WALKING A TIGHTROPE, on the ban on opening grazing, by 17 southern Governors in Nigeria, is ABUBAKAR MALAMI. He is Nigeria’s chief law officer, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. He burst the bubble of controversy by his utterance that the ban on open grazing, that has been a veil for criminal activities by herdsmen in the country, by the southern governors was unconstitutional, perhaps, citing constitutional “freedom of movement” for his position.
The backlash of Malami’s pronouncement has been hostile. The 17 southern governors, met in Asaba, capital of Delta State, south-south Nigeria, and banned open grazing in the region. They plan to enforce the ban by enacting appropriate laws to that effect. Malami likens the ban to northern governors coming together to banned spare parts trading in that region.
Femi Akintunde-Johnson, Associate Lecturer, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, in his Facebook account, May 20, 2021, posted that spare parts traders in the north own rented shops and operate within enclosed market. They do not constitute themselves to nuisance on “highways, primary schools, health centres, trespassing peoples property, raping peoples wives and children, chopping of hands, kidnapping, threatening others and all sorts of nonsense”.
Spare parts traders in the north pay for shops and markets where they carry out their business. They are levied by the states and local governments; carry out their business within the ambit of the laws of the states. Contrary to the marauding killer herdsmen. Yet Malami and his principals, and the government of the day, give them feeding bottle treatment.
MIKE OZEKHOME, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights activist, said Abubakar Malami was wrong to compare open grazing ban in southern Nigeria with the prohibition of spare parts trading in the northern part of the country. Spare parts traders are civil, organised and responsible members of the public who pay taxes; but herders do not remit tax to government.
Ozekhome’s statement was titled: “Freedom Of Movement Is For Human Beings, Not Cattle And Sheep. He said the open grazing ban by the southern governors was constitutional. His words: “The Northern elites, including the Hon Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, miss the point sorely when they compare Igbo peaceful spare-parts dealers who go about their normal spare parts business legitimately, (building or renting their shops), with savage, maniacal AK-47-wielding herdsmen.
“Igbo traders do not kill or attack Northerners with their stock of motor-tyres, rims, spanners or chassis. They do not pour petrol from fuel tanks that they sell, on Fulani herdsmen. They do not use car bumpers or wind shields to smash the heads of herdsmen.”
OLUWAROTIMI AKEREDOLU, Governor of Ondo State, who read the communique, on the decision of the southern governors to ban open grazing in the region, and who is also the chairman of southwest governors’ forum, in his reaction said: “Our decision is irreversible and will be enforced.”
Akeredolu words: “It is most unfortunate that the AGF is unable to distil issues as expected of a Senior Advocate. Nothing can be more disconcerting. This outburst should, ordinarily, not elicit response from reasonable people who know the distinction between a legitimate business that is not in anyway injurious and a certain predilection for anarchy.
“Clinging to an anachronistic model of animal husbandry, which is evidently injurious to harmonious relationship between the herders and the farmers as well as the local populace, is wicked and arrogant. Comparing this anachronism, which has led to loss of life, farmlands and property and engendered untold hardship on the host communities, with buying and selling of auto parts is not only strange. It, annoyingly, betrays a terrible mindset.
“Mr Malami is advised to approach the court to challenge the legality of the laws of the respective states banning open grazing and decision of the Southern Governors’ Forum taken in the interest of their people. We shall be most willing to meet him in court. The decision to ban open grazing stays. It will be enforced with vigour.”
AFENIFERE, PAN-YORUBA social and political group, said Malami was sectarian, with “emotional vituperation”. Sola Ebiseni, Secretary-General of the body, said Malami is an “agent provocateur”. That is comment did not come to discerning Nigerians as a surprise. And added: “It only pitiably exposed him as being most unfit for the office of an Attorney General having always allowed his sectarian disposition becloud his eminent qualifications”.
Afenifere further stated: “Any time Malami perceives a threat to the interests of Fulani herdsmen, he is quick to latch on to constitutional provisions, which are not relevant to the object of discourse. He was readily on hand to vehemently denounce the Amotekun South West regional security initiative as being targeted against Fulani herdsmen and so declared it unconstitutional. When challenged to approach the court, he had since developed cold feet.
“For the attention of Malami, most of the states already have laws banning open grazing and the pronouncement of the governors was merely to give effect to an existing law. It is the animal that is being prohibited from grazing openly and being moved by foot except Malami intends to extend the inalienable human rights in the Constitution to animals in the defence of a culture, which gives more care to cattle than human beings”.
Afenifere said Malami was “mischievously playing the role of an agent provocateur”, inciting northern governors to ban spare parts trading which southerners are involved. And added that in deference to religious and cultural sensibilities, some northern states made laws banning trading in alcoholic beverages. The states have been seen brazenly destroying alcoholic beverages worth millions of naira; even when such states share the VAT collected on the destroyed goods. And no one cries over it.
OHANAEZE NDIGBO, Igbo socio-cultural organisation, scolded Malami, for his unguarded utterance. The body described him as chief law officer who “twists the law at will.” Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia, National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, said the position reached by the southern governors in Asaba, stands.
Ogbonna said: “Malami knows that there has never been a report of a clash between the Southern motor spare parts sellers and the indigenous Northerners. The motor spare parts sellers render their services to the populace from a shop or a shade and are in no way comparable to the Fulani herders who invade farmlands, destroy crops, debauch women, maim, abduct and kill.”
Malami’s outburst would, likely, illicit more reactions than he anticipated, and would not be ending too soon.