His Royal Highness, Alhaji Ado Bayero, the late Emir of Kano, visited the Igbo Community in Kano, when he was alive and declared, “you are no longer the Igbos in Kano, you are the Igbos of Kano. This is an unequivocal declaration that any Nigerian residing in Kano enjoys equal rights with every other indigene. His successor, Emir Muhammad Sanusi II, towing same line, during the 10th anniversary/Ofala 2019 festival of Eze Ndigbo Kano, His Royal Highness, Chief (Dr.) Boniface Ibekwe, held at Ado Bayero Square, Sabon Gari, declared that “there is nothing like non-indigeneship in Kano”, insisting that everybody residing in the state is a bonafide indigene irrespective of his ethnic, cultural and religious background. The Emir states “For us in Kano, whether you are Nupe, Yoruba, Igbo, Kanuri, Muslim, Christian, if you identify yourself as a son of Kano, you are from Kano. Many of you here today were born in Kano, your parents were also born here in Kano. So, who can come and tell you that you are not an indigene? We are all one and we should live together as brothers and sisters.”
What these Emirs of Kano stated is the express provision of the constitutional rights of Nigerians and their statements reflect their avowed commitment to defend the rights of all Nigerians within their domain. Section 41(1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended states “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom”. Section 42 is to the effect that every Nigerian must not be discriminated against on the basis of his being a member of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion, while Section 43 entitles every Nigerian with the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. The combined effect of these sections is that nobody or authority has the power to issue quit notice to any Nigerian residing in his own property in any part of Nigeria.
Quit notice is a civil process in the Landlord/Tenant relationship which entitles the Landlord to recover his property from the Tenant at any time, after complying with the procedure as stated in the law. There has been a lot of misconception of the Land Use Act which vests all land comprised in the territory of each State in the Federation in the Governor of that State. The Act expressly made it clear that this does not bestow on the Governor the ownership of the land but establishes a Trusteeship in which the Governor is simply holding the land in trust for all Nigerians residing in the State. This enables the Governor to efficiently administer the land for the benefit of all Nigerians. For the avoidance of doubt, the Act states in Section 1 that “all land comprised in the territory of each State in the Federation are hereby vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians”. No land in any state is reserved only for the ancestral indigenes, it is reserved for all Nigerians, so the concept of indigenes/settlers is completely unconstitutional with respect to the ownership and residence on land in Nigeria.
Once you can afford to purchase and own any immovable property in any part of Nigeria, no authority can quit you from there. Even if a resident commits crime, the constitutional provision is that he should be arrested, prosecuted and sent to jail, not expelled from where he is residing in. The proviso to Section 41, which derogates on the right to residence and movement, is in relation to the commission of a crime. It states, “Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society – (a) imposing restrictions on the residence or movement of any person who has committed or is reasonably suspected to have committed a criminal offence in order to prevent him from leaving Nigeria”.
There is no provision for quit notice in the Land Use Act. What we have in the Act is revocation. This empowers a Governor to acquire any land from any owner for public interest or revoke ownership where the owner has or is defaulting on the terms of the certificate of occupancy. For instance, a land that is designated for residence in a densely populated area but of which was converted to a filling station by the owner can be revoked by the Governor because the existence of a filling station within residential area poses a risk to the lives of the residents as the possibility of fire explosion will be high. Where the revocation is for public interest, the Governor is bound to pay adequate compensation. However, where the State builds and rents out State properties to tenants, the State has the power to issue quit notice to its tenants in a civil process.
It is with this background that the Emirs of Kano gave their assurances to all residents of Kano. They were also mindful that the issue of quit notice to the Igbo tribe in 1966 from the North was the actual cause of the civil war fought between 1967 – 1970. Following the intractable political crises in the West and the resultant coup, believed to have been carried out by Igbo army Officers, which precipitated the counter coup targeted against the Igbos, the Northerners issued a quit notice to the Igbos and backed it up with the pogrom and killing of Igbos in the North. On rushing back to Igboland, Ndigbo declared Biafra which led to the civil war that caused heavy casualties on both sides. Most countries do not survive a civil war twice. With the benefit of hindsight, the Northern elders understood that if they want Nigeria to continue to be one country, evicting anybody or tribe from their territory will not profer solution to any crisis.
They lived up to this commitment in the recent quit notice issued to the Igbo tribe in the North by a group called the Coalition of Northern Youths. It was the pressure put on these youths by Northern elders that made them rescind the quit notice. This is maturity and evolution of a nation. It was a victory of dialogue over violence. I recall what the former Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, said on the day the Northern youths lifted the quit notice. He revealed that the Northern elites would have ignored the quit notice issued by the youths as they were convinced that it was the action of some misguided elements desperately seeking for attention but they had to step in because some other ignorant elements in the society may take advantage of the quit notice and cause violence and mayhem in the society with disastrous consequences to the unity of the nation. They nipped it in the bud. This action improved the unity between the North and Ndigbo. The youths have even visited some of the Igbo states and were welcome.
The recent event in Ondo State, where the Governor of the State, Akeredolu, was quoted as ordering the Fulani Herdsmen, operating illegally in the forest reserves, to vacate the forest reserves has caused a lot of disquiet. The non-state actors in Ondo, including the traditional worshippers, have pledged to help in the fight against the Fulani Herdsmen. This eviction notice from the Governor to the herders, understandably evoked emotions across the country. Within hours, Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, struck in Ibadan and attacked the Fulani Community resulting in the razing down of properties and killing of some citizens. Efforts were immediately made to dounce tensions by arranging conciliatory meeting between the South West Governors and Miyety Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria. The meeting yielded fruits as the Governors clarified the order of the Governor of Ondo State to mean that whoever is inhabiting the forest reserves illegally should quit. The MACBAN agreed.
This eviction notice in Ondo has trumped up some issues. The greatest drawback to our fight against criminality in Nigeria today is wrong nomenclature. The use of the phrase “Fulani Herdsmen” is the main culprit in this unholy mix up in the first against criminality. It is not a criminal offence to be Fulani or to be a herdsman. Fulani is a tribe, while herdsman is a profession. Genuine Fulani Herdsmen still exist today and the mere fact that there are some criminal elements among them does not make all of them guilty. The equivalent phrases to Fulani Herdsmen are Igbo Traders, Yoruba Journalists, Tiv Farmers etc. When I had a one on one chat with one of the Northern Youths that issued the quit notice to Igbos residing in the North, he revealed to me that one of the reasons they issued the notice was that drug problem was ravaging the North and majority of the drug dealers were Igbos. I asked him why they didn’t issue the quit notice to all drug barons to quit the North or report them to the police to be prosecuted. He didn’t have much answers to the posers. I informed him that immediately they used the term Igbo, they lost their case because it is not a crime to be Igbo. This is simply criminalizing ethnicity, religion and professions. If Governor Akeredolu were as specific initially as the Chairman of the Governors’ forum portrayed, nobody would have raised an eyebrow. He would have even be better of if he had said that all trespassers, kidnappers, rapists and robbers inhabiting our forest reserves are given 7 days of grace to exit or face arrests and prosecution. This would still have attracted the cooperation of everyone in the fight, including the Fulani, who have suffered most in recent times from the activities of terrorists, insurgents, bandits, robbers, kidnappers, rapists etc.
Please ask Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Borno, indeed most states in the North West, North East and North Central what they are suffering from these vices. But the perpetrators in Fulani dominated States are not called Fulani Herdsmen, they are called bandits, kidnappers, terrorists etc and this attracts sympathy for them from every citizen of Nigeria.
We have to rise up together, all law abiding citizens, as a strong and united country to face this menace of criminality, by recognising first and foremost that we are not up against any ethnic or religious group or profession but against a brutal terrorist guerrilla warfare, which has combined with some criminal elements, to unleash ferocious attacks on all of us whether Christians or Moslems, Tivs, Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Fulanis etc, using the forest highways as their natural habitat. They are almost succeeding in creating anarchy among the different communities that have hitherto lived peacefully.
It is in this regard that the use of the name “Fulani Herdsmen” is not helpful in this war against the terrorists as this nomenclature provides a comfortable cover for the terrorists to operate without hindrance. If you address them as Fulani Herdsmen then you cannot deny the Fulanis the right to claim it is a communal clash because everybody agrees that before the advent of the modern version of terrorism, the Fulani Herdsmen have been living peacefully with their host communities. It then implies that after the arrival of this brand of terrorism on our shores, there is a need to appraise our strategies and recommend new solutions.
Our strength lies in our diversity. All religions abhor injustice and discrimination. Let us borrow a leaf from Kano State. It is not surprising that Kano State is one of the most populous States in Nigeria, yet it is largely insulated from these vices. Hear Emir Sanusi, “The wealth and prosperity of Kano is based on its ability as a cosmopolitan city. Religion of Islam expressly prohibit tribalism. The Qu’aran is very clear on this issue. Allah says all mankind were created from one man and one woman (Adam and Eve). We made you as a people from different tribes so that you can recognize each other. The best of all among you is he who fears God most”. Emir Sanusi maintained that Nigeria is designed by God to have unity in diversity, adding that, “I urge everyone of you to build friendship across ethnic and religious divides and also maintain that friendship. It is the wish of Allah that Nigeria has many ethnic and religious groups. We should maintain peace and live in peace”.