Mike Ozekhome (SAN), a human rights lawyer, has blasted Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, for comparing the open grazing practice with the spare parts business.
Ozekhome made his stance known in a statement he issued on Friday in response to Malami’s comment on the open grazing ban, which was one of the resolutions of the Asaba Accord made by the governors of southern Nigerian states recently.
The southern governors had at their meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, last Tuesday announced the ban on open grazing across the region.
However, Malami in an interview on Channels Television on Wednesday said the declaration by the southern governors is unconstitutional, saying the decision is akin to northern governors outlawing the sale of spare parts in their region.
Reacting, Ozekhome faulted the AGF, saying the comparison between spare parts dealers and herdsmen is completely wrong.
According to the senior lawyer, spare parts dealers are responsible citizens who do not attack Nigerians with their items, while herdsmen use their illegally acquired guns and other crude weapons to intimidate and kill Nigerians.
The statement read: “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?”
Ozekhome argued that freedom of movement is guaranteed under the 1999 constitution (as amended) only for human beings and not cows.
He 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.