Femi Falana: Why Nigerian government can’t back herders against governors

Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana

A human rights lawyer and Interim Chair, Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has explained why he feels the federal government cannot back herders against southern governors over their passage of the anti-open grazing law in the region.

Falana, in a statement, explained that the federal government cannot take sides with herders because doing so would not only be violating the constitution but amounts to political suicide.

He was reacting to a statement credited to the Attorney General of Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to the effect that the action of the southern governors violated the rights of Nigerians.

“The decision of the federal government to take sides in the dispute between the herders and the southern governors is a constitutional aberration and political suicide.

“Specifically, it is a gross violation of section 17 of the Constitution which provides that the Nigerian people are entitled to equal rights and opportunities before the law and section 42 thereof which has prohibited the federal government from conferring advantage on any group of citizens,” he said.

Speaking further, the senior lawyer stated that the federal government ought to know that the resources of the entire Nigerian people cannot be dissipated on defending herders or any other against state government.

According to him, the federal government cannot take sides with herders in the needless legal battle over grazing routes which has been rejected by the Northern Governors Forum and Southern Governors Forum.

“Indeed, the alliance between the herders and the federal government over open grazing is completely at variance with the National Livestock Transformation Plan of the federal government which has adopted ranching.

“At this juncture, the federal government is advised to stop confusing herders. A few months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari was given the impression that a gazette exists for open grazing in all the states of the federation.

“Hence, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice was ordered by the president to produce the gazette. Since the gazette never existed, the attorney-general has not been able to produce it.

“Shortly thereafter, the federal government claimed that hundreds of grazing reserves had been located in 25 states. But having realised that the land in every state is vested in governors, the federal government has decided to throw its weight behind moves by herders to sue southern governors over the constitutional validity of anti-open grazing laws,” it added.

Falana however advised that the federal government instead of inciting herders against the implementation of anti-grazing laws in some states should promote amicable resolution of the dispute.

He accordingly charged the federal government to ensure the establishment of ranches in the several states that have made land available for the project, because it may run into several contradictions if it goes ahead to defend the herders in the planned litigation.

He argued that having released the sum of N6.2 billion to Katsina for the establishment of ranching, the federal government will not be permitted to turn round to insist on open grazing in other states, adding that the court will not allow the federal government to approbate and reprobate at same time.

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