Nigeria’s Attorney General (AGF) and Minister Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has come under intense criticism from Nigerians for comparing open grazing of cattle by Fulani herdsmen to spare parts business done by mostly Igbo traders in an attempt to argue against the banning of open grazing by Southern governors.
Speaking on Channels TV Politics Today on Wednesday, Malami faulted the decision of the Southern governors at their meeting in Asaba, Delta State on Tuesday last week, to ban open grazing of cattle, saying it does not align with the provisions of the constitution.
On the issue of banning grazing, the AGF asks if you deny the rights of a Nigerian citing the example of Northern governors coming together to ban the trade of spare parts in the north. Does it hold water? #PoliticsToday pic.twitter.com/VRzAMH4mt6
— Channels Television (@channelstv) May 19, 2021
The AGF insisted that the decision “does not hold water” in the context of human rights as enshrined in the constitution.
“It is about constitutionality within the context of the freedoms expressed in our constitution. Can you deny the rights of a Nigerian?” he queried.
“For example: it is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the north. Does it hold water? Does it hold water for a northern governor to come and state expressly that he now prohibits spare parts trading in the north?”
He went on to ask Southern governors to facilitate the amendment of the 1999 constitution (as amended) to prohibit open grazing.
“If you are talking of constitutionally guaranteed rights, the better approach to it is to perhaps go back to ensure the constitution is amended,” he said.
“Freedom and liberty of movement among others established by the constitution, if by an inch you want to have any compromise over it, the better approach is go back to the national assembly to say open grazing should be prohibited and see whether you can have the desired support for the constitutional amendment.
“It is a dangerous provision for any governor in Nigeria to think he can bring any compromise on the freedom and liberty of individuals to move around.”
However, his position, has continued to draw backlash from many Nigerians on social media, with many expressing surprise about his decision to compare spare parts business whose owners rent or buy shops, to open grazing of cattle, which has led to several clashes between herders and farmers with attendant loss of lives, even as others accused him of deliberately targeting the Igbo with the “unrelated” comparison.
“The ‘learned’ Attorney-General really sounds most unlearned with his Igbophobic illustration,” wrote a twitter user, @BarrROUN1990
The 'learned' Attorney-General really sounds most unlearned with his Igbophobic illustration. https://t.co/MhHsbZcV0F
— ROUN (@BarrROUN1990) May 20, 2021
Another user, Paul Smith Obasi @UnclePauly, said, “They give little or nothing but feel so entitled. Spare parts sellers rent shops, buy landed properties, pay taxes, kill no one, rapes no one. But those who destroy alcohol and still enjoy its tax revenues from other state are making weak comparisons, Seun you are not doing well!”
Another user, Victor, @akviktor, said “You sound really ridiculous Hon. Attorney General. Igbos rent shops for their spare parts businesses unlike herdsmen who engage in destroying lives and property under the guise of open grazing. Are you incapable of understanding this distinction? Haba!
“Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation, says the resolve to ban open grazing by southern governors is equivalent to prohibiting spare parts trading in the north.”
Similarly, journalist, Nicholas Ibekwe, @nicholasibekwe, suggested that the AGF’s comparison, was a case of ethnic profiling.
“This is Nigeria’s AGF indulging in a bigoted dog whistle. Na wa!,” Ibekwe said.
Arguing along same line, Adedayo Adeyemo @dare092003, said, “The Igbo have see finish for President Buhari hand. He didn’t even dare compare herding with farming. Leaders indeed!.”
Similarly, William Ukpe, @_SirWilliam_, noted that, “The Southern Governors meeting was held in Asaba.
The Governors come from different ethnic groups in Southern Nigeria. Singling out Igbos because you want to threaten Southern Nigeria will not work, grow up…
Threatening with violence anytime you are scolded is a sign of Cultural suicide.
“Igbo spare parts owners are not grabbing land to run their business. Nobody is saying don’t ranch, buy land and do it normally, the anti Igbo threats won’t work, grow up.”
Yet, others pointed out that the AGF has been silent while Northern states destroy businesses of Southerners who sell alcohol in the North in the name of Sharia, even though the Nigerian constitution doesn’t prohibit sale of alcohol in the country.
“Banning open grazing is against the constitution but banning alcohol and Sharia is a friend of Nigeria’s constitution, said a user @osifekomark “Our AGF have spoken.”
Similarly, Raji Olayinka @clefraj, said, “But a governor in a state can ban the sale of alcohol in his state?
“The governors didn’t say dont do cattle business, they said do it properly. Its 2021, stop using the model Jacob used in Genesis, it’s outdated, it’s time to buy land and have your mini rugas.
For Dire Adesanya, @adeologo_dire, the AGF’s position, explains why the herders are always bold enough to challenge the decision of sitting governors in their respective states.
“To think those illiterate nomads can be so bold to dare a sitting governor of Benue, destroy plantations in Ibarapa, claim indigenous people’s lands and openly say all forest in Nigeria belongs to no one is an unguarded behaviour? It is no brainer they have powerful forces backing them.”
On his part, Onye Nkuzi @cchukudebelu, noted that as untenable as the AGF’s argument sounds, his position has the backing of United States based think tanks like the Eurasia Group.
“His argument, no matter how ludicrous it sounds, has the full backing of Washington D.C. based think tanks like the @EurasiaGroup,” he said.
— Onye Nkuzi (@cchukudebelu) May 19, 2021
Yet, others took on his interviewer, Channels TV’s Seun Okin for failing to ask the AGF necessary follow up questions.
“Channels provided a mouth piece for this nonsense and Ṣeun should be ashamed of himself,” said Othell Yarwyck @bigbrovar. “He made a mockery of journalism. Spare part sellers pay rent on land on which they sell their wares. The same north that bans sales alcohol.”