The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN on Wednesday night argued that the recent ban on open grazing by southern governors violates constitutional provisions on freedom of movement.
The Minister who made the submission during an interview on Channels television programme, Politics Today, likened the southern governors decision to a ban on sale of motor spare parts in the north by northern governors, saying such decisions cannot hold water because it breaches the fundamental human rights of Nigerians as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“For example: it is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the north.
“Does it hold water? Does it hold water for a northern governor to come and state expressly that he now prohibits spare parts trading in the north?”
Malami argued that the issues borders on constitutional provisions which cannot be denied Nigerians, pointing out that for the southern governors’ ban to achieve desired result, the constitution must first be amended.
“If you are talking of constitutionally guaranteed rights, the better approach to it is to perhaps go back to ensure the Constitution is amended.
“Freedom and liberty of movement among others established by the constitution, if by an inch you want to have any compromise over it, the better approach is go back to the National Assembly to say open grazing should be prohibited and see whether you can have the desired support for the constitutional amendment”, Malami said.
Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State Governor and Chairman of the Southern Dovernor’s Forum Thursday said the decision of the Southern Governors to ban open grazing is irreversible and will be enforced. He said the body is ready to defend the legality of their decision in court.
Ondo Governor who reacted to the analogy of the AGF said Malami’s comparison of open grazing to auto parts trading is not only strange but also annoyingly and ‘betrays a terrible mindset.’
“Comparing this anachronism, which has led to the loss of lives, farmlands, and property, and engendered untold hardship on the host communities, with buying and selling of auto parts is not only strange. It, annoyingly, betrays a terrible mindset.
“It is most unfortunate that the AGF is unable to distill issues as expected of a Senior Advocate. Nothing can be more disconcerting. This outburst should, ordinarily, not elicit a response from reasonable people who know the distinction between a legitimate business that is not in any way injurious and a certain predilection for anarchy.
“Clinging to an anachronistic model of animal husbandry, which is evidently injurious to harmonious relationship between the herders and the farmers as well as the local populace, is wicked and arrogant.
“Mr Malami is advised to approach the court to challenge the legality of the Laws of the respective States banning open grazing and the decision of the Southern Governor Forum taken in the interest of their people. We shall be most willing to meet him in Court”.
“The decision to ban open grazing stays. It will be enforced with vigour,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase, at Thursday plenary shut down a motion to debate comments by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, on open grazing.
Miffed by the comment of the AGF and feeling that his privilege has been breached, Hon. Solomon Bob from Rivers State at Thursday plenary raised a point of order to bring the attention of the House to the comment which he said was capable of fueling crisis in the country.
Describing Malami’s comment on the ban as “disingenuous, irresponsible and loaded with incendiary trope and ethnic slur”, Bob wanted the parliament to call Malami to order.
No sooner had he began talking, the presiding officer, Wase requested to know the specific order in their Rule Book wherein he was granted the floor to speak. The lawmaker cited order 6 and its relevant subsections.
He was stopped midway in his point of order by the Deputy Speaker on the ground that he was going outside of the order which he relied upon.
“The order which you are bringing this matter is wrong. It’s either you bring it as a full motion but coming under matters of privilege is wrong so take your seat”, Wase said.
He pleaded Wase’s understanding though to drive home his points but was ruled out of order and his pleas were not taken as he was asked to resume his seat.
It would be recalled that the southern governors arising from their first meeting last week in Delta State had announced their agreement to ban open grazing in the southern part of the country as a result of the worsening insecurity and violence in the country, associated with herders.
Before the southern governors’ decision, the northern governors in similar meetings earlier had also considered banning open grazing, preferring ranching in its place.
It should also be pointed out that Benue State sometimes last year placed a ban on open grazing to checkmate the destruction of farmlands and sacking of whole communities by alleged herders