For sometime now the anti-gracing laws enacted by some states constantly ravaged by herdsmen to curtail their activities, have been eliciting several reactions, some for or against. How do these reactions affect the enforcement of the laws? What about the validity of these laws? Did they follow the due process as required by law before their passage? How far have they helped to curb the mindless killings by herdsmen? These and more issues are explored by a Lagos-based senior lawyer with bias in intelligence law, Mr. Ndubuisi Agetu in this interview he had with IBE UWALEKE.
Are the states being ravaged by herdsmen attacks entities of Nigeria created by our Constitution, particularly Benue and Taraba?
They are part of the states that make up the entities of Nigeria.
Do they have powers to make laws for the peace, security, good of their people, order and good governance?
That again is in the positive. The security of lives and property of the state lies in the hands of the governor. Every governor has a right to initiate a bill for the state assembly to pass for the peace, security and good governance of his state. The governor has a right to determine the best way to govern his state by enacting any law that can help him organize his administration in order to give the citizens the dividends of democracy and ensure the protection of lives and property.
Did the states that enacted the anti-grazing laws follow due process?
No state or any governor will wake up one morning and enact a law. The due process of any law will always be followed. The law must pass through the state assembly, duly debated and deliberated upon and inputs from other stakeholders sought and taken before the passage. After the passage the governor must sign it into law before it becomes operational.
Are these laws enforceable under the security circumstances the states have found themselves?
Any opposition can come from any where. If the federal government cannot bring security to the states that have suffered the herdsmen attacks, what do you expect the states to do. To sit down and watch their citizens butchered like animals. No, that is not how responsible governments behave. They must find a way to protect the lives and property of their people. If the state governments say they don’t want grazing in their states, so be it. If any person takes his animals to go and graze in the states and he is caught, he has to be charged to the court and be tried according to the anti-grazing law of the state if that will bring peace and ensure security in that particular state. The states with anti-grazing laws are not restricting any body’s movements. But if somebody’s movement into a state will cause mayhem and destruction he has to be checked and curtailed. Every state has a right to curtail the movements of criminal elements within the state. If people say they have a right to move around everywhere. Yes, they have a right to move to any where. But the question is whether the right also includes the right to carry guns (AK 47), bows and arrows to kill people, destroy their homes and burn down their farms. To carry a gun in this country without a licence is illegal. There are procedures to acquire a licensed gun. Are we saying that the herdsmen go through these procedures to get these guns? So, who indeed license these guns for them? What is the motive for carrying these guns to go and kill people? What the anti-grazing laws of these states are trying to checkmate are the activities of these killing herdsmen and there is nothing wrong about that.
But the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Saanusi, recently, through an electronic medium, described the anti-grazing laws of Benue and Taraba states as “obnoxious and unconstitutional” According to him in that report, the two laws were enacted to drive away herdsmen from the two states. Do you share this sentiment or not?
I can’t share such opinion in the face of all these killings going on. Unfortunately, the Emir is one person I respect his opinions. But in this one he got it wrong. I want to look at his statement as a personal opinion. Every law has its own history. What is the history of this anti-grazing law? For every problem there is a solution. The issue of these herdsmen has become an enormous problem. If you don’t nip it in the bud it will create massive crisis. It has got to that point where people are now arranging their own security. It will get to that stage when communities will start arming themselves with guns which government will no longer control. At this stage anarchy sets in. If the herdsmen we are used to that carry sticks to herd their cattle are the ones we are talking about here, there wont be any reason to enact any anti-grazing law. But we are talking about a set of herdsmen who are blood thirsty, carrying guns, killing people, burning their houses and farms.
When he said the laws that were duly and legally enacted are obnoxious and unconstitutional, what does he mean? He cannot sit in his palace and declare the law of a state obnoxious and unconstitutional. Only a court of competent jurisdiction can declare a law unconstitutional after hearing arguments from parties.
Reading between the lines, what does this position of the Emir tell you of the stand of the Hausa/Fulani in this matter?
His position from what is reported does not sound reconciliatory. But we have to be careful how we handle this matter. I can tell you that so many Hausa/Fulani are not in support of these criminal elements killing people. The federal government has what it takes to go after the criminal elements and unmask the sponsors and know the motive and what they want to achieve by these killings. This is the first step to finding a solution. This is our country. Every state and every tribe in Nigeria has a stake in it. If a state creates a law and one is not happy with it, the person has to go court to challenge it because whatever opinion or sentiments one expresses cannot change the position of the law until it is challenged in court.
Emir Sanusi thereafter called on the Vice President to call the governors of Benue and Taraba to order for, according to him, the two governors have trained armed militias to implement the laws. What can you make of this?
Anybody has every right to call on the F.G. to do a certain thing. It is a petition. A petition is not binding on the person petitioned. Will the federal government tell the states not to enforce their laws, to proscribe the laws? I am sure the F.G. knows that the states have rights to enact laws for the peace,security and good governance of their citizens.
Is President Buhari’s uncoordinated silence and lack of expected action in this matter an endorsement of Emir Sanusi’s stand?
No, I will not say so. But I can say that he has not been active enough in dealing with this herdsmen issue the way he handled the IPOB matter. If he was active, we would have seen more of our military in those states ravaged by herdsmen. By now over 100 of the herdsmen would have been arrested and charged to court. The F.G. should declare war on the herdsmen. The government has the might and the wherewithal to deal with this matter. If these killings continue, it is going to lead to monumental crisis in the land.
The President has also been reported to have appealed to the elders and stakeholders from Benue who visited him at Aso Rock Villa, to return home and try to accommodate others. Is this a good approach in resolving this issue?
We are all watching. Whatever the action of the President is today will determine the nature of the crisis we may have tomorrow. In all this, people are getting irritated, forming opinions and coming up with their own solutions. There will come a time the bottled up anger will burst. There will come a time people will take their own fate and destiny in their hands and the government will no longer control it any more. For now let us believe that government is doing something to curtail the activities of these herdsmen.
If you are telling me to accommodate others, as the President was quoted as saying, does that mean I should accommodate criminals who are coming to kill me?
What is your advice to these states in terms of securing their citizens in the event of further attacks?
The government has a duty to protect lives and property. So, we appeal to the government to hold this duty sacrosanct. I want to believe that we have a government in place. But besides this, communities should start organising community policing and vigilante groups under the Nigeria Police.
How does the adopted state police policy come handy in handling the security challenges of these states harassed by herdsmen?
State police is not something that can take off immediately without proper planning. You need logistics. It takes time to do this. This has to pass through law making.But in the meantime, the states can create state police through the vigilantes as a stop gap and later back it up with law. They have to work out the modalities so that it will be effective.
Do you now advise the states being ravaged by herdsmen to be the first to adopt this policy of state police?
They should swing into action immediately. They should not wait to allow the killings of their citizens continue.
How far do you think the Prof. Osinbajo panel can go in finding lasting solutions to herdsmen/farmers clashes?
I want to believe that the Vice President and his team will do a thorough job. I also want to believe that Osinbajo being the man I know him to be, he will with his panel in his report find a lasting solution to the wanton killings and the menace caused by the clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
QUOTE: Every law has its own history. What is the history of this anti-grazing law? For every problem there is a solution. The issue of these herdsmen has become an enormous problem. If you don’t nip it in the bud it will create massive crisis. It has got to that point where people are now arranging their own security. It will get to that stage when communities will start arming themselves with guns which government will no longer control. At this stage anarchy sets in. If the herdsmen we are used to that carry sticks to herd their cattle are the ones we are talking about here, there wont be any reason to enact any anti-grazing law. But we are talking about a set of herdsmen who are blood thirsty, carrying guns, killing people, burning their houses and farms.When Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said the laws that were duly and legally enacted are “obnoxious and unconstitutional”, what does he mean? He cannot sit in his palace and declare the law of a state obnoxious and unconstitutional. Only a court of competent jurisdiction can declare a law unconstitutional after hearing arguments from parties.