By Omeiza Ajayi
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation AGF, Abubakar Malami has come under attack for comparing the ban on open grazing by Southern Governors with prohibition of spare parts trading in the North.
Malami had in an interview while reacting to the decision of the Southern Governors, said it is a dangerous decision for any governor in Nigeria to think that they can bring any compromise on the freedom of liberty of individuals to move about, comparing it to northern governors prohibiting the sales of spare parts in the North.
He insisted that the ban does not align with the constitution in the context of human rights.
Arise Television presenters bared their hearts on this when they discussed trending videos anchored by Orji Okpe, a model.
In his reaction, a former Presidential spokesman and television presenter, Dr Rueben Abati urged the AGF to stop misreading the constitution, saying Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, guarantees freedom of movement to person and not cows.
He said; “The office of the Attorney General of the Federation is provided for in Section 150 of the 1999 Constitution and the functions of the Attorney General are very clear. He is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation. He is the Chief Legal Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria. At the state level, Section195 provides for Attorneys General of the states.
“However, the first problem we have with this comment by the AGF is that when an Attorney General begins to dabble into politics, it becomes a very untidy situation and it is one of the reasons some persons have been arguing that we need to separate the Office of the AGF from the office of the Minister of Justice, because the office of the minister is a political appointee. The AGF has to focus on the law. So, this is the problem that I see here because in this particular instance, the AGF responding to the 17 governors of the South is crossing the line from discussion of law into partisan politics.
“The second point is S. 41 of the 1999 Constitution which he was referring to, does not talk about cattle. It talks about persons. It says, “every person…” And this is without being presumptuous because I don’t imagine that I can teach the AGF on the point of law. He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN and all of that, but with due respect, the governors of the 17 Southern states are talking about cattle going about and disturbing people in the Southern part of the country, destroying farms.
“If I recall, in that 12-point communique, there was no where they said northerners have been banned from the South. Nobody has banned the Fulani or anybody from any part of Nigeria. In the Southwest or the Southeast, you can go anywhere, but the issue is about cattle grazing and that is why they are calling for ranching. They are not calling for the ranching of human beings, they are calling for the ranching of cattle.
“The third point is his analogy. I think it is entirely misplaced. Look, the Southern Governors can say yes, don’t even bring the cattle, they will eat fish.
There are even southerners who have set up their own ranches, if the issue is about economic conflict that is indicated. The people selling spare parts in the North, if they come from a particular part of the country, maybe, from the Southeast or Southwest can gladly say okay, they will leave, that they will not sell spare parts in the North again. Now, in terms of cost, the people in the South have an alternative.
They can eat fish, they can eat snails, but if you don’t have spare parts, how do you maintain your vehicles? How do you replace vehicle parts? So, that is why I think that the analogy is a bit misplaced but what is more important is that we will like a situation whereby the AGF does not get involved in partisan politics and just concentrate on the job of defending the rule of law, which is what is important in this regard.
On her part, Tundun Abiola, daughter of late Chief MKO Abiola said comparing cattle grazing and activities and criminal herders with spare parts dealers is a false equivalence.
She said; “I think that is a false equivalence he made there. He was referring to S. 41 of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of movement all over the country to all Nigerians and you cannot be expelled from any part of the country.
However, we have a pressing security issue at the moment. Nobody has any problem with lawful herders. We never had because we all grew up with herders roaming the country. But now we have a new breed of herders who are brandishing AK-47. So, it is disingenuous of him to talk about it like it is just about cattle rearing. It is not. It has taken a sinister dimension and it will be irresponsible for southern governors to fail to curb this menace. So, it is a false equivalence on that score.
“Now, spare parts traders in the North do not have AK-47s, do not shoot down customers. What is happening between the farmers and the herders is completely different and I really like that he would raise the spare parts issue whereas when Hisbah goes and destroys the stocks of Christians trading in Kano, what do we hear? Crickets. This is the kind of problem and tension that we are facing in the country when people don’t feel a sense of belonging and that some are more equal. I don’t appreciate this kind of comparison to lawful businessmen; comparing them to criminals”.
Another presenter, Rufai Oseni expressed dismay that Nigeria has so degenerated to a level where cows have become subjects of national discuss at a time the country should be thinking of other developmental issues.
“I saw the interview and it was quiet very sad. The fact that as a nation with the might and the size of Nigeria the potential it has got, that our national issue and development have been reduced to issues about ‘ma’alu’, that is cattle. It is problematic. And when you sense the body reaction of the AGF, you expect more from an AGF in cases like this. At first, an Attorney General trying to distort the law… S. 41 talks about movement of persons. So, why twist it? Cattle are not human beings except if you are telling us that cattle have become human beings in this country or you are giving them human status.
“Sometimes, maybe we need to check. Look at the open grazing law- they have had this since 1965 in the North but in the ’70s we had the Land Use Act that vests powers over land in the hands of the state governors and that still subsists.
The state governors still call the shots on the land. What is residual should be left for the residual. So, why is the AGF talking as though there is another law he is quoting from in this country, trying to play technicalities with us? And we have seen the signs and the next thing, you use a very tribalistic slur by saying spare parts.
Because we all know that the major dealers in spare parts are the Igbo. Why are you doing this? At first, you put forward Ruga, we said no. Just because of this same land, you come and collect land from people and call it settlement for cows. You went further ahead and put forward the Water Bill and we said no.
Let us cool things down. We all want this country to work. Let us not inflame passions. We should all be statesmen in the collective development of this country. Nobody is bigger than any other person”.