Prominent Lawyers and scholars have decended heavily on President Muhammadu Buhari for declaring the ban placed on open grazing in the Southern states of the country by their respective governors as an act of illegality.
President Buhari had in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said the
“announcement is of questionable legality, given the Constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT)…”
But reacting to the statement, some senior lawyers who spoke with Daily Sun described president Buhari’s position as embarrassing, divisive and ethnocentric.
In his response, a former Attorney General of Imo state Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume SAN, said it was wrong for the president to equate human beings with cows under the cover of freedom of movement.
“Are you sure the President said that? Does the constitutional right to property now include killing & robbing as to acquire the victims’ property.
Is it that the constitutional right to movement & assembly include soldiers gathering to overthrow the State? About 100 are said to have been murdered in Benue State alone in the past few days all in name freedom for murderous trade.
How long can we continue to engage in this distracting conversation while Nigerian people are cut down as grasses. Why is that these murderous quests suddenly becoming a State policy since 2015? We are fast losing our senses humanity & our constitutional responsibility in the inordinate quest for hegemony.
A professor of Law, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), in his short reaction said “it is difficult to understand how all rights guaranteed by the Constitution will be of equal force notwithstanding the circumstances. At any rate the Constitution does not stipulate that cattle, sheep, goats etc can graze anyhow and any where. Cattle are in the category of animals and so while humans are equal under the Constitution, animals attract different considerations.
On his part, a constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Oba Maduabuchi SAN, maintained that the constitutional right of freedom of movement the constitution is equally clear as It gives freedom of movement to Nigerian citizens. “Unless I am being educated that cows are now citizens of Nigeria.”
The supreme law of the land which is the constitution places agriculture on its residual list. What this means is that only States can legally legislate on it. It cannot therefore be right to say that the position of the southern gov is legally questionable. It is the legality of the federal ministry of agriculture that is legally questionable as the constitution didn’t asign any responsibility to the federal government in agriculture except research. As for the Hon Attorney General of the federation likening open grazing and dealing in motor spare parts I don’t believe my learned brother Silk made such a pedestrian comparison. Motor spare parts are not mobile and cannot stray into any cow herd to kill the cows. They don’t stray into any farm to destroy maize or millet. You don’t sell alcohol in the north except in the areas called sabon gari or bayan gari in Baucbi. Is that not ranching of alcohol? When people import things and sell them at traffic hold up and they are chased by officials of the capital development authorities did the south cry. Most people consume meat. What we are trying to avoid is let the meat not consume us.
Human rights activist and legal scholar, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said president Buhari has clearly goofed on the issue.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari has obviously been ill-advised on the well thought out Southern Governors’ stance against open grazing by the Attorney General whose views were made known only two days ago.
“Buhari, with all humility, is quite wrong to say the Southern Governors’ stance is an act of questionable legality. If the Federal Government feels strong and sure about its puritanical ,but legally flawed stance, I challenge the Federal Government to challenge the Governors’ resolutions by suing all the State Governors of Nigeria, through invocation of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under section 232(1) of the 1999 Constitution .
The action will fail miserably. I am ready,able and willing to defend such states probono. I can state categorically that neither the president’s views, nor those of the Attorney General, are anchored on any provisions of the Constitution.
The Constitution is the fons et origo, the grundnorm ,the Oba, Eze,Oghie and Emir of our laws. Other laws must bow to the supremacy of this National identity card of a country ; for such other laws or FG ‘s resistance are but mere warrant Chiefs, Daudus, Bales, and Ukpi Drummers within the Constitution ‘s sacred domain. The Governors have been given powers by the same Constitution in sections 5(2) ,11(2), 14(2)(b) ,176(2) and 215(4) of the 1999 Constitution to act as the Chief Security Officers of their various States to provide their citizens with welfare and security, which the Constitution says are the primary purpose of government.
The Houses of Assembly of the states have equally been given powers by section 4(7) of the same Constitution to make laws for the peace, order and good government in their states.
In accordance with hallowed principles and practice of federalism and democracy, the Southern Governors do not require any permission from, or approval by,the FG for them to govern their states and protect their citizens, in the same way a boarding house pupil must first seek his Headmaster-s permission to visit his parents outside the school.
Mr President ‘s statement, churned out, as usual, by his SSA on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, to the effect that that the Governors were politicking with serious security issues and attempting a show of power, is therefore most unfortunate, embarrassing,devisive, ethnocentric, insensate and insensitive to the memory of dead and dying Nigerians. These are thousands of innocent Nigerians savagely and brutally mauled down in cold blood,either in their own homes, farms,or on the streets and alleys, by these rampaging pastoralists.
The President appears undisturbed and unperturbed that Nigerians,especially in the South,have their wives, mothers and daughters violently violated and raped by these marauding AK-47 riffles-wielding expansionists that wear the fake toga of herdsmen. What has the Government done about it? Nothing. It usually customarily wrigs its hands in pretended helplessness and washes them off every loss of life like Pontius Pilate in the Bible. This is so despicable!.
It is so abhorrent and shameful! Only yesterday, 124 people were slaughtered in just three states, with 100 of them being children, women and the elderly in Benue State alone. Nigerians have become weary of mourning. The Governors are tired of being Chief mourners, undertakers and elegy poets of their citizens. And Buhari is saying they must shut up and worship on the blood-sucking alter of Nigeria’s so called unity,indivisibility and indissolubility? We are living a lie of a contraption called a country that has since been reduced to a big scam and a one-chance dilapidated vehicle on a drudgery journey to no destination.
I challenge the Federal Government to go to the Supreme Court and challenge the states.By this, I hereby alter my earlier stance that the states should sue the Federal Government. No.It is the complaining and fretting FG that should take that step if uncomfortable with the Southern Governors’s communique. The states should go ahead and enforce the anti-grazing laws in their respective domains ,using their neighbourhood and vigilante security outfits since ( and I can bet on this ), the FG will never lend its centrally -commanded Police Force to aid the states. It is so easy to predict this clueless Government from the negatived.For empashis, we are operating a Federal system of government,not a unitary system.
The Federal Government cannot therefore dictate to states like a slave owner to his purchased slaves. It is an aberration. Freedom of movement and right of some Nigerians to associate certainly end where other Nigerians’ rights begin. These freedom and right do not permit or licence particular business merchants ( that is what nomadic cow rearers are ) to carry deadly AK-47 riffles and maim and kill other innocent Nigerians in their homes, rape their mothers, wives and daughters in their houses.Such must be evil freedoms and rights. Nigerians of a particular ethnic group do not have any right to freely graze their cattle on other people’s lands and thereby destroy their farm produce. It is this archaic and odious tribialistic ,prebendalistic,sectionalistic and nepotic mindset that has made Buhari bring Nigeria down to her knees and to a despicable state of nadir, where she now wobbles, fumbles and tumbles.
Have you ever heard any Southerner complain about all the currency changers and Bureau de Change ( BDCs ) operators across every nook and crany of Nigeria,even though everyone knows that over 95 % of the business is controlled by Northerners? No! Do you know why? Because they are not violent. They ply their trade peacefully, even if illegally and illegitimately. By the way,have you ever heard any Government raid or touch any of these special breed of Nigerians? I have personally never heard. This is because we live in a country that is governed by two different sets of laws- one for the highly revered Northerners ; the other for the highly despised Southerners. No Nation grows that way.
The last time I checked,the freedom of movement guaranteed for Nigerians is not sacrosanct as it can be derogated from by the clear provisions of section 45 ,through enactment of a law that is “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence,public safety, public order ,public morality or public health” ; or for “the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons”.