A social group known as Sokoto Network For Good Governance on Friday reacted to the heated debate of open grazing across the country, especially as the Southern Governors rejected the move.
The group noted that it is a constitutional right of all Nigerians to have freedom of movement and as such as against the position of Southern Governors.
The group in a statement signed by its President, Usama Bandare, and Secretary, Ahmad Ibrahim Na’Allah, said:
“We are addressing you today in the face of what has deliberately been turned a controversy, even against the clear position of Nigerian constitution on freedom of movement by citizens of this great country.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the position of the Southern governors against open grazing, clearly imply that Fulani herdsmen are not free to carry out their legitimate trade in that region of the country, in spite of their guaranteed freedom to do so.”
They further stressed that, “The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami’s position is the position of the Law, which role he plays in setting that out.
“We stand by the position of the constitution and by implication, that of the AGF, that the Governors’ declaration against open grazing, is a blanket statement which lacks precision and is legally wrong, especially in view of the fact that not all Fulani herdsmen are criminals.
“Permit us to posit that everyone has the right of free movement under S 41 of the Constitution – therefore, no one (not even governors) have the right to prohibit free movement.
“Therefore, there is no state law that could abrogate or substitute S 41 where a mere declaration by governors would stand as law by which certain citizens would be made to forgo such rights as guaranteed by the above section of the constitution.
“It is the primary duty of the federal government to safeguard the lives and properties of everyone in Nigeria. And as the Chief Custodian of our laws, it behooves on the Attorney General to enlighten the governors on the unconstitutionality of their action.”
Speaking on the legitimacy of the business embarked upon by herdsmen, the group said: “By the mandate of the constitution, the right to freedom of movement relates to all corners, nooks and crannies within Nigeria.
“It is true that criminals are found in all traders, all professionals and all tribes, therefore, derogation cannot target an entire class of people; cannot target entire professionals (journalists, doctors, lawyers or traders) or an entire ethnic group. It can only target identified criminals among these.
“We there state categorically that the governors could not ban anyone – traders, ramblers, or herdsmen – from moving around Nigeria. They could ban criminals among them.
“The governors ought to know their constitutional powers and legal rights, and limitations, so as not to infringe on the rights of others. They cannot infringe the right of way of anyone – Fulani herdsmen, traders, ramblers – from moving around Nigeria.
“Yes, herdsmen or any group of persons who attack anyone or who carry prohibited arms (firearms) commit a felony. Herdsmen or any group of persons who invade the property of others without permission, commit offense. They must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.Therefore, there is no need to create a controversy in an issue where there is none.
“The context of the use of spare parts by the AGF, is about freedom of movement of goods and ownership. It is the encroachment of the right of others that has always been punishable under our laws but not the act of lawful grazing.
“The Fulani owns cattle which he moves around in possessive sense. On the other hand, spare part dealer moves spare parts in ownership possessive sense.”
The group however called for adequate regards for individual rights stressing that, “We ask, does it not violate the respective rights of the two if you restrict their rights to movement of their possessed goods that are not legally outlawed? A Fulani herdsmen that encroaches into other people’s land to rear his cattle has committed an act of trespass not because he is an Fulani but because of his act.
“So also, a spare part dealer that encroaches into other peoples land to store his wares has committed an act of trespass not because he is an Igbo but because of his act. It goes to say that identifying crimes with ethnic toga is dangerous and mischievous.
“We therefore declare our solidarity with the constitution and the law. We also declare our solidarity with the Chief Custodian of Nigerian laws.”
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