big men and politicians are great players in this trade as they buy cattle for the herders to manage for them.
If we want killings from herdersfarmers’ clashes to stop, we need new ideas and creating such Commission is an inevitable and indispensable alternative