The anti-open grazing law recently passed by some state houses of assembly and signed thereto by the respective state governors is unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever if the
provisions of section 41(1) of the 1999 constitution are to be taken into account.
Recall that some states notably Ondo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos and Abia have passed laws to ban open grazing in their states. This is in response to the September 1 deadline given by the Southern Governors forum for all states in the Southern part of Nigeria to pass laws against open-grazing.
Questions have arisen with respect to the constitutionality, implementability and viability of the so-called open grazing law. The objective of this article is to look at these questions and propose a way out of the problem.
There is no doubting the fact that open grazing is a problem not only to the host communities but to the herders themselves. These cows are grossly under-utilised through open grazing. As a matter of fact, the Fulani youths engaging in kidnapping today don’t really have to resort to criminality because there will be enough jobs for them if the full potentials of the cows are harnessed by the government.
Ranching is the way to go NOT open grazing so open grazing should be banned but the right legal steps should be followed in banning it so as to avoid a backlash in the future,
CONSTITUTIONAL IMPEDIMENT TO THE BAN ON OPEN GRAZING
To implement any laws against open grazing, there is the need to amend/expunge section 41(1) of the 1999 constitution which confers the right to freedom of movement on every citizen:
The relevant section 41(1) of the 1999 constitution is clear and unambiguous that:
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 40 of the 1999 constitution is also clear and explicit that every citizen has the right to assemble freely and associate with other persons. This relevant section states that:
Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any association for the protection of his interests.
The combined weight of these and other sections of the 1999 constitution clearly gives room to the herders (who are citizens of Nigeria) to move and settle in any part of Nigeria. The question to ask is ‘under which constitutional provision are some state houses of assembly and governors enacting the anti-open grazing law?
The 1999 constitution is supreme and comes ahead of any other law. Laws passed by state houses of assembly cannot supercede the constitution.
This makes the law against open grazing passed by some state houses of assembly legally non-binding, null, void and of no effect whatsoever. Additionally, the 1999 constitution is clear in section 1(3) that:
If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
Yes, the laws against open grazing are directed at cows but if these cows are stopped from moving, the herders are automatically stopped from movement. Movement of cows and movement of herders are not mutually exclusive. It is very difficult to decouple the movement of cows from the movement of herders because movement of cows defends on the movement of herders.
You must see a herder when you see a cow. The herder takes these cows so preciously that he never lets them on their own. There is a psychological and physical attachment of the Fulani man and his cows that no law can separate.
You really can’t blame the herder because the cows are his main source of livelihood.
Herds of cattle don’t move alone, they are prompted by herders.
GRAZING ROUTES CANNOT WORK
It is also doubtful if the idea of grazing routes as proposed by the Presidency will work just as the anti-grazing laws enacted by the southern governors will not be implementable.
Grazing routes existed several centuries ago and obviously there are several geographical and cosmopolitan changes that will make any reinventing of grazing route fruitless. Some of these routes have been taken over by permanent buildings, bridges, farms, highways, railways etc.
For example, the Nicon Noga Hilton hotel in Abuja, a very popular edifice occupying a vast land mass is said to be sitting on a colonial – era grazing route. How then is it possible to reinvent these grazing routes?
Using the grazing routes as a way out will mean changing the face but retaining the problem because some unmovable assets are sitting on some of these grazing routes.
NON-STATE ACTORS FUELLING THE PROBLEM
There are some non-state actors -Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho- that relied on the anti-open grazing advocacy to give ultimatum to the Fulani herdsmen to leave their states or region. These non-state actors got the active support and backing of some state governors.
Clearly such ultimatum to any group to leave a particular part of Nigeria is unconstitutional and cannot stand. This includes the ultimatum given few years ago by the coalition of Northern groups (CNG) to southerners to leave the Northern part of the country which obviously has elapsed now although it was given as a response to the threats from the south to expel Northerners.
SECURITY CONCERNS: THE WAY OUT
Obviously, there are concerns about the challenges caused by open grazing with respect to security and peaceful coexistence between the herders and farmers/host communities but the way to go is to tackle the problem from the 1999 constitution.
Some of the Fulani herdsmen are certainly constituting a nuisance to the host communities in several instances. Most of the cases of kidnapping, banditry, rape and other associated crimes can be traced to some Fulani herdsmen cohabiting with host communities. Some of the criminal elements within the Fulani are blackmailing all peace-living Fulani. They donot represent us as Fulani.
The Fulani are decent, peace-loving and accommodating people. All Fulani including Miyetti Allah should condemn the atrocities committed by the few criminals elements amongst them engaging in kidnapping and other atrocities. Miyetti Allah should assist government in gathering intelligence to tackle Fulani-inspired kidnapping and banditry in Nigeria.
In view of the security challenges brought about by the herders-farmers clashes, it is expedient that the security agencies up their game to fix these challenges. There is the urgent need to recruit more policemen and soldiers to beef up security. The federal government should recruit at least 37,000 policemen (10,000 additional policemen for each state and the FCT) and 18,500 soldiers (5,000 additional soldiers for each state and FCT).
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS TOO SOFT ON KIDNAPPERS, TERRORISTS, SECESSIONISTS AND OTHER CRIMINALS.
The federal government is too soft on criminals especially Fulani bandits/kidnappers, Boko haram terrorists and IPOB secessionists. The penalty for Kidnapping, banditry, terrorism and secession should be public hanging. Anybody convicted of kidnapping, terrorism or secession should be hanged publicly.
KIDNAPPERS WHEN ARRESTED SHOULD BE HANGED PUBLICLY TO SERVE AS A DETERRENT TO OTHERS
The laws on kidnapping should be removed from states and transferred to the federal government because kidnapping is now a national problem not restricted to a particular state. It is no longer state-based.
RANCHING IS THE WAY TO GO
States should join Kaduna and invest in ranching to modernise cattle grazing and turn it into a huge commercial activity to create jobs and promote economic development. Dairy factories alone can create millions of jobs. Indeed Nigeria can be a net exporter of dairy products through ranching.
Both Southern and Northern states should invest in ranching as a means to bringing an end to the farmers-herders imbroglio. Laws against open grazing cannot solve the problem. Ranching is a tough decision to make but both the Southern and Northern Governors should develop enough courage to make that decision. There is the need to move away from sentiments and face reality because:
‘Decisions are the hardest thing to make especially when it is a choice between where you want to be and where you should be’
Dr Abubakar Alkali, Kuliya2020@yahoo.com
Convener, Movement for a New Nigeria (MNN).