Uproar Over AGF Comment On Restructuring, Open Grazing

Reactions are trailing the comment of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami for saying that the stand of the Southern Governors on restructuring and ban on open grazing does not hold water.

Malami had on Wednesday during an interview on Channels Television, faulted the decision of the southern governors for banning open grazing, stating that it does not align with the provisions of the constitution.

“It is about constitutionality within the context of the freedoms expressed in our constitution. Can you deny the rights of a Nigerian?” Malami said adding that, “For example: it is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the north.”

But the comment has sparked reactions with the Spokesman of the Senate, Ajibola Basiru calling for Malami’s immidiate removal from office.

Senator Basiru accused the AGF of pursuing a parochial ethnic agenda, adding that he is not worthy of occupying such position of trust.

In a statement he signed Thursday, the Osun Central Senator described Malami’s statement as “less than dignifying’,” adding that the remarks “was not dignifying of the status of the Nation’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice.”

Last week, 17 governors from southern Nigeria met and resolved to ban open grazing and movement of cattle by foot in the region over cases of kidnappings and killings that have been traced to criminal elements amongst herders.

Chairman of the Southern Governor’s Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, explained that the decision is not new as most of the governors have placed a ban on open grazing in their states before the meeting.

However, the Senate Spokesman, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said: “equating the activities of archaic nomadic herdsmen destroying peoples means of livelihood with others legitimately carrying on businesses by selling spare parts in their shops stand logic on its head.”

He noted that perhaps, the Attorney General of the Federation forget that Nigeria is a federal system with the states government empowered to make and implement laws for the peace, order and good government of or any part of their respective state. This power is derived from the Constitution, which with the Land Use Act, vested on the Governors the management of all land within the territory of the state.

Challenging the AGF to cite relevant sections of the constitution which empowers herders to trespass on other people’s land and destroy their crops in the guise of freedom of movement, Senator Basiru condemned the AGF’s comment as “less than patriotic.”

The Senator noted the statement by the Justice Minister as “one capable of derailing the unity, peace and progress of Nigeria.”

The Senator therefore advised those who have no meaningful contributions to national discourse to keep quiet and stop rubbishing the Buhari led APC government.

“This kind of statements have made Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of Nations and fact they ridicule the Administration of President Buhari. “These statements are not giving hope to those at the receiving end of the activities of the herdsmen,” Basiru insisted.

Also, the Senate minority leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe, said the AGF divisive rhetoric is unfortunate.

“While the local “bureau de change” business mostly done by the Fulanis are operating in all parts of Nigeria, why have they not elicited any resentment of other Nigerians?

“It is simply because they live and do their business peacefully without any problem. It is the murderous activities of Fulani herders that have given rise to the current demand for laws that will bring about peaceful coexistence of all Nigerians, ” the Minority leader said through his media Adviser, Uchenna Awom.

“What’s the correlation between spare parts sellers in a rented shop or government properly designated area and marauding Fulani herders destroying farms, killing and raping thus trampling on people’s private properties and means of livelihood? Such a divisive statement from a top federal government official, infact the Chief legal adviser to the federal government at that, exposes a very dangerous mindset . This disposition has no doubt raised the tension in Nigeria to a frightening level.

“Why should an Attorney general of the federation be so fixated in evoking ethnic/regional fault lines when duty calls for him to be a statesman. It is disheartening that Mr Abubakar Malami has chosen to debase our country. He has indeed questioned Nigeria’s unity. Very unfortunate”, Senator Abaribe said when asked his views on what Malami said, ” Abaribe added.

Also, Human Right Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said it was a fallacy and an irredeemable illogicality for Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Alhaji Abubakar Malami to compare the ban on open grazing of cows in the South to ban in the sell of vehicular spare parts in the North.

“These two items are incomparable because whilst one is sold in an organised shopping mall by traders who pay rents and taxes to state government, cows that are openly grazed violently invade farm lands and have often caused destructions to farms,” HURIWA said through their leader, Emmanuel Nwobiko.

Meanwhile, the Southern Governors have said that there is no going back on their decision banning open grazing, insisting that their decision is irreversible and will be enforced.

In a statement issued by the chairman of the Southern Governors forum who is also the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, said it is unfortunate that the AGF is unable to distill issues as expected of a Senior Advocate.

Akeredolu, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said: “I have just read the press statement credited to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Shehu Malami SAN on the resolution of the Southern Governors Forum to ban open grazing in their respective States.

“The AGF is quoted to have said that this reasoned decision, among others, is akin to banning all spare parts dealers in the Northern parts of the country and is unconstitutional.

“It is most unfortunate that the AGF is unable to distill 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 lives, 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 baning open grazing and decision of the Southern Governor 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,” the statement added.

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