Despite the ban on Open Grazing by South-South Governors, the Federal Government last week insisted on exhuming the grazing routes as a solution to the persistent farmers-herders clashes. In this edition, Vanguard Law and Human Rights sought the views of lawyers on the face-off between the FG and Southern states. Excerpt:

By Innocent Anaba, Henry Ojelu & Onozure Dania

FG oblivious of Land Use Act ― Akuma, SAN

Chief Solomon Akuma posited that the proponents of grazing routes as a solution to farmers- herders clashes are oblivious of the provisions of the Land Use ACT,1978 which has also been incorporated into the 1999 Constitution.

According to him, “Exhuming the grazing route if they still exist, is not, and will not be a solution to the farmers-herders clashes. The proponents of resorting to grazing routes as a solution to farmers-herders clashes are so oblivious of the provisions of the Land Use Act,1978 which has been incorporated into the 1999 Constitution.

“The Land Use Act is a subsisting legislation which made copious provision on Land Use in Nigeria. If we are to tell ourselves the truth, there is no way any person could use any land in any state for any purpose without doing so in accordance with the Land Use Act. The governor of any state has the statutory power to determine the purpose for which a parcel of land can be used.”

Grazing routes, attempt to seize people’s land ― Hannibal, AfBA President

President of African Bar Association, Uwaifo Hannibal sees the Federal Government’s position as wicked and an attempt to seize land from people.

According to him: “Officials of the Federal Government are complicit in the terror being unleashed by herdsmen and bandits. First, the FG has refused to feel the pains of Nigerian families that have lost their loved ones in these needless crimes against humanity, instead President Buhari is more interested in protecting the criminal killer herdsmen and their business. This is quite sad for a sitting Head of State. Secondly, I have searched and searched and have not found any law on which President Buhari is going to base his jaundiced proposal on.

“Thirdly, the Land Use Act which is embedded in the constitution gives the governors right over land use in the various states. The governors, particularly of the South, have made their position known and I believe the President and his minders are just about to engage in one of those incoherent, dysfunctional, dictatorial and wicked policies aimed at depriving Nigerians of their land in clear violation of the constitution.

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FG in breach of constitutional provisions, Land Use Act ― Shittu

Law lecturer at the University of Lagos, Wahab Shittu posited that the FG’s stand was tantamount to a breach of the constitution and Land Use Act.

He said: “Delineating cattle routes across the states will amount to serial breaches of constitutional provisions as well as the provisions of the Land Use Act.

Section 1 of the Land Use Act vests all land in the territories of a state in the governor who holds such lands in trust for the citizens. Except for the constitution which also incorporates the Land Use Act is amended with the concurrent amendment of the Land Use Act, any such delegation of cattle grazing routes across states will amount to illegality.

“The solution to herders- farmers incessant clashes, is the construction of cattle ranching. Consent of landowners is a sine qua non as no one is entitled to shave anyone’s head without his/her consent.”

FG touting old unconstitutional law ― Ojo

Lawyer and former law lecturer at the Lagos State University, Gbenga Ojo noted that the FG was relying on a non-existing grazing routes in an old unconstitutional law.

He said: “The land in the Federal Capital Territory is vested in the Federal Government. Land is under the residual Legislative list with the effect that the FG through the National Assembly, does not have the powers to legislate on land except in the FCT. The old law being touted is unconstitutional. It is a needless face-off. I think very soon the constitutionality of the law will be tested in the court and I have no doubt that the law will be set aside.

“I hope that the Federal Attorney-General will advise the Federal Government appropriately and not to add to the already charged and tension-filled farmers-herdsmen problems in Nigeria. The solution is ranching. Approach the governors for land for ranching like any other farmer. If the FG is adamant, we leave it for the court to determine. That is the beauty of rule of law and democracy.”

FG’s threat is hogwash, childish ― Edun

Executive Director, Centre for Transparency and Defence of Human Rights, Kunle Edun believes that the FG position and subsequent threat is hogwash and childish since all land except in FCT, belongs to states.

He said: “The public declaration of ban on open grazing by the Southern governors is a welcome development. It is shameful that some of us are still encouraging open grazing and looking for grazing routes in the 21st Century. There cannot be grazing routes in the southern states because most of the land are now inhabited by people and used for farming unlike in the North where there are many ungovernable spaces. It is on record that some states in the North were actually the first to ban open grazing. So, why this hypocrisy? Are we not moving backward when other countries even in Africa, have developed better cattle management system?

Land in every state belongs to the people of the state but held in trust for them by the governors. The only land the Federal Government owns is the land within the FCT, Abuja and those lands given the Federal Government by state governments. The Federal Government’s open threat to state government is hogwash and childish. The state governments should now walk their talk by enacting the necessary laws that will lead to the prosecution of violators of the ban. The governors should learn how to take charge of the security of their states within the framework of the law and stop looking up to Abuja for help while their people are being killed.”

FG compounding farmers, herders crisis ― Igwe

Joseph Igwe is of the view that the President should not compound the already precarious situation between farmers and herders.

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He said: “The ban on open grazing was long overdue considering the numerous attacks by armed herdsmen on farmers in the south and also cases of kidnapping for ransom. The president’s order to the AG of the Federation to dig up 1963 gazette on grazing routes for implementation is unrealistic as to my knowledge, such gazette does not exist, and if it does, it cannot apply to all parts of the country. For instance, there are many states in Nigeria today that were not in existence in 1963.

How would such gazette be applied to them? Besides, any such gazette, if it ever existed, has been over ridden by the Land Use Act, which is an Act of the National Assembly. Only the National Assembly is constitutionally empowered to legislate on issues for the country, not AG of the Federation. We must also note that an Order from the president does not have the force of law. That’s why I said it’s not realistic. But come to think of it, is it not only a fool that pours new wine into an old wine skin, and expect it not to burst? It’s so unfortunate that instead of the president seeking realistic ways of solving Nigeria’s increasing security challenges, he is rather taking decisions that will compound the situation.”

States should approach court ― Omodele

Yemi Omodele believes that the best way to resolve the issue is for the states to approach the Supreme Court for determination of the matter.

He said: ‘With due respect to the Federal Government and the state governors, I think the southern governors should approach the court for interpretation of the law on the issue of open grazing and exhuming of grazing routes particularly whether the Federal Government has the right to do that within their states. Nigeria does not belong to Buhari and his allies alone. It belongs to all of us. If human life is not important to whoever may be, it is important to the parents. The attorneys- general of the states concerned should swing into action and challenge the dictator and his group in court now.”

FG should respect the law ― Awe

Babatunde Awe suggests a mix of solutions and compromise by the FG and states to solve the farmers-herders problem.

He said: “States have power to make laws for the peace, wellbeing and security of citizens within their territories and the Federal Government ought to respect that right.To do so is just almost the same as the Federal Government making suggestions about going to open beer parlours and casinos in states where Sharia Laws banning alcohol and gambling exist.

“Nonetheless, the might of law and right is not always the best manner of resolving disputes. The Federal Government and the affected states should engage more deeply and sincerely to pursue and implement measures that will reduce the incidences of such violence and foster peace between communities and users of the said cattle routes.”

FG’s stand retrogressive, insensitive ― Asia

In his view, Elvis Asia said the FG’s position on the issue was insensitive.

According to Asia: “The Buhari administration’s insistence on grazing routes demonstrates how far back they want to take us. The call is retrogressive, insensitive, unconstitutional and out of touch with our laws on land administration. What we need is ranching. There are so many benefits of ranching including the fact that the herders will be able to maximize their cows and make more money.

“The only reasonable explanation for the resistance to this obvious modern way of doing things is that there is something more than tending to cows in this crude system of open grazing. Perhaps the FG can set up a fund that would disburse loans to assist herders with the initial cost incidental to ranching.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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