GRAZING routes never existed in Southern Nigeria, and there is nothing to recover, leading rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, said at the weekend. He was reacting to news report that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was intent on recovering grazing routes for pastoralists across Nigeria. 

The senior advocate of Nigeria, reasoned federal authorities can’t possibly be searching for grazing routes to recover in the Southern part of the country, because none ever existed. He also told Sunday Tribune that contrary to President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim, there is no gazette, establishing grazing routes for herders in Nigeria. 

According to him, “they (ministry officials) can’t be searching for grazing routes in the South, because Southern Nigeria never had them. There is also no gazette establishing grazing routes in Nigeria. What they are implementing is the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), which has commenced in four states of Kaduna, Nasarawa, Borno, and Niger. 

“Kano is doing its own under a different name. Under the scheme, even schools are to be built for the children of the pastoralists. Let nobody deceive anyone. There had never been grazing routes in Southern Nigeria, even when the regions existed.” 

When asked if he had any idea of where the routes, being sought for recovery, could be, Falana said what the North had, during the region system, was the Grazing Reserves Law of 1964, only applicable to the Northern Region. The law, already supplanted by the Land Use Act, had no general application because Western, Midwestern and Eastern, had ranches for animal husbandry, he explained. 

President Buhari stoked fresh controversy on the herders’ crisis in Nigeria, when he publicly said he had directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN to dust up an alleged gazette, allocating grazing routes to herders across the country. 

He was immediately repudiated by reputable lawyers, including Falana and senior citizens, mainly of Southern origin, telling him, such routes never existed in Southern Nigeria. Southern governors also spoke in unison, telling the President, their collective decision to ban open grazing, was irrevocable. 

In what would amount to sustaining a streak of presidential defiance, report emerged at the weekend that federal authorities aren’t backing down on the controversial project that has ignited the North/South usual crossfire, since Buhari became president. 

Saturday Punch first reported that the recovery would go on, despite half of the country, decrying it. 

The news medium quoted the acting Director, Animal Husbandry Department, of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Winnie Lai-Solarin as saying, “There are some stock routes that we have across the country and in the past, we had monuments along these stock routes, particularly the primary stock routes. 

“And in the course of farming or other human activities along those stock routes, the monuments were altered, but we know where they are. So we are saying that some of them, can be retraced. 

“And this is particularly for areas that are not encroached upon as of now. The pastoralists know the routes and on some of those routes, you will see the pieces of the monuments along them. “So for those that are not encroached upon and are not in conflict zones, we will go ahead to retrace and guide the pastoralists along them. We didn’t get to where we are today in one day and so we cannot expect that every pastoralist should suddenly start ranching now. 

“Some would still have to move but let’s keep the movement as safe as possible and in areas that are not conflict zones. That is what I am saying. We are not going to retrace stock routes where there are infrastructures that are for the public good.” 

In an earlier interview, former Attorney General of old Ondo State and lead counsel to President Buhari at election tribunal in 2019, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, explained that whatever law established the alleged grazing routes, is now obsolete and completely nullified by the operational Law Use Act. 

He said, “When you look at Nigeria as a whole, the law on land matters, is the Land Use Act and it is entrenched in the 1999 Constitution. The law vests all powers on land issues, all over the country, in governors and not the federal government. 

“In respect of land and the use, federal government, can’t legislate on how land is controlled and distributed in any part of Nigeria. Even if we assume, without conceding that laws for grazing routes made under the Northern Region of Nigeria, covered everywhere, the Land Use Act has superseded both routes and the law establishing them. 

“Also, it is one thing for the President, to direct, it is another thing for the Attorney General of the Federation, to implement a law which doesn’t exist. He can’t enforce a non-existing law.”

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