The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has said the decision to ban open grazing by southern governors is unconstitutional.
Mr Malami, who spoke on Channels Television’s Politics Today Programme on Wednesday, said the decision of the governors “does not align with the provisions of the Constitution, hence it does not hold water.”
“It is about constitutionality within the context of the freedoms expressed in our constitution. Can you deny the rights of a Nigerian?
“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.
“Does it hold water? Does it hold water for a northern governor to come and state expressly that he now prohibits spare parts trading in the north?”
He, however, advised the governors to work towards the amendment of the 1999 Constitution in their move to prohibit open grazing.
“If you are talking of constitutionally guaranteed rights, the better approach to it is to perhaps go back to ensure the Constitution is amended.
“Freedom and liberty of movement among others established by the constitution, if by an inch you want to have any compromise over it, the better approach is go back to the National Assembly to say open grazing should be prohibited and see whether you can have the desired support for the constitutional amendment.
“It is a dangerous provision for any governor in Nigeria to think he can bring any compromise on the freedom and liberty of individuals to move around,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the 17 southern governors on May 11 resolved to ban open grazing of cattle in their states.
They took the decision in the meeting in Asaba, Delta State.
The governors said the incursion of armed herders, criminals, and bandits into the southern part of the country has presented a severe security challenge such that citizens are not able to live their normal lives.
Open grazing is the archaic practice of moving ruminant animals in open fields, plains and bushes in search of pasture or foliage.
The animals usually encroach into farmlands destroying the yields of farmers and ultimately bloody conflicts occur between farmers and herders. Criminals have also infiltrated the ranks of herders thereby leading to spikes in crime and violence.
The system in the last few years has triggered conflicts between host communities and migrant herders, leading to several deaths in many states.
While some crop owners may get compensated, other incidents lead to conflicts. Some farmers have in the past also been alleged of poisoning cattle.
This, among many other cases, have triggered ethnic crisis in some South-west states where locals are demanding the eviction of herders.