…Says He’s Not Listening to Citizens Cry, Engaging in a Democratic Way Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has strongly upbraided the planned reopening of the old cattle grazing routes by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing the President of neither listening to the cry of the citizens nor committed to engaging in a democratic
…Says He’s Not Listening to Citizens Cry, Engaging in a Democratic Way
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has strongly upbraided the planned reopening of the old cattle grazing routes by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing the President of neither listening to the cry of the citizens nor committed to engaging in a democratic way.
He also decried the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government, stating that the government has not only shrunk the democratic space but abridged a channel of self expression among citizens.
Speaking on Arise TV, Soyinka said the herders-farmers conflict needs pragmatic solutions, insisting that reopening the grazing routes won’t solve the decades-old problems.
Soyinka said this while criticizing the President for muting the idea of restoring the grazing routes created in the first Republic in a recent interview, which many believed would further encourage open grazing in the country.
The 17 Southern Governors in Nigeria had earlier banned open grazing in their respective states. According to the Governors, the decision was necessary to curb the infiltration of bandits into the southern region.
However, Buhari, who spoke in an interview with Arise TV last week disclosed that he had asked the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) to begin the process of recovering land from persons who have converted cattle grazing routes for their personal use.
“What I did was ask him (Malami) to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, north to south or east to west, they had to go through the routes,” the President had stated.
However, Soyinka in his reaction described the statement of the President as “disturbing”. According to him, it seems that the President was not listening to the cry of citizens in wanting an urgent end to the herders-farmers conflict.
In his words, “There is a case of which 50% of the country and their representatives saying that within this Constitution we are operating, we are saying we don’t want open grazing anymore and then somebody sits in Aso Rock and says to them, ‘oh well there is a kind of Constitution I am instructing my Attorney General to dig up some kind of law, colonial law which arbitrated between farmers and herders.
“So I am instructing him to dig up some old documents, so that I can recover on behalf of a certain private business the whole routes.’ Which means that he is not listening to what people are saying, he is not listening to what the Governors representing them are saying. He is saying, ‘I am going to restore those routes by referring to some colonial agreements.’ When I listen to a thing like that, I am really disturbed. It is an instructive statement.
“This is the language of a leader who felt he’s on a roller coaster, a leader feeling he is on top on his head where everybody from all quarters, north, south, east, west, people on the streets, the professionals, intellectuals, foreign governments are saying the country is on a nose dive…. That is why he is able to say, ‘I haven’t heard what everybody is saying and I am going to reinstate the whole route through some old documents’. The leader is not listening and if the leader is not listening that means he is not engaging in a democratic means, that is where the danger is.”
Soyinka, who strongly advocated for June 12 as Nigeria’s democracy day commended Buhari for listening to the demands of the people by changing the democracy day from May 29 and declaring June 12 as the day to commemorate democracy in the country.
The Nobel Laureate also decried the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the federal government, stating that the government has truncated a channel of self expression among citizens.
While suspending the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, the Minister for Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, said the microblogging and social networking platform has been used to persistently undermine Nigeria’s corporate existence.
However, Soyinka in his reaction said: “In truncating the various channels of self expression open any populace, you are absolutely abrogating the very essence of democracy. Democracy is not a sequence of symbolic gestures such as restoring June 12 as the democracy day. That is purely symbolic. It is an act of restoration. I have read comments about people saying “it was all a deceit”, how can there be a deceit when it was never a reality.
“That restoration was obviously a symbolic gesture which is very calculative by the way. However, it has to be manifest consistently and without exception in the act. When you truncate any channel of self expression of the people, you have literally become an enemy of democracy. It is obvious, it is so plain.”
Meanwhile, the Senator representing Osun Central Senatorial District, Dr Ajibola Basiru, in an interview in The Punch, said the President lacked legal and constitutional powers to revive the old grazing routes, anywhere in the country.
Basiru, who holds a doctoral degree in Property Law, spoke to the newspaper in his capacity as the Senator representing the Osun Central Senatorial District and as a Nigerian who is knowledgeable in the area of constitutional law.
The Senator clarified that the issue of grazing routes was not known to the Nigerian constitution and that Buhari did not have any power to direct the implementation of any law that was alien to the country’s legal books.
He explained that the gazette that Buhari was referring to was a product of a decree promulgated in the northern Nigeria in the 1960s, arguing that the Land Use Act, which is recognised by the Nigerian constitution, had rubbished the so-called grazing routes gazette.
He stated that the Land Use Act had transferred to state governments, the sole power to legislate on use of land for any purpose, including grazing.
Basiru said it was only governors of the northern part of the country that could individually make laws to identify grazing routes because the gazette, which Buhari referred to, had become obsolete.
He said, “Nigerians do not need to criticise the President for making that statement, rather, they should find out whether the President had actually been properly advised by his Attorney General and the legal team.
“Nigerians should be concerned over whether the Nigerian President is actually getting the correct legal advice from his Attorney General and the legal team.
“As far as I am concerned, as a legal practitioner, there is nothing like grazing routes or grazing reserve law, in the laws of the Federation of Nigeria. There is nothing like that.
“There is no federal legislation that the President can implement over such matter.
“The executive powers of the President merely rely on the powers of the National Assembly to make laws, when you look at Section 5 of the Constitution.
“Any area where the National Assembly cannot make laws, and there is no express grants of powers to the President under the Constitution, a purported exercise of power by the President in that regard, will be null and void because it is inconsistent with the Constitution by Section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
“I have painstakingly looked at the laws of the Federation of Nigeria and I did not see a copy of any law that is called federal grazing law, or grazing Act or any other title relating to the issue.
“I am aware that there is a northern Nigerian law on reserve and grazing routes which was promulgated by a 1964 decree by the Premier of the defunct Northern Nigeria region.
“It is not a federal law unless the legal adviser to Mr President is equating a Northern Nigeria law, which is not applicable in the West, Mid-West, and Eastern region or in anywhere in the southern part of Nigeria, to be a federal or a Nigerian law.
“The President does not have the power to implement that law because it is not a federal law.
“He can only implement federal legislation made by the National Assembly or deemed to have been made by the National Assembly.
“The grazing routes law is not a National Assembly law, so there is nothing for the President to implement.
“It is regrettable that the President has not been properly advised by his Attorney General and the legal team.
“If anybody will implement any law, it is the states where those routes are applicable that could do so.
“Grazing routes law is not applicable in any state in the southern Nigeria. The southern Nigeria has its own law on cattle.
“It is unfortunate when we have a situation whereby the President of Nigeria is being misadvised by his legal and policy team, for whatever reason it is.
“There has been informed legal opinion on this issue. So there is no federal law regarding grazing routes.
“Even by the allocation of power, under the Nigerian legislation, the National Assembly and by virtue of that, the President does not have power to do anything about grazing routes.
“This is because the management of land in the entire territory of a state, by Section one of the Land Use Act, is vested in the Gov