From Sola Ojo, Kaduna; Billy Graham Abel, Yola; Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa and Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The opposition of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to the recent ban on open grazing by the southern governors in their respective States, appear to have torn the Northern youths apart.
Malami had declared the southern governors’ decision ‘unconstitutional’ and likened the ban on open grazing to banning the sales of motor spare parts by the Igbo in the North, a statement that has received wide criticisms from various quarters.
While the Arewa Youth Assembly has thrown its weight behind the AGF, the Northern Leaders Youth Forum (NLYF) are in full support of the ban on open grazing, while condemning Malami’s remarks.
Arewa Youth Assembly, in a statement by its Speaker, Mohammed Salihu Danlami, yesterday, opposed the ban on open grazing by southern governors, declaring it as unconstitutional and capable of denying some Nigerians their right to livelihood.
The group said it supported the position of Malami on open grazing.
The statement read: “The Asaba declaration that banned the open grazing of cattle is unacceptable and we will not be abiding by the myopic unpatriotic declarations. Cattle rearing is a business that is traced back to thousands of years, with many benefits to Nigerian economy and Africa at large. The business is enjoyed not only by the cattle rearers, but the whole of humanity. Some of these benefits include a source of income to individuals, creation of jobs, boosting of the agricultural sector as well as source of nutrition.
“Banning open grazing is automatically putting a stop to all these benefits and termination of many people’s source of livelihood. Thus, we are highly disappointed and frown at the southern governors’ decision to ban open grazing. It is unfortunate and sad for such utterances to be coming from elder statesmen and the chief security officers of various states. We call on the Federal Government to swing into action, act and protect the lives and property of genuine cattle rearers going about their legal business, moving from one community to another, in search of suitable feed for their livestock in the southern part of the country.”
The group called on the Northern Governors’ Forum, northern elites, traditional rulers, youth organisations to also checkmate the activities of southerners residing in northern Nigeria.
“Many southerners involved in so many illegal businesses, such as purchase and sell of addictive drugs, cyber crimes, proliferation of small arms among others, brought to our peaceful region. If southern governors will continue with the Asaba declaration, then we will be compelled to redefine the activities of southerners residing in the north,” the group said.
However, the Northern Leaders Youth Forum (NLYF), the umbrella body of about 42 northern youth groups, endorsed the ban on open grazing in the country and called for a national dialogue to address the country’s challenges.
The NLYF made this known, yesterday, at its 27th delegates’ conference, in Yola, Adamawa State.
Addressing journalists in Yola, yesterday, National Chairman, NYLF, Elliot Afiyo, condemned the Justice minister, Malami, for his utterance on the ban on open grazing.
He said: “We have taken time to study the communique issued by the southern governors, especially on the ban on open grazing.
“We want to state, clearly, that open grazing has been the greatest threat to the environment of the northern region and, also, a major threat to security of lives and property in the entire country.
“We call for the establishment of Herders Commission or Agency to cater to the needs of herders.
“We, also, condemn the statement credited to the Attorney General of the Federation on the ban on open grazing.
“We, therefore, appeal to the President to caution his ministers and aides who, despite being in government for six years, are still having opposition mentality,” he said.
The group, speaking on the unfortunate plane crash said: “We received with disbelief and astonishment, the news of a plane crash which claimed the lives of officers of the Nigerian Army and Air Force, including that of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru.
“We sincerely and honestly frown at the manner and rate of these plane crashes.
“We, therefore, call for the immediate composition of an independent investigative panel, to ascertain the remote cause(s) of the plane crash.”
Afiyo also disclosed that NYLF would unveil its endorsed candidate for Nigeria’s presidency in the 2023 elections, on June 5, 2021.
• Malami’s spare parts comment shameful- NAS
Meanwhile, the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) has described the AGF’s comment, in which he compared open grazing of cattle in southern Nigeria to selling of spare parts in northern Nigeria as shameful. The association said Malami drew false equivalence.
The NAS Capoon, Mr Abiola Owoaje, in a statement, titled “Malami unfit to remain AGF”, noted that it was disheartening that Nigeria’s Chief Law Officer would be making statements capable of inciting Nigerians against one another.
He noted that selling of spare parts is clearly a legitimate business that does not habitually involve criminal trespass on other citizens’ properties and the frequent threat and actuality of lethal violence which opening grazing.
He said: “This facile comparison compels us to remind Mr. Malami of the communal strife, mass murder, and massive destruction of farmlands and property, which have been the direct consequence of this archaic practice of open cattle grazing sans respect for property rights,” he said.
Owoaje, who pointed that Amnesty International had reported the killing of over 3,600 Nigerians, while thousands displaced from their homes and ancestral “since 2016 open grazing transmogrified into criminal trespass and premeditated programmes of murderous barbarity” stressed that section 41 of the Nigeria’s Constitution, which guarantees freedom of movement “cannot be translated into the unrestrained right to roam and trespass by animals and their herders, or their criminal proxies.”
He noted given the prevailing situation in the country, people like Malami are not fit to be in the Federal Executive Council.
“At a time the unity of this country has been badly shaken; and a period when impunity stalks the land, keeping Mr. Malami as the Attorney-General is a mockery of justice and fairness, and an assault on national cohesion. He should honourably resign his position, or be fired to save the Buhari government from further embarrassment.”
• AGF’s stsatement shouldn’t be misconstrued – Group
Regardless, the Igbo Youth Vanguard for Peace and Harmonious Living has asked the southern governors to provide the enabling environment to make it easy for herders to ranch their cows.
The group said the recent statement by the AGF on open grazing should not be misconstrued.
The group, in a statement issued in Abuja, by the Chairman and Secretary, Chief Ignatius Nwaobiora and Dr Mike Obi, respectively, said: “The comment of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on open grazing should not be misconstrued. It should rather be a wake-up call on southern governors to provide enabling environment for herders and other interested business men to invest in cow ranching.
“We think the AGF was misunderstood. The deduction from his comment on open grazing is clear. It is not enough for southern governors to ban open grazing, but they should also implement the policy in a manner that would achieve goal and at same time improve the economic activities of the headers and other business men who may wish to invest in cow ranching in that part of the country. Banning open grazing without a considered enabling environment for an average herder who is used to his primitive ways of cattle rearing would seem a policy which has taking away his means of livelihood. There are good herders who are not involved in criminality and also very reasonable not to deliberately allow his cows to destroy the farmers’ crops.”
The group further said in line with the disposition of Malami, the southern governors should organise a dialogue with farmers and herders and communities, mostly at the border towns, to encourage people, based on an established standard for ranching, to acquire lands and pay to the communities.
“It is recommended that ranches are managed by someone with resources to check illegal movements of weapon.
“With this arrangement on ground, once the cows come in, herders should be given a place to stay with their cows. Villagers can now be provided employment by engaging them to supply grasses to these herders to feed their cows at minimal cost. Once this is done, the problem of clashes between herders and farmers would permanently end. This arrangement would also isolate the good herders from those carrying AK47 for kidnapping and other crimes.
“Comments and sincere opinions, like that of the AGF, should not be politicised or given ethnic colourations so easily, especially at this phase of our nationhood,” the Igbo Youth Vanguard for Peace and Harmonious Living said.