BUHARI AND ANTI-GRAZING LAWS | THISDAYLIVE
Sonnie Ekwowusi urges the President to work for all Nigerians
President Muhammadu Buhari faults anti-grazing laws. He slams Governors of Southern States for banning open grazing in their respective states. This is preposterous. Whereas Mr. President objects to open grazing prohibition he keeps mute over the murder, rape, battery, assault and other crimes being committed by the AK-47-weliding Fulani herdsmen in the course of rearing their cattle and cows. President Buhari is biased in favour of his fellow Fulani kinsmen. Why should a president of a country who ought to see the whole country as his constituency condescend to the level of putting the cattle–rearing and private business of the Fulani herdsmen over and above public right and public interest?
Nigeria is bigger than Fulani herdsmen. If Nigeria is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-national society, why should Mr. President hold brief for Fulani herdsmen; an attitude which does not reflect the shared visions and aspirations of the variegated interest groups and nationalities that constitute Nigeria. Where has this president been all these six years in which the herdsmen have been freely going about killing, maiming, and raping their victims and dispossessing them of their farm lands? Has it not dawned on him that the Fulani herdsmen have killed or maimed thousands of innocent Nigerians in the last six years under his watch? Why has human life become so cheap in this government? Is President Buhari aware that in the last three years different Nigerian courts have consistently affirmed the right of Nigerian state governments to implement anti-grazing laws in their respective states? Is the president aware that the implementation of anti-grazing laws in different states of the federation has brought relative calm and peace and security of lives in the aforesaid states? Is Mr. President aware that the Northern Governors Forum banned open grazing before their Southern counterpart? Is President Buhari aware that the Governors of the 36 states of the federation have banned open grazing in their respective states? Is the President aware that the Federal High Court, Abuja has recently rejected a suit seeking to compel President Buhari to direct security agencies to enforce the Benue anti-grazing law? Anyway, the Southern state governors have ignored President Buhari’s flawed objection in the same manner they ignored the laughable anti-grazing opinion recently expressed by the Federal Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. Anti-grazing laws have come to stay. State governors are poised to enforce the laws to the letter no matter whose ox is gored.
The problem is that Mr. President does not still understand the meaning and import of Presidential democracy which Nigeria operates. And this problem is compounded by the fact that the president’s managers and handlers are failing in their duty of helping the president to have organized, intelligent and coherent thoughts on vital issues of governance. It beats the imagination that the president is querying Southern state governors for banning open grazing. Mr. President should be reminded again and again that we are no longer under a military autocracy. Under military rule Buhari could issue a command from Abuja and it would be binding on the governors. During Nigerian military interregnum, the country operated a monolithic and hierarchical government that did not admit of power sharing. The Head of State or the Federal Military Government or the Supreme Military Council, was everything. But not so under presidential democracy which we are operating today. Under presidential democracy the Houses of Assembly and governors of the federation, as could be gleaned from the devolution of powers in the Exclusive, Concurrent and Residual Lists under the 1999 Constitution and under the Land Use Act, can enact anti-grazing laws to be binding in their respective states in order to protect the lives of the citizens of their respective states.
I had expected Mr. President to raise the alarm over the terrible crimes being committed by the Fulani herdsmen across the country. Instead of raising such an alarm, President Buhari is raising the alarm that the criminals are not being protected or granted “grazing right” by the Governors of Southern states. Does Mr. President understand that right, in the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, is not a one-way traffic? Right is reciprocal. Right is intertwined with and conditioned by duties. For example, the “right” of Fulani herdsmen to kill their fellow citizens in the course of rearing their cattle stops where the right to life of their fellow citizens begins. Besides, what is sauce for the goose is equally sauce for the gander. If Mr. President is raising the alarm that the Fulani herdsmen are denied grazing right, why is he not equally raising the alarm that the same Fulani herdsmen are killing, maiming and raping Nigerian citizens? Has it not dawned on the President that by virtue of the Land Use Act all the lands in Southern Nigeria are exclusively vested in Southern State Governors (not in the Presidency or Fulani herdsmen) who are at liberty to grant or convey or assign the use or title of them to any applicant who has fulfilled the conditions for such grant or conveyance or assignment?
As you know very well, Nigerians from different walks of life have literally been begging President Buhari to eliminate nepotism and provincialism that breed secessionist and separatist agitations in Nigeria but he has refused to do so. Nigerians have also been urging him to correct the skewed political appointments in the country but he has also refused to correct the skewed political appointments. Instead of correcting the skewed political appointments, Mr. President keeps on uttering sermons on non-negotiability of the unity of Nigeria. Nigeria’s unity is under a serious threat today owing to President Buhari’s nepotism, provincialism and small-town outlook. It is worthy of note that prior to Buhari’s coming to power, the Fulani herdsmen rearing cattle in Southern Nigeria were not armed with AK-47 guns let alone killing their victims with alacrity. But unfortunately since Buhari came to power, these Fulani herdsmen have started carrying guns and indulging in all sorts of criminal activities. Now instead of bringing these criminals to justice the president is advocating for their “right” to open grazing. Does this perfectly square up with simple logic? No.
Consequently in order to unify the country and thus pave way for the much-vaunted true Nigerian progress Mr. President should first and foremost shed the cloak of his nepotism, provincialism, narrow-mindedness. Unity of Nigeria has a price tag. It is not something imposed from Abuja through executive fiat. You cannot be telling me that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable while at the same time you are ignoring the killing, maiming and raping and other crimes being committed by the Fulani herdsmen across Nigeria.