NIGERIA’S federal government has thrown its weight behind cattle herdsmen group Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore saying it will back their planned legal actions against the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) over plans to ban open grazing across the country.
On April 11, the SGF met in Asaba, the Delta State capital and at the end of their meeting issued a communique in which they unanimously agreed to ban open grazing. Since then, the state governments have moved to enforce the ban with the 17 state houses of assemblies passing bills making open grazing illegal.
Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore has said it will challenge the ban in court, described it as satanic and politically motivated. In a major upping of the ante, Dr Umar Gwandu, the official spokesman of Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s attorney-general and justice minister, said the federal government supported the fact that Nigerians whose rights had been violated could go to court to seek protection.
Nationwide, state police commands have adopted a different stance on the enforcement of the issue as for instance, the Ebonyi and Osun state police commands have said they would enforce the law against open grazing, the Lagos State Police Command said its men would only provide protection to the enforcement team of the state. Rivers State police commissioner Friday Eboka, said he had not seen a copy of the state anti-open grazing law.
Most southern governors, including those of Lagos, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Abia, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Enugu and just recently, Delta and Ogun states, have signed the anti-open grazing bill into law. However, Selah Alhassan, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore secretary, threatened that the group would sue the southern governors.
Dr Gwandu added: “The rights trampled upon are individual rights of Nigerians as constitutionally guaranteed. The Nigerians whose rights are violated reserve the right to approach the court for the protection of such rights within the context of freedom of movement among others and it will be viewed with that consideration in mind.”
However, Aliyu Garba, the Ebonyi State police commissioner, said his command will arrest and prosecute violators of the anti-open grazing law. Also, the Ogun State Police Command said that it was ready to implement the anti-open grazing law in the state as soon as possible.