A huge number of Nigerians have been killed by armed herdsmen for more than one year in the country. Thousands of other law-abiding Nigerians have also been maimed and rendered homeless. Many children have become orphans, and women and men turned into widows and widowers because of the bestiality of the herdsmen.
While the massacre persists, the bewildered citizens have continuously wondered if the government has become indifferent to its responsibility to protect lives. In the midst of the raging madness, sadly, the authorities have always come up with ridiculous excuses for their failure. One of such excuses is the recent outburst by the Minister of Defence, Brigadier-General Mansur Dan-Ali (retd), that the anti-grazing laws in some states are the raison d’etre for the killings carried out by the herdsmen. His recommendation is that the implementation of the said laws be put on hold pending the charting of grazing routes by the Federal Government. Actually, this is the second time this year that the minister has made this recommendation.
The unguarded statement has understandably provoked public outrage. Most right-thinking individuals and groups have lampooned the minister for displaying such insensitivity to an ugly trend that poses a grave danger to the unity and stability of the country. His thesis is utterly illogical because it is within the powers and jurisdiction of states to make grazing laws. The laws are meant to serve the best interest of citizens of the affected states, promote good governance and guarantee the protection of life and property. Minister Dan-Ali’s hypothesis also smacks of impudence given the aggravated and collateral damage that the herdsmen have caused. They have continued to inflict pain and misery on many communities across the country. Needless to say, they have caused the country embarassment on the international scene.
In case the Defence Minister needs any reminding, part of the cardinal ethos and ideals of democracy is the sanctity of the constitution and the rule of law, which has a direct bearing on the protection of lives. The minister is advised to apprise himself of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). He should acquaint himself with the reality that states have powers to make laws to protect themselves, once those laws are not inconsistent with the grundnorm. It is presumptuous for the minister to believe that the affected states overshot their bounds in making grazing laws without providing unassailable proof. States have different configurations and goals that require ingenuity from whoever is in the saddle. A state government has the duty to ensure the safety of life and property. That is the philosophy behind the enactment of the grazing laws in some states. The governments of the affected states took the step to protect their people after countless killings by the herdsmen. They are therefore demonstrably commited to the security and safety of their people.
On the whole, it is objectionable and provocative to contemplate creating grazing routes, as espoused by Dan-Ali and his co-travellers, for the same herdsmen that his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, said are foreigners. The minister and his co-travellers must come to terms with the fact that there are well-defined constitutional avenues for seeking redress, especially now under civil rule. Accordingly, any individual, group or institution, including the Federal Government, that feels uncomfortable with the existing grazing laws in the affected states should head for courts with appropriate jurisdictions to adjudicate on the matter, rather than stoking the fire and threatening the peace and stability of the country.