From Godwin Tsa Abuja
Prominent lawyers and scholars have tackled President Muhammadu Buhari for declaring the decision of the Southern Governors Forum to ban open grazing in their respective as an act of illegality.
President Buhari had in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said the “announcement is of questionable legality, given the constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states and FCT.”
But reacting to the statement, some senior lawyers who spoke with Sunday Sun described President Buhari’s position as embarrassing, divisive and ethnocentric.
In his response, a former Attorney General of Imo State, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, a senior advocate, said it was wrong for the president to equate human beings with cows under the cover of freedom of movement.
“Are you sure the President said that? Does the constitutional right to property now include killing and robbing as to acquire the victims’ property? Is it that the constitutional right to movement and assembly include soldiers gathering to overthrow the state? About 100 people were murdered in Benue State alone in the past few days all in name of freedom for murderous trade. How long can we continue to engage in this distracting conversation while Nigerian people are cut down as grass? Why is it that these murderous quests are suddenly becoming a state policy since 2015? We are fast losing our senses humanity and our constitutional responsibility in the inordinate quest for hegemony.”
A professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Awa Kalu, in his short reaction said: “It is difficult to understand how all rights guaranteed by the Constitution will be of equal force notwithstanding the circumstances. At any rate the constitution does not stipulate that cattle, sheep, goats, etc can graze anyhow and anywhere. Cattle are in the category of animals and so while humans are equal under the Constitution; animals attract different considerations.”
On his part, constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Oba Maduabuchi SAN, chipped in: “The Constitution gives freedom of movement to Nigerian citizens. Unless I am being educated that cows are now citizens of Nigeria. The supreme law of the land which is the constitution, places agriculture on its residual list. What this means is that only states can legally legislate on it. It cannot, therefore, be right to say that the position of the southern governors is legally questionable. It is the legality of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture that is questionable as the constitution didn’t assign any responsibility to the Federal Government in agriculture except research.
“As for the Attorney General of the Federation liking open grazing to dealing in motor spare parts, I don’t believe my learned brother silk made such a pedestrian comparison. Motor spare parts are not mobile and cannot stray into any cowherd to kill the cows. They don’t stray into any farm to destroy maize or millet. You don’t sell alcohol in the North except in the areas called Sabon Gari or Bayan Gari in Bauchi. Is that not ranching of alcohol? When people import things and sell them at traffic hold up and they are chased by officials of the capital development authorities did the South cry? Most people consume meat. What we are trying to avoid is let the meat not consume us.”
Human rights activist and legal scholar, Chief Mike Ozekhome, a senior advocate, said President Buhari clearly goofed on the issue, adding that he was obviously ill-advised on the well-thought out stance of southern governors against open grazing.
His words: “Buhari, with all humility, is quite wrong to say the southern governors’ stance is an act of questionable legality. If the Federal Government feels strongly and sure about its puritanical, but legally flawed stance, I challenge the Federal Government to challenge the governors’ resolutions by suing all the State Governors of Nigeria, through invocation of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under section 232(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
“The action will fail miserably. I am ready, able and willing to defend such states pro bono. I can state categorically that neither the president’s views, nor those of the Attorney General, are anchored on any provisions of the Constitution.”
Source: Nigerian Newspapers Online