Open Grazing Law: ASCAB faults FG support for herders

Ogunsakin Mustapha
5 Min Read
Femi Falana SAN

The Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB) on Tuesday warned the Federal government to desist from backing herders against the Southern governors over signing into law, the Anti-Open Grazing Law, saying that such support is not only unconstitutional, but political suicide for the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The Interim Chair of ASCAB, Femi Falana SAN, in a statement advised the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami SAN to give truthful advise to President Buhari and promote amicable resolution of the conflict.  ASCAB urge the Federal government to ensure the establishment of ranches in the several states that have made land available for the project.

The statement reads: “The Federal Government is reported to have thrown its weight behind moves by herders to sue southern governors over the anti-open grazing bills they recently signed into law. The Special Assistant (Media) to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Dr Umar Gwandu, who disclosed the plan of the Federal Government claimed “The rights trampled upon are individual rights of Nigerians as constitutionally guaranteed. The Nigerians whose rights are violated reserve the right to approach the court for the protection of such rights within the context of freedom of movement among others. It will be viewed with that consideration in mind.”

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.

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 governments. In other words, 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.

Instead of inciting herders against the implementation of anti grazing laws in some States the Federal Government should promote amicable resolution of the dispute. In particular, the Federal Government should ensure the establishment of ranches in the several States that have made land available for the project. However, in defending the herders in the planned litigation the Federal Government will certainly run into serious contradictions. 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. The Court will not allow the Federal Government to approbate and reprobate at same time.

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