I was drawn into reading a small beautifully designed book tjat treated dangerous themes then I saw an entry on the Tokyo Earthquake (1923) that occurred on Sunday, 2 September 1923, whereupon the author confessed that on the said date, a news report came via Shanghai from Osaka, Japan. It read: “Yesterday, Yokohama and most of Tokyo totally destroyed in devastating earthquake followed by fire. Heavy loss of life.
For some days, because of shattered communications, news of what had happened reached the outside world only in fragments.
On 3 September, more reports trickled through: ‘100,000 people reported killed, 200,000 buildings destroyed, including all Tokyo’s business quarter and most government offices. A power station collapsed, killing 600. Tokyo arsenal exploded. Water system completely destroyed. Food warehouses burned to the ground. Fires still raging.’
On 4 September: “Casualties mounting, possibly 150,000 killed. Railway station in ruins; Japan’s longest tunnel at Sasako caved in, suffocating a trainload of passengers. Sumida River burst its banks, drowning hundreds
All bridges down. Almost all schools, hospitals, factories wrecked. Summer resorts on Sagami Bay (20 miles south-west of Tokyo) obliterated.
On 5 September: “Many passengers and goods trains derailed with heavy loss of life. Tidal waves, 40 feet high, swamped Sagami Bay, causing massive destruction, then receded, baring the ocean floor. Oil-storage tanks at Yokohama exploded. 40,000 people burned to death by fire cyclone in Tokyo Park. 1,600 crushed, then burned in subsequent fire when Fuji cotton mill collapsed.” (The World ’s Worst Disasters of the Twentieth Century by Hamlyn).
I read with trepidation and considerable shock the above summation of the Tokyo 1923 Earthquake which in the scientific estimation of record keepers turned out to be one of the worst disasters in recorded history to have occurred to humanity.
Well the one disaster that is nearer to us locally would definitely be the thirty months fratricidal civil war between the then break away Eastern region and Nigeria in which a considerable amount of genocide and pogroms occurred with nearly three million Civilians slaughtered in the then Biafran Republic which actually tried to secede from the newly Independent British Colonized territory known as Nigeria.
In that war, it was said that the Federal Forces imposed food embargo against the Eastern region then called Biafra and this apparent War Crime led to the death of millions of children.
In the context of our reflection today, we can also say that Nigeria is currently undergoing one of the worst forms of human disasters because in most parts of the Country as we speak, children can not go to school in safety without being attacked by terrorists that President Muhammadu Buhari have chosen to only address as armed bandits just as most of these terrorists are Fulanis same Ethnicity with the President.
The live disaster that is taking place in Nigeria also has to do with the fact that the political authority in Abuja has prioritized the welfare of cows much more than those of human beings.
This tendency offends both natural law and the Nigerian Grund Norm which clearly States the sanctity of life in many sections including section 33 (1) that says: “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”
It is indeed a thing of unfathomable worry that President Buhari talks more about how to protect cows and the seemingly lawless herders who share same ethnicity with him than about human beings who are at the receiving end of different kinds of terror attacks.
Recently, he decided after a long while to speak to Nigerians via the media of mass communication.
First, he spoke with Arise television before he also spoke to the publicly owned Nigerian Television Authority.
In all of these interactions characterized by negative assertions and threats targeting the South East of Nigeria because of the raging agitation for self determination by the indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB), the President devoted substantial part of those monologues to talk about cows.
He categorically made a statement insisting that open grazing of cows is the only option he would accept. His conclusion on open grazing contradicts the democratic decision of both the Northern and Southern governors.
But President Buhari stood behind his kinsman who is his justice minister to direct that grazing routes be demarcated and handed over to Fulani herdsmen even without saying how his government will handle the many cases of mass killing of farmers by Fulani herdsmen who wield Ak- 47 but he faintly asserted that the Fulani that bear and brandish assorted weapons are from Mauritania and central African Republic. Imagine a President whose primary lawful duty is to protect lives of citizens and their property now abdicating from that constitutional role under the guise that those doing the killings of his citizens are not his kinsmen from Nigeria but his Kinsmen from outside Nigeria. This is outrageous and reprehensible.
Over and above all, the President spoke about cows and concluded with cow business by saying that he would be retiring to his farms to tend his cattle in Katsina.
Another disaster being inflicted on Nigeria is the demolition of all values that seek to defend free speech just as the Federal government has consistently deployed armed security force to crush Civil protests and has used full force against only the South East based indigenous peoples of Biafra whom he categorized as terrorists by obtaining exparte order of Abuja federal High Court declaring them (IPOB) as a terrorist group just as the matter challenging that proscription has never being heard and the lawyer representing IPOB has been physically attacked thrice by armed security forces and two of his brothers assassinated by the Nigerian State just for being a legal representative of IPOB in the law Courts.
Few hours after he spoke about cows and what he intends to do using Abubakar Malami to protect the business interests of private cow owners, the government unleashed the Police who brutally attacked protesters who gathered in Abuja and Lagos on June 12th 2021 to demand good governance and accountability. A typical media representation of the repressive State of the Nigeria of today is going viral on social media. There is a photographic depiction of armed police operative brutalizing a peaceful protester on June 12th and another photo showing police man admiring armed Fulani militia member who attended one of the many meetings staged by Katsina and Zamfara governors to try to win the terrorists that Muhammadu Buhari has so far refused to call terrorists, over to embrace dialogue.
What we then see is a tyrant who is in Abuja making use of armed security forces to clamp down on peaceful protesters but has failed to crush armed Fulani herdsmen who have continued to kill and maim citizens all across Nigeria.
Now let us return to the speech by President Buhari in which he apparently was communicating to the World that all he cares about as President is the welfare of Cows and his Fulani kinsmen who tend these cows.
Already his threat to revive the so called cattle routes has unleashed intellectual battles on two fronts.
President Muhammadu Buhari said he plans to revive cattle grazing routes and grazing areas set across the country in the 1960s, suggesting an opposition to the open grazing ban announced by the 17 southern governors.
The southern governors had in May declared a ban on open grazing, asking the mainly Fulani herders to practise a settled form of livestock production to control their incessant violent conflicts with farmers and host communities over resources.
But in the wake of that declaration, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, controversially challenged the governors and set an equivalence between banning open grazing and banning auto parts trading in the north.
Malami’s comparison was as reported by an online medium seen as a false equivalence and disguisedly targeting the Igbo group, who are known for auto parts trading, prompting protests on the social media.
After Mr Malami, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesperson, also said the ban by the southern governors was lawless and his principal had a better plan.
“I have asked to dig up gazettes of the First Republic,” Mr Buhari said in his Arise TV interview aired on Thursday morning, referring to the documents that in the 1960s set hundreds of routes and areas for free range cattle grazing across the country.
The routes traverse Nigeria’s states and neighbouring countries, thereby allowing foreign herders to seasonally explore Nigeria for pasture. But the foreigners have been blamed for being particularly violent, a point the president also made in his interview. However, indigenous herders also fight with farmers over access to shrinking resources amid growing population and need for land, so reports the press.
“There are cattle routes and grazing areas,” the president further said. “You have to stay there and if you allow your cattle to stray into another person’s farm you will be arrested.”
He added that “the routes and the areas are known,” and warned that encroachers “will be dispossessed.”
Immediately he made the above remarks, governors kicked and maintained that there is no going back on their ban or open grazing.
Also, Senator representing the Osun Central senatorial district, Dr Ajibola Basiru, said that President Muhammadu Buhari lacks the powers to revive the old grazing routes, anywhere in the country.
The lawmaker also said he wonders if the president has been receiving correct legal advice from the attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami.
Basiru, who holds a doctoral degree in Property Law, said he spoke to The Punch in his capacity as the senator representing the Osun Central Senatorial District, and in his personal capacity because the upper chamber had yet to take a position on the matter.
The lawmaker said the issue of grazing routes was not known to the Nigerian constitution and that Buhari did not have any power to direct the implementation of any law that was alien to the country’s legal books.
He explained that the gazette that Buhari was referring to was a product of a decree promulgated in the northern Nigeria in the 1960s.
He argued that the Land Use Act, which is recognised by the Nigerian constitution, had rubbished the so-called grazing routes gazette.
He explained that the Land Use Act had transferred to state governments, the sole power to legislate on use of land for any purpose, including grazing.
Basiru said it was only governors of the northern part of the country that could individually make laws to identify grazing routes because the gazette, which Buhari referred to, had become obsolete.
He said, “Nigerians do not need to criticise the President for making that statement, rather, they should find out whether the President had actually been properly advised by his Attorney General and the legal team.
“Nigerians should be concerned over whether the Nigerian President is actually getting the correct legal advice from his Attorney General and the legal team.
“As far as I am concerned, as a legal practitioner, there is nothing like grazing routes or grazing reserve law, in the laws of the Federation of Nigeria. There is nothing like that.
“There is no federal legislation that the President can implement over such matter.
“The executive powers of the President merely rely on the powers of the National Assembly to make laws, when you look at Section 5 of the Constitution.
“Any area where the National Assembly cannot make laws, and there are no express grants of powers to the president under the Constitution, a purported exercise of power by the President in that regard, will be null and void because it is inconsistent with the Constitution by Section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
“I have painstakingly looked at the laws of the Federation of Nigeria and I did not see a copy of any law that is called federal grazing law, or grazing Act or any other title relating to the issue.
“I am aware that there is a northern Nigerian law on reserve and grazing routes which was promulgated by a 1964 decree by the premier of the defunct northern Nigeria region.
“It is not a federal law unless the legal adviser to Mr President is equating a northern Nigeria law, which is not applicable in the West, Mid-West, and Eastern region or in anywhere in the southern part of Nigeria, to be a federal or a Nigerian law.
“The President does not have the power to implement that law because it is not a federal law.
“He can only implement federal legislation made by the National Assembly or deemed to have been made by the National Assembly.
“The grazing routes law is not a National Assembly law, so there is nothing for the president to implement.
“It is regrettable that the president has not been properly advised by his Attorney General and the legal team.
“If anybody will implement any law, it is the states where those routes are applicable that could do so.
“Grazing routes law is not applicable in any state in the southern Nigeria. The southern Nigeria has its own law on cattle.
“It is unfortunate when we have a situation whereby the President of Nigeria is being misadvised by his legal and policy team, for whatever reason it is.
“There has been informed legal opinion on this issue. So there is no federal law regarding grazing routes.
“Even by the allocation of power, under the Nigerian legislation, the National Assembly and by virtue of that, the president does not have power to do anything about grazing routes.
“This is because the management of land in the entire territory of a state, by Section one of the Land Use Act, is vested in the governor.”
There is also another research circulating on social media which says that the cattle routes are mostly in Northern Nigeria and does not affect Southern States.
The author told fellow Nigerians, that following President Buhari’s decision to reclaim all officially gazetted grazing reserves/routes, that he decided to conduct my own findings as to where exactly these gazzeted cattle routes are located. What I found was rather interesting and I will present it here for the purpose of enlightening the public.
He said: “My research focused only on the gazzeted cattle routes as that was what PMB said he would reclaim.
Do you know that in the entire south, it is only Oyo state that has 2 gazzeted cattle routes/reserves? The rest don’t have. See below the breakdown of the officially gazzeted cattle routes in Nigeria;
There are 140 gazetted grazing reserves (Adamawa—31; Bauchi—27; Borno—15; Gombe—4; Jigawa—2; Kaduna—2; Kebbi—1; Kogi—1; Kwara—1; Nasarawa— 7; Niger— 2; Plateau— 1; Sokoto— 8; Taraba—9; Yobe— 17; Zamafara— 6, FCT— 4 and Oyo— 2.
I am not very sure PMB is aware of this distribution. He may be aware that there are gazzeted grazing reserves, but if he now discovers that what is officially gazzeted does not even include almost the entire south, I am not sure he will still pursue the agenda of reclaiming these reserves.
“I also found out that as far back as the time these reserves were created, the committee recommended the adoption of a more sedentary method of cattle rearing or ranching. In a paper written by S.A. Ingawa, C. Tarawali and R. von Kaufmann, ILCA Subhumid Research Site(1989) available at: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/4349/x5516e.pdf%3FisAllowed%3Dy%26sequence%3D1&ved=2ahUKEwjM99OqvZbxAhXKEWMBHRnaCEEQFjAAegQIAxAC&usg=AOvVaw1y8BFWlPYpvbgFx53pnwIZ, the authors listed some of the problems with open grazing of cattle and the need to implement a solution that is both beneficial to the pastoralists and the farmers.
The research is an eye opener and also a deep revelation as to how government can indeed resolve any problem if they intend to, with honesty and fairness.
As for the gazzeted grazing reserves in question, there are only 140 which I have listed. Although, there are some that were never officially gazzeted, I have excluded them from this post because the focus is on the officially gazzeted ones.”
unfazed by the controversies he generated the President say he will return to look after his cows. His words: “I have never abandoned my farm. I still have a number of cattle. I will go to my farm daily. I will try to keep myself busy,”
My honest plea to Nigerians is to stay away, stay vigilant and campaign vigorously for the government to prioritize human beings and lives of citizens much more than cows. Government officials have the legal obligations to take steps to keep Nigerians safe. The President must not be allowed to continue to give us all kinds of excuses on why Nigerians are killed and who is doing the killings but the job of the President is to prevent these killings from ever happening and to bring the perpetrators to justice swiftly. Government must not be permitted to continue to run Nigeria like a ROGUE and police state whereby the lives of Nigerians are sacrificed on the altar of satisfying the needs of private cow owners.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria.