Human rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, says the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, is wrong to compare open grazing ban in Southern Nigeria with the prohibition of spare parts trading in the Northern part of the country.
According to Ozekhome, spare parts traders are civil, organised and responsible members of the public who pay taxes but herders do not remit any amount to the government.
The lawyer made this known in this in a statement titled, ‘Freedom Of Movement Is For Human Beings, Not Cattle And Sheep’, adding that open grazing ban by Southern governors was constitutional.
Recall that the minister lambasted the Southern governors over their recent ban of open grazing in the region. About 17 southern governors had met last week in Asaba, the Delta State capital, and resolved to ban open grazing and movement of cattle by foot in the region as some kidnappings and killings in the southern region have been traced to criminal elements amongst herders.
But according to the AGF, open grazing ban is the same thing as Northern governors banning spare parts trading in their own region considering the fact that Southerners comprise a majority of spare parts traders in the North.
Reacting, Ozekhome said, “The Northern elites, including the Hon Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, miss the point sorely when they compare Igbo peaceful spare-parts dealers who go about their normal spare parts business legitimately, (building or renting their shops), with savage, maniacal AK-47-wielding herdsmen.
“Igbo traders do not kill or attack Northerners with their stock of motor-tyres, rims, spanners or chasis. They do not pour petrol from fuel tanks that they sell, on Fulani herdsmen. They do not use car bumpers or wind shields to smash the heads of herdsmen.”
“How does open and street grazing of cows by fully armed foot-patrolling youth which is now clearly anachronistic, , primitive and antiquated, be likened to legitimate spare parts business being carried out in shops or designated areas, with the Igbo traders paying tenement rate, taxes, water electricity and light bills? Have you ever heard of any herder paying tax?
“How do you equate spare parts dealers with mindless violence unleashed on poor helpless and hapless farmers in their own farms, and destruction of their crops with reckless abandon by these rampaging nomadic pastoralists who are on a mission of conquest and expansionism?” he queried.
Continuing, Ozekhome said, “Freedom of movement is only for human beings. It is not for cattle, sheep and goats. Will the Northerners tolerate the open sale of alcoholic beverages in their states, even though it is the constitutional right of other ethnic groups to move about and sell beverages of their choice.
“Are these Northern elites seriously arguing that Southern State Governors cannot ban open grazing in their states, to protect their innocent citizens from deadly killer herdsmen?”
The senior advocate urged the 17 Southern Governors to “immediately sue the Federal Government, invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under section 232 of the 1999 Constitution”, adding that “they should ask for a determination of their right to preserve their States from insecurity”.
He also encouraged the State Assemblies in the region to quickly back open grazing ban through instrument of law.