At a critical stage of the 2015 presidential election, the rival People’s Democratic Party (PDP) alarmed the nation that, if elected, candidate Muhammadu Buhari would be pushed around by one of his lieutenants. This doubt obviously accounted for a seeming passive almost unnoticeable portion of Buhari’s inaugural speech in which he said “I am for nobody, I am for everybody.”
Nowhere is that self-assertion coming under serious test as the recklessness of the murderers known as cattle-rearers killing Nigerians all over the place in Benue, Zamfara, Taraba, Edo and Adamawa. So daring are these criminals that they now seem to have eventually found the sympathy of high-ranking federal government functionaries. Or what should we make of the call of Defence Minister Dan Ali that a possible solution to the crisis could be found in a review of the anti-grazing law enacted by the affected states to ensure the safety of lives and property of their people? Did the anti-grazing law emerge from the blues without reason?
Responsibility for security of lives and property under the Nigerian Constitution is concurrent among federal, state and local government. When the herdsmen commenced their murderous acts, especially in Benue State, our fellow citizens in that part of the country cried loud to federal government for their safety. Whatever came in form of response was initially belated and, even after that, proved to be totally ineffective. If the soldiers and policemen ordered by President Buhari to the troubled areas had contained the situation, there would have been no need for the anti-grazing law. For any high-ranking government functionary to now suggest that the law passed by states under the murderous siege of the herdsmen is therefore not well-meaning. Does this man have any feelings for Nigerians in the affected areas who go to bed at night unsure of waking alive the following morning?
Incidentally, nobody should be deceived with any idea of the anti-grazing law being reviewed. Such is mere sophistry. What is being suggested is the abolition of the anti-grazing law. The governors in the states, which enacted the anti-grazing law are having peace among their respective people today only because Nigerians in those parts of the country are satisfied that their governors have done their best to respond to their security needs. Therefore, the governors in those states will be making the mistakes of their lives to ever think of dropping or even reviewing the anti-grazing law. That would be an open invitation to the herdsmen to resume killings in the affected states on an unprecedented scale. It is, therefore, too late to abolish the law. It must never be recorded in Nigeria’s history that government – federal or state – capitulated to criminals.
Is it within the jurisdiction of state governments to enact laws for the security of lives and property of those over whom they govern? Yes. Federal Government must, therefore, back state governments to guarantee safety of lives and property of their indigenes. Are such laws unenforceable? Not necessarily or, at least, not in this case. The only disturbing aspect is that the Federal Government is not helping the situation, given that its massive security forces in the army, air force, State Security Service, police, etc, are overwhelmed by cattle rearers. The outside world must not learn of such fake weakness. Which security forces anyway? The same forces shamelessly unleashed on an unarmed Biafra agitators or protesting Shite Muslims in Kano, Kaduna or Abuja, leaving scores, if not hundreds, in fatalities?
Again, is the anti-grazing law unenforceable? Not at all. The law appears unenforceable only because, from the on-set, the criminals vowed to defy and make the state operating anti-grazing law ungovernable and federal functionaries – minister, police chief or the forces – pretend to be helpless. In the past, such arrogance and contempt of the criminals seemed inadvertent for government’s failure. But the Defence Minister’s call for a review of the anti-grazing law has introduced a new dimension to the crisis. Therefore, every effort must be made to avoid any seeming complicity or playing into the hands of those making life impossible for otherwise law-abiding citizens.
Furthermore, if the minister is perceived not to be firmly committed to complete onslaught on the criminals, certainly, federal forces in action against the criminals will take a cue from that.
Finding himself in an avoidable row over his demand for a review of the anti-grazing law, information came about that the minister was expressing a personal view. Nothing of such. Once a privilege is conferred on anybody for a ministerial job, the first major sacrifice he makes is instant loss of any right to private or personal view, especially in a public controversy. Whatever he says is government view or where the minister feels strongly to express personal view in the public on government policy, the minister should quit to sustain his personal view in the public.
What is more, till now, Federal Government has neither rebuked the minister nor dissociated itself from the minister’s personal view. In the cabinet of ministers, there is the principle of collective responsibility, which bars every minister from disagreeing with government policy or decision in the public. There is no room for personal view. What is the difference between a personal view that anti-grazing law be reviewed (euphemism for repeal) and the earlier one by the same minister that the blood-spilling in Benue State in particular was the outcome of communal clash? One is meant to solidify the other rather than the difference between six and half a dozen. A gang of murderers invaded Nigerians in their home states, destroying lives and property in furtherance of a publicly stated determination to main and kill, all in defiance of existing federal and state guarantees for security, and Nigerians were told by government functionaries such was communal clash? Was that why police IG was incapable to hold his position when his Commander-in-Chief posted him to Makurdi or why he abandoned his duty post in Makurdi without informing his Commander-in-Chief?
States operating anti-grazing law won’t be the first to enact law within their jurisdiction to protect and enhance their interests or to the dissatisfaction of non-indigene minority. But as long as such law complies with the Nigerian Constitution, especially in areas of jurisdiction, there should be no problem. Such was the Sharia law enacted by various states in northern parts of Nigeria, banning, for example, social habits of other Nigerians like drinking alcohol in specified areas. Whatever discomfort created for other Nigerians in those arrears, everybody complied because it was within the jurisdiction of any state in Nigeria to enact a law to sanitise the religious obligation of citizens within the area. Anybody disagreeing with Sharia law in the state concerned should keep away or the law would be enforced.
Equally, moreso in areas the Federal Government failed (no other word for the collapse of security of lives and property in the anti-grazing states) such states are statutorily empowered by the Constitution to provide for security of lives and property of their indigenes. Federal power in that aspect is concurrent with the states.
In pursuit of daily living or abode, there is no law for any group (be they Nigerians or foreigners, as we are being told) to encroach on or forcefully acquire the immovable property offellow Nigerians. Farms are, after all, immovable property. (Section 43 of the Nigerian Constitution).
The first fundamental human right under Nigerian Constitution (Section 33) is the “right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his/her life…” If, therefore, state governments enact laws to ensure the safety of lives of their indigenes, why must they be expected to review (repeal) such laws, which do not endanger the lives of fellow Nigerians?
Other states in Nigeria must, therefore, take a stand by enacting anti-grazing laws to protect the lives and property for their citizens. Today, Zamfara, Benue, Adamawa, Taraba and Edo as well as Plateau are under siege by the armed cattle-rearers. If allowed, especially by the lethargy of our soldiers and policemen, to be overrun, no other state will be safe.
It is of course possible that the idea of reviewing the anti-grazing law was meant to fly a kite, so it should remain and brought down.