Anti-open grazing law: Adamu faults state governors, insists on free movement of herders

Senator representing Nasarawa West senatorial zone and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Adamu has drawn the battle line against state governors from the northern and southern regions of the country who have been advocating total ban on open grazing of livestock, insisting that the move remains unconstitutional.

Senator Abdullahi Adamu

Senator Adamu, who is also the immediate past Nasarawa State Governor while fielding questions by Senate Press Corps, Monday,  in Abuja, faulted the state governors on the anti-open grazing law, as, according to him, ‘they have not done the right thing.’

Senator Adamu, who is the Senate Committee Chairman on Agriculture and Rural Development, further posited that; ‘this government has a duty like the way it’s treating businessmen in Alaba, Onitsha, Kano, and Port Harcourt to treat herdsmen too because they are Nigerians.’

While the idea of a law to totally ban open grazing of cattle is nearing enactment in most parts of the southern region, except for Cross River, Imo, Osun, Edo and Anambra states, the move is gaining some level of momentum in the north as governors of Katsina, Benue and Kaduna states are known to be openly receptive to the law.

The move to ban open grazing of livestock came to being following incessant violent clashes between herders and farmers that had led to hundreds of deaths, with mainly armed herdsmen wreaking havoc on communities where they are prevented from grazing their livestock.

In addition, allegations of kidnappings and rape have also been leveled against these herdsmen, with the Federal Government failing to secure the communities against these attacks.

The Southern Governors Forum had, at the end of their meeting in Asaba, Delta State agreed to enact anti-open grazing laws in the region to curb incessant clashes between herders and farmers.

That agreement was reaffirmed during the group’s second meeting in Lagos where they set a September 1, 2021 timeline within which all states in the region are expected to have enacted laws prohibiting open grazing livestock in their various states.

In another form of response to the continued violent attacks by these herdsmen, regional security outfits were established by the South West and South East which have been hard hit by these violence.

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Similarly, Benue State in the north, which has suffered the most from these violent attacks has responded by enacting anti-open grazing law.

For other states in the north, Kaduna Governor Nasir El-Rufai and his Katsina counterpart, had at different times faulted the practice of open grazing by cattle herders.

Speaking earlier in the year during a visit to Yola, Adamawa state, Governor El-Rufai had said: “I am a Fulani man. Today, I’m the governor of Kaduna State because I went to school. My parents were settled in one place breeding their livestock.

“The ranching system has so many advantages. For one, it enables children of herders to go to school and have access to quality education like any other Nigerian,” El-Rufai said.

Similarly, while featuring on Channels Television recently, Katsina Governor Bello Masari, said: “We intend to have a law banning (cattle) roaming but before we do that, we would make provisions for where the animals would stay.

“Herdsmen should stay in one place. Roaming about should not be encouraged. In fact, for us, it is un-Islamic. Why do you have animals that you cannot feed and you have to go to other people’s land and farm and you say that is right? I don’t think it is right.

 “We already have started. The federal government has given us N6.2 billion and as a state government, we are also investing N6.2 billion. The objective is to have Fulanis stay in one place,” Governor Masari said.

However, Adamu in faulting the ban on open grazing of livestock, particularly, cattle, insisted that the right to free movement of herds and their herders is constitutional, even as he berated moves to restrict such as unconstitutional.

Adamu insisted that while it is wrong for herders to destroy farmlands in the course of open grazing of their livestock, ‘it is unconstitutional for anybody to restrict his movement or criminalise cattle rearing business going by provisions of free movement and legitimate business in the 1999 Constitution.’

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Adamu said government owes it a duty to treat herdsmen the other citizens were being treated, adding further that the campaign against ‘herders in Nigeria were unnecessary given that they are also Nigerians and should be protected by government at various levels.’

According to the senator, ‘herders because of their calling don’t enjoy infrastructure like good road, electricity, pipe borne water etc, yet their rights were being stampeded.’

“This government has a duty like the way it’s treating businessmen in Alaba, Onitsha, Kano, and Port Harcourt to treat herdsmen too because they are Nigerians. These provisions are public funds. They are not from the private fund of any governor or senator. The funds are from the treasury of this country and every Nigerian has a stake in that treasury.

“So the government has a duty to find a wherewithal to make it possible for herdsmen not to go astray in the course of pursuing his legitimate duty.”

“When I read the meeting of southern governors and the issue of open grazing and how they kicked against it and threatened to make law against it. I replied them in a manner that you recalled.

“I believe as governors, as members of the executive, operating in the different tier of government, they have a constitutional responsibility, the constitution upon which they take an oath of office.

“One of the fundamental rights there is every Nigerian, no exception. Every Nigerian has a right of free movement. Every Nigerian has a right to pursue a legitimate business. Right of association is enshrined in the constitution. You cannot under any pretence take away these rights.

“I don’t know under any condition which government can say, yes, we can take away this right. When they came up with this, I was wondering. First and foremost, a week earlier before the meeting the governors had here in Abuja and there was no such announcement like that. I was taken aback when I read about their meeting in Asaba.”

On why the anti-open grazing law is even gaining support among northern governors, Adamu said: “I still stand by that. The fact that one or two governors in the North have said something like that does not take away the right of herdsmen.

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“The question here is nature has closed vacuum. You can’t build something on nothing. The duty to protect herdsmen and farmers rest squarely with the national government, state government and the local government administrations.

“The question to ask is that have the governors done the right thing. The answer is no. The stance of some Northern Governors doesn’t change my position against the law which, as far as the provisions of the 1999 Constitution are concerned, is nullity.

“If you can protect a spare parts dealer, why can’t you protect a herder? If government can save private banks with public money, why can’t we do that with herders? I am for modernisation but the government must address the problem genuinely.”

“The question here is, has the government done what it is supposed to do to protect Nigerians who are in that calling, in that profession and in that trade? The answer is no and you cannot blame the person who is desperately looking for means of livelihood.

“However, this does not excuse somebody who is pursuing his right from doing harm to somebody’s right. I must be very clear on this, a farmer has right to farm, if you dare carry your cattle and and damage his farm crops, he has right to make claims in the Court of law. That’s the law as I understand it.

“So, it doesn’t matter. If the whole Northern governors make the same pronouncement that the Southern governors did, that doesn’t shake my fundamental position on this. Government owes herdsmen a duty to protect their calling and I dare repeat that if you go to Wuse Market here, you will see how many infrastructure have been provided by the FCT and Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) like water, and electricity. These are for Nigerians. These herdsmen are Nigerians,” Adamu said.

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