*Faults AGF, SGF As Officials Of The Federation
*Says 1964 Grazing Reserve Law Applicable To The North
Amid national clamour for restructuring, Nigeria’s foremost human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) has said the failure of the federal government to restructure is fueling agitation for separation in different parts of the federation.
Falana, a former President of the West African Bar Association (WABA), warned that referring to t Attorney-General, Accountant-General and Auditor-General, among others, as officials of the federation was erroneous and misleading.
He made these remarks in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, saying the All Progressives Congress (APC) turned its back on restructuring despite entrenching power devolution in its manifesto.
Analysing diverse issues of national interest during the session, the senior advocate observed that the agitations had forced the leaders of the APC to review their position because it had repeatedly reneged on its promises to restructure.
He said the APC had entrenched restructuring in its manifesto and campaigned for power devolution from the centre to the other federating units, a promise the ruling party should ordinarily honour.
But upon winning the 2015 general election, according to the human rights lawyer, the APC turned its back on restructuring. Even at a stage, the presidency accused the agitators for restructuring of trying to break up the country.
As Nigerians were getting prepared for the 2019 general election, Falana noted that the APC instituted its Committee on True Federalism under the chairmanship of Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
He pointed out that the committee “recommended restructuring and set out the details for power devolution. Already, the report has been gathering dust in the archives.
“It is on account of the inconsistent positions of the ruling party that many people became frustrated and joined the separatist movements.
“An influential section of the political class has been campaigning for a return to regionalism via the 1963 Constitution. The agitations appear to have forced the leaders of the APC to review their position,” he observed.
Falana faulted the claims of the president that his government “has devolved more powers to the states than the previous regimes.”
For instance, he said the federal government had argued that the airline “is in the exclusive legislative list. But Akwa Ibom State operates one of the best domestic airlines in the country while the federal government has not been able to revive the Nigerian Airways.
“The federal government has invited state governments to set up mining companies for the exploitation of solid minerals.
“The federal government has upheld fiscal autonomy for the federal judiciary and legislature while state governments have followed suit as a result of the just concluded industrial action by state judiciary and parliamentary staff unions.
“It has been reported that not less than 21 state governments are being assisted by the federal government to establish ranches and grazing reserves in order to address the perennial violent clashes between farmers and herders,” he pointed out.
Falana, therefore, said he believed the economic crisis confronting the country provided a golden opportunity for states to become economically viable and stop the practice of rushing to Abuja to share the dwindling revenue in the Fe deration Account.
The senior advocate, also, noted that the military legacy of referring to certain public officers as serving the federation should stop.
In the first republic, Falana explained that the federal government “had a Minister of Justice and Attorney-General while the regional governments had Ministers of Justice and Attorneys-General.
“It was when the country was under military rule that the Minister of Justice became the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“The era also produced the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Accountant-General of the Federation, and Auditor-General of the Federation etc. This was due to the fact that the state governments were extensions of the Federal Military Government.
“Since there is no government of the federation under the current democratic dispensation, the officers mentioned above should be addressed as the Attorney-General of the Federal Government.”
He added that the same thing “is applicable to the Secretary of the Federal Government, Accountant-General of the Federal Government and Auditor-General of the Federal Government.”
After all, according to him, every state in the federation has its own Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Accountant-General and Auditor-General and Secretary to the Government.
He, thus, said the prominent Nigerians “are perfectly right in questioning the origin of the 1999 Constitution. But the 1999 Constitution is a replica of the 1979 Constitution.
“The 1999 Constitution or Decree No 24 of 1999 signed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar is in pari materia with the 1979 Constitution or Decree No 102 of 1979 signed by General Olusegun Obasanjo.”
With this compelling fact, Falana lamented that the National assembly would not replace the 1999 Constitution because they were satisfied with the status quo rather than taking advantage of Section 9 of the Constitution to give Nigeria a new constitution.
Contrary to the claims of the president, the senior advocate explained that the Grazing Reserves Law of 1964 was only applicable in the defunct Northern Region, insisting that it was not a law of general application in the country at any given time.
With profound respect to the president, Falana clarified that the gazette for grazing reserves for the federation “does not exist. Thus, grazing routes cannot be found or traced in many parts of the country.”
In any case, the human right lawyer explained that the federal government “has formulated the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) including the establishment of ranches to end the incessant violent attacks on farmers by AK-47 bearing bandits operating as herders.
“Pursuant to the provisions of the Land Use Act, a number of governors had acquired land for ranching. From the information at my disposal, no less than 20 states have applied for grants to establish ranches while some states have commenced massive construction of ranches.
“Officials of the federal government ought to have familiarised themselves with the details of the NLTP. If that had been done the question of looking for grazing routes would not have arisen.”
Clarifying the Delta declaration, Falana noted that the Southern Governors Forum banned open grazing, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) had equally prohibited the practice and adopted the NLTP, which the federal government initiated
He said the NGF “has equality banned open grazing. According to the Forum, open grazing has become obsolete. The country had ranches in the south and grazing reserves in the North in the 1950s.
“The ranches and the grazing reserves were abandoned under the defunct military junta. For the past 22 years, the members of the political class have failed woefully to revive the ranches and grazing reserves.
“You can imagine the orgy of violence that the nation has continued to witness due to the utter negligence of the political class. Instead of looking for grazing routes so that animals can roam all over the place in this age and time, we should speedily embrace modern animal husbandry,” Falana recommended.
He, therefore, noted that it was grossly misleading “to give the dangerous impression that animals are entitled to enjoy the right to freedom of movement enshrined in section 41 of the Constitution.”
He said when they realised that the right to freedom of movement “is exclusively reserved for Nigerians, 36 state governors have unanimously banned open grazing and opted for the establishment of ranches, Ruga or grazing reserves where cattle will be quartered and provided with grass and water.
“Houses will be built for herders together with hospitals and schools for their children and wards. Those who are genuinely interested in protecting the interests of herders should support ranching in line with the NLTP of the federal government.”
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