Human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, on Thursday, tackled the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, for saying open grazing ban by Southern governors was unconstitutional.
Adegboruwa in a statement titled, ‘Prohibition of Open Grazing is Constitutional’, also said the AGF lacked the powers to make proclamations for the country.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the minister lambasted the Southern governors over their recent ban of open grazing in the region. About 17 southern governors had met last week in Asaba, the Delta State capital, and resolved to ban open grazing and movement of cattle by foot in the region as some kidnappings and killings in the southern region have been traced to criminal elements amongst herders.
But according to the AGF, open grazing ban is the same thing as Northern governors banning spare parts trading in their own region considering the fact that Southerners comprise a majority of spare parts traders in the North.
Reacting, however, Adegboruwa said, “The proponents of open grazing support it with the right to freedom of movement granted under section 41 of the Constitution. This section cannot be interpreted to violate other constitutional provisions, especially section 43 that grants the right to private or public property.
“You cannot deploy the right to movement of person and cattle to violate the right of another citizen to own property, such as land or farmland, or else you become a trespasser. It is in this regard that I disagree with the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, when he said that the ban on open grazing is unconstitutional. That cannot represent a proper interpretation of the Constitution, with all due respect.
“The AGF is a member of the Executive arm of government, under section 5 of the Constitution. The Constitution has not assigned any role to the AGF to make proclamations for the country. To that extent, his comment is ultra vires, being beyond and outside his office as a Minister. The role of interpreting the Constitution is the exclusive preserve of the Courts under the Constitution.
“Let the Houses of Assembly of the States that have proscribed open grazing go ahead to make laws to support their declarations. It is only after then that the AGF can approach the court for judicial interpretation.
“I urge the Governors to proceed speedily, with the implementation of their lawful and courageous declarations and not be misled, intimidated or distracted by the comments from the federal government.
“There is no doubt that we cannot generalize, to say that all ‘Fulani herdsmen’ are guilty of violence and destruction, but we must tackle those criminals who have invaded their ranks, for other purposes other than grazing. Truth is, genuine Fulani herdsmen offer food, dairy, employment and prosperity for the land and this is desirable. The ban on open grazing is therefore necessary to protect the genuine herdsmen and help preserve their vocation from the marauders.”