It was in the news recently that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum had a meeting over the incessant killings in some parts of the Country arising from herdsmen/ farmers disputes particularly in Benue, Taraba, Plateau and Yobe States, and called on the President to stop the killings. This call is not the first as we have heard some other elder statesmen, senior lawyers and members of the National Assembly making the same call even to the extent of threatening the President with impeachment; for me, this call by the Governors is a show of irresponsibility, and like others, these calls are being directed to the wrong persons and institutions. I’d rather call on the same governors, all of them, to resign their positions immediately.
Why would I say so? As we understand it, the conflict is over distribution of resources, LAND, which by virtue of the Constitution of Nigeria and Sections 1 and 5 of the Land Use Act, is vested in the hands of the Governor of each State; If this is true, and we have conflicts arising from the resources in the hands of a Governor resulting into killings, who then is empowered to stop the killings? It is the Governors!
Besides the herdsmen/farmers conflict which is the main issue of discuss in our Nation today, every State has several communal issues arising from ownership of land, boundaries disputes, and many more resulting into clashes, attacks and deaths. In Kwara State alone, Offa/Erin-Ile and Share/Tsaragi readily come into mind. And in all these cases, the State Governments do set up Commissions of Enquiry to look at the causes of the clashes and such Commissions came up with findings and recommendations. How many of such recommendations have the State Government implemented?
I was informed that after the 2002 Plateau crisis, the State Government set up a Commission of Enquiry to look into the dispute. Has the report of that Commission been accepted? Has it been Gazetted? Has it been implemented? Do the warring people know the decisions arising from this Commission? Have they been briefed of the Resolution made there from? The same is obtainable in Kaduna State. All these are questions lying on the tables of all our Governors in respect of all crises in their respective States.
I am privileged to know that the Offa/Erin – Ile disputes has had about two Inquests. The one which is popularly referred to as Daramola’s Commission of 1970 led to several cases in Court, some of which are still pending at various Courts till today, even at the Supreme Court. This cases mostly arose out of interpretation of the decision of the Commission of Enquiry whereas, the recent one led by Justice Oyinloye of the Kwara State High Court avoided blaming anyone and refused to recommend compensation for any of the victims, even when it was argued that there was negligence on the part of some of the government’s agencies.
What I am saying is that so many of these conflicts are not properly resolved. They are only given cosmetic burials, and in no time, they will rear their ugly heads again and again.
The Security apparatus’ are set up to respond to crisis while it is the duty of the government to ensure that there is no crisis; it does this by formulating pro-active policies and setting up measures at ensuring that crisis never ensues among the people with the likelihood of having crises. Now we all know that the issue here is about land; farmers want to farm while herders want to graze on the same land and this has resulted into conflict. The land belongs to the Governor. People fight and kill over the property of the Governor. Therefore who should stop the fight and the killings? It is the Governor. Not the President.
Our Governors must take responsibilities for their failures and stop shifting their responsibilities to the office of the President by finding a lasting solution to how they distribute land within their respective states to satisfy everyone that needs land for one thing or the other. I find it unfortunate that majority of us spend time criticising the suggestions for creating of ranches made by the Federal Government but none of us has offered any alternative solutions. All we do is criticise and nothing more. None of us is thinking any more. Even the National Assembly that are supposed to think for us and come up with best ideas have not proffered any alternative solution to ranching.
Most people opposed ranching, as suggested by the Federal Government, on the ground that it wouldn’t be wise to allow people surrender their ancestral lands to someone else, and I ask; were the motor parks and garages we have all over the Country where NURTW and the likes operate not some peoples’ ancestral land? How about the games reserves, the National Parks, The airports, the markets, the Governments’ houses which some of us will never enter? Were these not ancestral lands of some people?
If the State Governments are interested in solving these problems, they need to look beyond sentiments and take active steps. And if truly, the Governors know that the executive powers of the State lies in them, I want to see them take responsibilities and stop the killings in their States by taking measures to re-distribute the resources of the State towards putting ends to all crises in their States.
Tosin Samuel Alawode LL.B, B.L, LL.M, a Legal and Tax Practitioner is the Principal Attorney of TSA – Zion Attorneys, a law firm in Ilorin, Kwara State.
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