Senate, House of Representatives, Taraba, Ekiti and Benue state governments on Wednesday berated Minister of Defence, Mr Musur Dan-Ali, for calling on state governments to suspend their anti-open grazing laws, discribing the call as illegal.
While Senate and Benue State Government asked the minister to withdraw his statement, Taraba and Ekiti states rejected the call by Dan-Ali.
The minister, after a security council meeting at Presidential Villa in Abuja on Tuesday, had said the suspension of the laws would reduce tension.
Anti-open grazing law is currently operational in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba states.
Dan-Ali, in a statement by his Public Relations Officer, Mr Tukur Guasu, also called for creation of safe routes for herdsmen.
Withdraw your comment, it’s absurd Senate tells Dan-Ali
But the Senate, at plenary on Wednesday, criticised the minister. It asked him to withdraw his statement.
Raising a point of order, Mr Barnabas Gemade (Benue North-East) faulted Dan-Ali’s statement and urged Senate to ask the minister to withdraw the statement.
He also stated that the states were empowered by Land Use Act to take ownership and management of land resources.
The lawmakers unanimously granted Gemade’s prayer to “ask the minister of defence to withdraw his statement on his call for the withdrawal of anti-open grazing laws in Benue and Taraba as these laws were properly enacted in accordance with the states’ Houses of Assembly.”
Reacting to Dan-Ali’s statement, Gemade said, “This is not the first time that we will hear this kind of absurd statement coming from no less a personality than the minister of defence. If a minister of defence is calling for anarchy, where else can we find peace?
“We understand that the minister comes from Zamfara State and I wonder if all the killings in Zamfara that are almost equal in number with the ones in Benue, are also as a result of the anti-open grazing law. And if by his own experience, the killings in Zamfara have nothing to do with the anti-open grazing law, why does he believe that the killings in Benue and Taraba states are because they enacted the laws?
“These killings have been on for seven years before the laws came into operation. So, what was responsible for the killings at that time? And now the killings in Zamfara have not ceased, yet they have not made a law prohibiting open grazing. “We think that this republic is probably being misadvised by those who have been given appointments to take responsibility for the good governance of this nation. Therefore, they must be cautioned.”
Gemade added, “It was very strange to me that in the mind of the Minister of Defence of this nation, the only way he can solve the problem of hundreds and thousands of people being killed in Benue and Taraba states is that the laws they made against open grazing of cattle – where you cannot control the conflict between herdsmen and farmers – should be removed, so that whatever semblance of law to keep law and order should be removed and anarchy can go on as was the case before.”
In his submission, Mr John Enoh (Cross River-Central), described Gemade’s arguments as logical.
He said, “If killings had been going on for the past seven years and the enactment of the anti-open grazing laws by Benue, Taraba and Ekiti states was just about one year ago, what it means is that going against the laws will not be the solution to the killings. That means anti-open grazing law is not the reason why the killings are taking place in the states.”
Don’t suspend anti-open grazing laws, Reps tell FG, NSC
Also, House of Representatives asked National Security Council not to direct states to suspend their respective anti-open grazing laws.
The House said such a directive would infringe on the constitutional powers of the states to make laws for the security and welfare of their citizenry.
It passed the resolution after a member from Benue State, Mr. John Dyegh, brought up NSC’ decision under matters of public importance.
Dyegh, a member of All Progressives Congress, reminded members that 1999 Constitution empowered state Houses of Assembly to make laws for the states.
He cited some laws made by states before the anti-open grazing laws like the laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol and prostitution.
The lawmaker noted that it smacked of hypocrisy to say some laws were acceptable, while others were not.
He added, “The laws against sale of alcohol and prostitution are there. They are still being implemented as we speak, no matter how inconvenient they are to the victims.
“Why is anti-open grazing law an issue? Under the Land Use Act, land is vested in the hands of the state to hold in trust for the people. Why is the law against open grazing such an issue to them?”
Rather than asking states to suspend their laws, the House called on the Federal Government to submit a supplementary budget to develop cattle colonies in the 11 states that volunteered land for the purpose.
The session, presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, passed the resolution in a unanimous voice vote.
Your statement is offensive, Ortom tells minister
Also, Benue State Governor, Mr Samuel Ortom, has faulted the minister.
The governor, through Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Mr. Lawrence Onoja Jnr. asked the minister to withdraw the statement.
Ortom, who expressed surprise at the minister’s statement, noted that his outburst was at variance with the position of National Economic Council, presided over by Vice-President, Mr Yemi Osinbanjo, which had endorsed ranching as the best global practice.
The governor stated, “We call on Mansur Dan-Ali to, as a matter of urgency, withdraw this highly offensive statement against Benue State and victims of herdsmen killings in the state.
“Over 500 Benue indigenes have so far lost their lives to herdsmen invasion of the state since the New Year day.”
The governor said that while the minister was dissipating his energy on the law, he had yet to call for the arrest and prosecution of Miyeiti Allah leaders who had allegedly openly and consistently threatened more bloodshed in Benue on account of the law.
He said that the state government had acted within the ambit of the constitution, which empowers states to make laws for the good governance of the people.
Ortom said that there was no going back on the implementation of the law as prosecution of offenders was going on smoothly.
“We have no apologies to the Minister of Defence or anyone,” he said.
Benue Assembly calls for Ali’s resignation
Benue state House of Assembly at its plenary on Wednesday called for the resignation of the defence minister, describing his statement as “unfortunate.”
Majority Leader, Mr Benjamin Adayin, had raised a motion of public importance condemning the statement of the minister. He moved a motion for condemning the minister’s statement and passing vote of no confidence in him.
Members including John Ahubi, Sule Audu and, Benjamin Mguthyor representing Otukpo/Akpa, Agatu and Tarka constituencies respectively lambasted the minister.
The resolution of the House, which was read by the Speaker, Terkimbir Ikyabir, condemned the statement of the minister.
He said that the House passed a vote of no confidence in Dan-Ali and asked him to resign his appointment with immediate effect.
Ali’s demand, affront to federalism, says Fayose
On his part, Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayo Fayose, said the call by the minister was an affront to federalism practised in the country.
In his tweeter handle, Fayose wondered why it was difficult for the Federal Government to support cattle ranching.
Fayose stated, “Call by the Federal Government through Minister of Defence, Dan-Ali, that states should suspend implementation of the anti-grazing law is an affront to federalism that is practised in Nigeria. It is amazing that at the level of the Presidency, they still see states as appendages of the Federal Government.
“January this year, the minister of defence blamed passage of anti-grazing law in some states as cause of killings by herdsmen; today, he is still singing the same song. Is there something to this old system of nomadic cattle rearing that they are not telling Nigerians?
“Why is @MBuhari not rearing his cows through open grazing? Why is it so difficult for the Federal Government to support cattle ranching? Here in Ekiti, the anti-open grazing law stays. It is the Presidency that should stop looking the other way while herdsmen go about killing Nigerians.
“I think the Presidency should be concerned about how to take herdsmen out of the bush and give them decent life by embracing cattle ranching. How can anyone be pleased subjecting his own people to a life of following cows through the bush from Yobe to Lagos?”
Fayose later issued a statement where he argued that the Federal Government lacked power to suspend or abrogate the anti-grazing laws enacted by the state governments to prohibit open grazing of cattle in their states.
In the statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, on Wednesday, Fayose hinged his submission on the fact that “the country is a federation and that Ekiti is one of the federating units and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is clear on what each unit can legislate on.
“On this subject, the Federal Government has no control and cannot interfere. This is a matter of law.
“I want the Federal Government to know that we are operating a democratic system and that we are not in the military era when the government is run by decrees and fiats. Those in the Federal Government contemplating to suspend a law enacted by the state can only be appointed by a quasi-military government and not a pure civilian government.
“Let them know that Ekiti State Anti-grazing Law has come to stay and we have no apology for that. Where were they when our farmers were being hacked down in various parts of the state?”
We won’t suspend our anti-grazing law – Taraba gov
Also, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Taraba State on Media, Mr. Bala Dan Abu, who responded on behalf of Governor Darius Ishaku, said the state would not suspend the law, adding that the defence minister and Federal Government lacked the power to ask a state to dump its law.
He stated, “I’ve read about his call that the anti-open grazing laws by state governments should be suspended. I think his position is a misconception of what the laws by the various state governments are set out to achieve or maybe he’s just pretending not to understand the issues relating to killings by herdsmen. Killings have not just started in Middle Belt states, in the North and other parts of the country.
“If the open grazing law is the problem, how does he want to explain killings in Kaduna, Zamfara and Kogi states that have no such law? He is pretending, he understands the issue and that is why we, in Taraba State, are rejecting his call for the suspension of our anti-open grazing law.
“We will not suspend our law because we are running a federal system of government and so a state is free to make laws that will suit its people. Anyway, the suspension of the law is not the solution to the problem of killings in the country particularly killings carried out by Fulani herdsmen.
“The solution to the problem rests with the Federal Government because it has all the mercenaries to deal with the issue. The Federal Government is in control of all the security apparatus of the country, the problem is that the security agents are not getting the right instructions and even when they give them the right instructions, the political will to do the right thing is not there. So, the defence minister and all his security chiefs and the police should do the right things and they should not take sides like they have been doing.”
Minister’s call illegal, says OPC
Oodua People’s Congress also lambasted the minister of defence.
The founder of OPC, Mr Frederick Fasehun, in a statement on Wednesday described the call as unconstitutional.
Fasehun described the call as “contradicting Section 4(7) of the constitution that empowers state Houses of Assembly to make laws for the good governance in their areas.”
He also hailed the National Assembly for its fresh attempt to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari.
The OPC founder said Buhari had failed to understand that free media, legislature and the judiciary remained the cornerstone of any democracy.
Describing the National Assembly’s resolve as a bold and patriotic step to curtail dictatorship and executive lawlessness, the OPC urged Nigerians to support the move.
I only made a suggestion, minister insists
But reacting to criticisms, Minister of Defence said his recommendation should be treated as a suggestion and no more.
Public Relations Officer to the minister, Mr Tukur Gusau, when asked on Wednesday to comment on the lawmakers’ statement, said the minister had only made suggestions, adding that he was not aware of any such comments from senators.
Gusau said, “The minister is only making a suggestion. Of course, we agree states can make laws, but he is only making a suggestion. I am not aware that the Senate has made any such pronouncement. Let us give it time. Let us hear what they said. For now, I cannot say anything. You are the one telling me.”