Senior lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana says the Northern governors long prohibited roaming of herdsmen with cattle before their counterparts in the South placed a ban on open grazing.

He affirmed that the constitution of Nigeria does not provide for animals to move freely, destroying farmlands.

Femi Falana, SAN.

Falana said this in reaction to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami's criticism of the move by governors in the South-East, South-South and South-West regions to ban open grazing. 

Malami, Wednesday, on a national TV programme likened open grazing in the South to dealing in spare parts in the North, hence, saying Southern governors cannot stop Fulani herders from moving their cows around in the southern terrain.

Falana, however, said the Minister of Justice was wrong in his assertion, as the constitution that allows people to move freely does not give animals the same right, especially to cause destruction to farmlands. 

This was contained in a statement Falana titled 'Northern Governors Forum Banned Open Grazing before Southern Governors Forum,' which was made available to SaharaReporters on Thursday.
"The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) was reported yesterday to have condemned the ban on open grazing by the Southern Governors' Forum. The AGF stated that the ban on open grazing is unconstitutional as it affects the right of herders to move freely in the country. 

"With respect, the ban on open grazing has not affected the rights of herders to move freely and acquire land in any state for the establishment of ranches in line with the provisions of sections 41 and 43 of the Constitution.

"Since the Constitution does not cover the right of animals to move freely and destroy farmlands, it is grossly misleading to give the impression that the ban on open grazing has abrogated the right of herders to carry out their business. 

"With respect to the movement of animals in the country the Animal Diseases (Control) Act and similar laws applicable in the states have empowered the Minister of Agriculture and relevant State Commissioners to make appropriate regulations to regulate the movement of animals and prevent them from transmitting diseases," the statement partly read.

Falana also criticised Malami for comparing open grazing to trading in spare parts, stressing that the latter involves owning a property to practise.

"The AGF equally said that banning open grazing is like banning the sale of spare parts. The comparison is not applicable as the sellers of motor parts who operate in shops and markets in all states have not been accused of engaging in the killing of fellow citizens and destruction of their properties. 

"Besides, those who sell spare parts outside their states of origin either acquire properties or pay rent for the their lawful business.

"However, in order to halt the incessant violent clashes between farmers and herders which had led to mindless killings and wanton destruction of properties in many parts of the country the federal government and the 36 state governments have, at various fora, banned open grazing in all states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory," Falana continued in the statement.
The activist lawyer further provided instances at which the Northern and Southern governors have endorsed the banning of open grazing.

"In view of the desperate moves of some members of the geo-political class to divide the Nigerian people along regional basis it is pertinent to draw the attention of the members of the public to the following reports:

"On April 27, 2018, the members of the National Economic Council resolved to ban open grazing and adopt the Livestock Transformation Plan of the Federal Government. The National Economic Council is constituted by the Vice President, the 36 State Governors, the Minister of Finance and the Central Bank Governor.

"On February 9, 2021, the Northern Governors Forum banned open grazing in all states in Northern Nigeria. 

"On February 11, 2021 the Nigeria Governors Forum banned open grazing in all the 36 states of the Federation.

"On May 14, 2021 the Southern Governors Forum banned open grazing in the 17 states in Southern Nigeria. 

"On May 18, the PDP Governors Forum endorsed the decision to ban open grazing in the entire country. 

"Based on the ban on open grazing, not fewer than 24 states governments have submitted applications to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for grant to facilitate the establishment of ranches in line with the Livestock Transformation Plan of the Federal Government. 

"Meanwhile, Governor Umar Ganduje of Kano State has invited herders who are adversely affected by the ban on open grazing to settle down in the Ruga Settlement established by the State Government. 

"While commissioning the first batch of 25 housing units out of the 200 earmarked for RUGA settlement,
the Governor said that his government engaged in the project for two fundamental reasons: 'first and foremost is to avoid clashes between farmers and herders, secondly to avoid movement of herders which is the source of conflict and to avoid cattle rustling,'" the statement added.

Falana finally advised Malami to always take into consideration, the interests of the general populace, and not of a section of the country in his subsequent remarks as a Minister.

"Mr. Malami should be reminded that he is the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

"So, in making statements he should always take due regards of the sensibilities of every part of the country and respect all legitimate interests of the entire people of the country. 

"Mr. Malami should please stand up for social justice and unity of Nigeria in the interest of all as required of him in accordance with his Oath of Office under the 1999 Constitution," Falana concluded in the statement.

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