By Paul John

I READ with great displeasure the reactions and comments credited to Senators Ahmed Lawan and Mohammed Ali Ndume and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to the clarion calls   by the Southern Governors for restructuring of the country and for Mr President to address the nation along with the ban on open grazing in the South. I am aware that these national legislators   are from Mr President’s party, hence should defend him at all costs even if the country is boiling .

The Senate President said that the worsening security situation in the country is a result of a lack of a functional local government system. This is a fallacy and misleading. Is it the local government system that controls the security agencies and our National Intelligence agencies? Who appoints the service chiefs, the local government chairmen or the president of the country? Who is recognised as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the local government chairman or the president of the Federal Republic of Nigerian?

In case Senator Lawan has forgotten, section 5 of the Nigerian Constitution vests executive powers of the federation in the president and not in the local government chairmen or the state governors. I know when the issue of state policing was deliberated upon by the Nigerian Governors Forum, it was rejected by most Northern governors on the ground that they did not have the financial clout to finance such project. Today, the federal police will post a police officer who does not know the terrain of an area or the culture of a people to go and police the area.

On the call by the Southern Governors Forum for the restructuring of the country, Lawan said: “I believe that, as leaders, especially those of us who are elected into office should not be at the forefront of calling for this kind of thing. Because, even if you are a governor, you are supposed to be working hard in your state to ensure that this restructuring you are calling for at the federal level, you have done it in your state as well.” The truth is that my people say that the oppressor will never see anything wrong in his act of oppression and I do not expect Senator Lawan to say the contrary.

I need not remind Senator Lawan that the 1999 Constitution imposed on us by the military does not represent the wishes of the people of Nigeria. I put it to Lawan that it is both absurd and abusive referring the governors as the chief security officers in their states when they do not have any control on the police, the Army, DSS or any other security agencies in their respective states. Recently an online video showed where the governor of Akwa Ibom state was blaming the Commissioner of Police in his state for failing to prevent the mayhem in the state.

If Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel had control over the police commissioner in his state would he not have transferred him out of his state or sacked him? To me, it is derogatory referring to a state governor as the chief security officer of his state when he has no control over any of the security agencies in his state. All the security agencies in his state are controlled from Abuja.

In the same vein , House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, has argued that the agitation for restructuring may be genuine but elected leaders and state governors should not be the ones to champion the movement for restructuring without first replicating the idea at the state level. I want to remind the Speaker that the governors were voted in by the people, hence they should represent their people at all times. What the governors said was exactly the wish of their subjects. Since, we run a representative system of government, you should know that the governors are representing their people.

On the other hand, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume, said Southern Governors in the country won’t get the solution to the various problems confronting the region by playing to the gallery. I believe that Senator Ndume should have another meaning to the idiomatic expression of ‘’ playing to the gallery” because there is no way somebody should regard the decisions reached by the Southern Governors as playing to the gallery.

Senator Ndume again faulted the decision of the Southern Governors to ban open grazing in the South-West, South-East and the South-South geopolitical zones of the country, adding that open grazing was not the problem but insecurity. This is preposterous as our people say that to separate a fight one must first stop the combatants from coming together . I want to remind Senator Ndume that southern governors are not acting alone in this as Justice Adewale Thompson banned open grazing on April 17, 1969 and warned of unprovoked killings by herdsmen; so there is a judicial precedent on this matter before the southern governors did the needful . Senator Ndume may verify this from Suit no AB/26/66.

In his judgement on the suit, the presiding judge, Justice Adewale Thompson , had this to say : “I do not accept the contention of Defendants that a custom exists which imposes an obligation on the owner of farm to fence his farm whilst the owner of cattle allows his cattle to wander like pests and cause damage. Such a custom if it exists is unreasonable and I hold that it is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and therefore unenforceable…in that it is highly unreasonable to impose the burden of fencing a farm on the farmer without the corresponding obligation on the cattle owner to fence in his cattle. Sequence to that I banned open grazing, for it is inimical to peace and tranquility and the cattle owners must fence or ranch their animals for peace to reign in these communities.”

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I still want to put it to Senator Ndume that trespass is both civil and criminal offence in Nigeria, hence it is senseless defending herdsmen who take their cattle to another person’s property to destroy the person’s crops and you say the person should accommodate the herdsmen. There is no way you can sit on somebody’s nose and get balanced. Section 342 of the penal code is clear on what constitutes a criminal trespass and section 348 of the same code clearly outlines the punishment for criminal trespass. It may also interest Senator Ndume to know that the Supreme Court has gone further to state the ingredients of a criminal trespass as follows:

  1. a. Unlawful entry into or upon a property in the possession of another or unlawful remaining there.

b. An intention to commit an offence or intimidate, insult or annoy the person in possession of the property .

It needs to be noted that trespassing can have both civil and criminal consequences. A property owner may be able to sue someone who enters their land without permission. Meanwhile, the trespasser also may face criminal charges. The prosecutor would need to prove that the defendant intentionally entered someone else’s property without permission, or remained there after being told to leave.

This charge usually arises in the context of private property, but it can also arise if someone enters a store or other business, or even a city or state park, when they are not permitted to be there. I intentionally cited penal code that is applicable to northern part of the country which is where Senator Ndume hails from because I don’t want to bore him with similar   provisions of the criminal code that is applicable in southern part of Nigeria because he may claim not to be familiar with that .

I put it to Senator Ndume that these two ingredients of criminal trespass are being executed by the herdsmen who unlawfully access somebody’s farm , intimidate, maim ,rape or even kill the farmer if the farmer raises an eyebrow. I burst into laughter when I read where Senator Ndume said that:  “They ( the southern governors ) have unfiltered access to Mr President who is the Commander-In-Chief and they themselves being the chief security officers of their states have the national security council.”

Let me begin by asking Senator Ndume which president he was referring to ? Was it the same president that said that he was not aware that his former IGP did not carry out his instruction when Benue killing began and he could neither sack the IGP nor replace him for flouting the order of the Commander-in-Chief of armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Was Ndume referring to a president that made it clear after his swearing in that he was for his 97% that voted for him and not the 5% that did not vote for him?

Was Ndume referring to a president whose under his watch the Federal Ministry of Justice was eager to approach the court to proscribe IPOB while rampaging herdsmen are killing and wiping out communities with nobody saying anything? Was Ndume referring to the same president that the governors of Benue, Zamfara and Niger states have repeatedly sent out ‘’ save-our-soul” messages to and kidnapping, banditry and killing are still ongoing? Was Ndume referring to the same president that under his watch, Abuja-Kaduna road is now a nightmare to travelers that even highly placed security officers are afraid plying the road with their own security details ?

Was Ndume referring to a president that clearly told the people of Benue that they should find a way to accommodate their visitors, even when the visitors were there to destroy their farms with their cattle? Was Ndume referring to a president under his watch a particular section of the country would kill and openly claim responsibility for that and no arrest would be made let alone prosecuting the culprits but when the victims rise up to defend themselves then the military would be drafted to the area?

DSS I know under this administration is the one that can invite somebody like me to come and explain what should be my freedom of expression as contained in section 39 of the constitution, as amended, but no herder will be invited for similar interrogation. I may not want to continue in responding to all that Senator Ndume said while featuring on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme because I may soon lose my control.

However, the one that I will not fail to mention before ending this write-up is the reaction of some northerners who faulted the southern governors for not first consulting the leadership the Fulani herdsmen before banning open grazing in the south. The consult will be for what? Will the southern governors first consult the leaders for the herdsmen as owners of the country or owners of the southern part of the country? How many southerners were consulted before Sharia law was illegally implemented in the north even when such implementation was totally and clearly against sections 10 and 38 of the Nigerian constitution as amended.

Section 38 of the Nigerian Constitution extensively gives every Nigerian citizen the inalienable right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion whereas section 10 clearly states that :‘’The Government of the Federation or of a State, shall not adopt any religion as State Religion”.

Is it not unlawful to impose Sharia law to people living a certain region of the country? Tell me if it is not unlawful for members of the   Hisbah  Corps or what other name they are called to destroy and arrest the sellers of Alcoholic drinks   on the streets of Kano?

The most annoying of the whole scenario is that same Hisbah corps are being financed from the gotten from sales and consumption of alcoholic drinks from other states of the federation. If they do not like alcoholic drinks why not tell Federal government to remove part of their monthly allocation coming from the tax levied on alcoholic drinks? That is what Ghanaian novelist, Ayi Kwei Armah called Chidodo bird. The said chidodo bird hates excreta but feeds on the maggots that survive on the excreta.

I know somebody will cite one law passed by the Kano state House of Assembly or any other Northern state House of Assembly banning sales and consumption of alcoholic drinks. I will like to refer the fellow to section 4(5) of the Nigerian Constitution,as amended which states that : If any law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law (such as sections 10 and 38 of the Nigerian Constitution ) validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.

*Dr John, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Port Harcourt, via: [email protected]

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