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Are govs right in rejecting cattle colonies?

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By Bose Adelaja, Bartholomew Madukwe & Fredrick Okopie

Prof. Tahir Mamman, SAN, Immediate past Director-General of Nigerian Law School. 

Governments at all levels spend hundreds of billions on infrastructure, teachers, research and other support services to train students and manpower most of whom go into private sector. Even those in government services are still paid through salaries even though most of the training were provided and paid for by the government. Similarly, the Law School which every lawyer must attend is wholly provided for by the government.

Students pay a fraction of service charges only. Where do lawyers go to after such lavish government expenditures on their training? Most go into private jobs and in a lot of cases, charge government ridiculous, extortionist fees when their services are called for by same government that trained them.

For me, any lawyer who does not agree the commencement of cattle colony is a disgrace to his profession and country because it is anchored on justice and appreciation of Nigeria’s diversity, tolerance and accommodation, security and safety all of all citizens, rights of movement and residence in any part of Nigeria without let or hindrance as embedded in the country’s grundnorm – the Constitution. This is what a well trained, responsible and responsive lawyer should be advocating.

Mr Auwal Musa, Executive Director- Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)  

The recent herders/farmers conflicts currently ongoing in certain parts of the country is worrisome and we call on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency decisively bring to justice all criminal elements fingered to be culpable either directly or remotely in these crimes which are terrifying and mind-boggling.

These crimes in whatever nomenclature assigned by interests or groups, run contrary to everything common-sense and good reason represents and more importantly within the context of our nation state stands in direct conflict with the letters and spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Recalling that the herdsmen and farmers are known to have peacefully co-existed in communities, having relationships that predates the current dispensation, the recent developments with respect to the security situation only throws up serious concerns of worry as we observe extreme exploitation of the situation by political, ethnic, economic and other vested interests.The Federal Government must be seen to be neutral, unbiased and impartial in dealing with opinion leaders, religious leaders, other leaders of thought and the media at both at the federal and community levels.


Chief Morah Ekwunoh, Principal Partner at  M.C.Ekwunoh & Co, Barristers and Legal Consultants

No doubt, l fully align myself with preponderance of views that ranching is a private and individual commercial business, just like legion of other commercial businesses and enterprises which, like stars, dot our investment firmaments nationally and globally.

Pursuant to the application of the extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) and the Land Use Act, ownership and control of all lands in the states are vested in their respective governors who hold same in trust for the beneficial interests of their citizens. A fortiori application of the maxim of nemo dat quod non habet, reveals that the Federal Government cannot acquire, consficate or,  otherwise howsoever, appropriate lands in the states for purposes of creating cattle ranches or colonies for the benefit of herdsmen, in their pursuit of individual and private commercial businesses or enterprises, since, under, and by virtue of the afore-referenced provisions, such lands are vested in the states, and not in the Federal Government, as to bring into constitutional being such acquisitions or confiscations.

What it can do, in the overall circumstances, is to use its own lands, as clearly delineated in the Constitution and the Land Use Act (supra) for establishment of such ranches or colonies; or , most appropriately, to appeal to,collaborate or partner with state governments for this purpose.

 Mr Benjamin Obioha, Lecturer at Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State

Cattle rearing is a private business. Those who are into fishery acquire land where they dig ponds. Those in poultry farming also do same. The issue of cattle ranching or colony shouldn’t have been heard, if the ‘high and mighty ‘ in our country are not strongly in support of the rampaging Fulani herdsmen. You see what happened to them and their animals in Ghana, where the government is sincere, and ready to do the right thing. Our greatest problem in this country is the failure of the government. Federal Government cannot acquire land from a state. It can only request for specific land from a state government for a public purpose within the meaning assigned to the expression under the Land Use Act.

If title to the land is required by Federal Government is otherwise vested or deemed vested in private entity, then the state government must first acquire the land, notify the owner and Gazette it before releasing the land to the Federal Government for public purpose. It’s quite difficult to navigate that laborious procedure without being tied up in court by the private interest to be dispossessed.

That itself is assuming the state government is minded to cooperate with the Federal Government. However, if the Federal Government requires the land simply to create an inter-state grazing corridor without vesting the land in any specific cattle herdsman, there is strong case for it to be upheld as a public purpose.

Mrs Peace Akaba, Educationist

Constitutionally speaking, state governors are the chief custodians and chief security officers of their respective states. They also have the constitutional and legal right to speak and act on behalf of the entire state.

In my candid opinion, those governors that declined to offer land for the establishment of cattle colony did the best thing so far for the interest of the state and her citizens. If one is sincere to himself, the alleged incessant killing across the country by Fulani herdsmen is enough for any reasonable governor to consider the safety of its people before thinking otherwise.

For instance, the controversial Sambisa forest, I was told, is a large land that covers hundreds of kilometers. The Federal Government can establish a massive cattle ranch, by so doing, it will open up that part of the country for commerce and push the once dreaded Boko Haram out of operation. It will also create job for the entire marauding northern youths.

Creating cattle colonies will not stop the constant clash between herdsmen and farmers. What happens if a cow strays from a colony to a farm and destroys crops, that cow must be killed by the farmers.

The reprisal attack by the herdsmen and counter-attack will cause loss of lives and property. This was the case in the Middle Belt, especially Benue State. This was what most of the state governors considered before rejecting cattle colonies in their states.

Mr Adekunle Oyesanya, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)

Under the Land Use Act, the governors are the trustees of land within their states. The Federal Government cannot therefore just confiscate land in the states without their consent. Cattle rearing is truly private business The federal government cannot even confiscate land for public purposes.

Cattle ranching may be the best option  in the circumstances. Even at that, the Federal Government still needs the cooperation of the state governors. The problem however, is that the herdsmen are mostly nomadic people. So they may find it impracticable to be confined to a ranch no matter how big it is. But the bitter truth is that their being nomads does not give them the right to destroy people’s farmlands  and then unleash terror on society when they are challenged.

Unless the government wants to engage in the business of cattle-rearing in ranches, it will be unconstitutional for private land to be acquired or confiscated or forcefully taken for ranches, if those ranches belong to individuals.

If any government attempts to take private land to give other private people, such measures will fail as it will be challenged.  This is my candid view on the question of governors being right or wrong in their rejection of cattle colony.

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