The Nigerian Bar Association and some Senior Advocates of Nigeria on Thursday said the Federal Government lacked the power to dabble into land matters.
While they doubted the existence of any gazette on grazing routes recently referred to by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), they said the Land Use Act overrides it even if it exists.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Rapulu Nduka, and the SANs spoke in separate telephone interviews with our correspondents on Thursday.
Recall that the President, in an interview with Arise Television on Thursday, said he had directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to bring out a First Republic gazette which marked out grazing routes in all parts of the country.
But the NBA spokesman, Nduka, said the Federal Government lacked the power to dabble into land matters that was within the purview of the state government.
He said, “Every lawyer knows that with the Land Use Act, every land belongs to the governor of a state. The governors of the states hold it in trust for their people. It is held in trust for the people by the governor of the state. So, why will the Federal Government take it upon itself to be talking about this issue?
“I have not seen the gazette. As a lawyer, I cannot be making argument until I see the gazette. But like I said, the governors of the state are the ones with the power over land.
“Cattle rearing is private business, and not a government venture. Anybody who wants to rear cattle should go and buy land. It is as simple as that. Buy land or lease land and do ranching. What is difficult about that?
“This is what the Federal Government should be encouraging, not every day we are talking about grazing routes.
“The impression the Federal Government is trying to create is that some sections of Nigeria are against herdsmen or cattle rearing, but that is not the truth. Everybody has freedom of movement, everybody also has freedom to acquire property, and nobody is stopping them.”
When asked if the gazette mentioned by the President existed, he said “I don’t know if such gazette exists. But if the President says so, until we see the purported gazette; that we can still be discussing grazing routes in the 21st century is worrisome.”
No gazette operates length and breadth of Nigeria – Ozekhome
Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), agreed with Nduka that the Land Use Act overrides any gazette.
Ozekhome said, “There is no such gazette that operates or operated across the entire length and breadth of Nigeria. Even if there was, the Land Use Act overrides it because it has constitutional flavour and imprimatur in Section 315.
“By virtue of Section 1 of the Land Use Act, all lands in states belong to the state governors, to be held in trust for the people. Indeed, the Federal Government has to request lands from states as it does not own lands in states.”
Also, Remi Olatubora (SAN) said the Federal Government could not designate a grazing route where none existed.
He said, “Before the passage of the Land Use Act in 1978, different land tenure and land management systems operated in Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria. While the land management law of Northern Nigeria created grazing routes, the land management laws of the Southern states did not. That accounted for the reason why ranching was practised as a system of animal husbandry in the South.
“There are also evident in the criminal law regime applicable in southern Nigeria in support of the proposition that it is a crime to do open grazing in any of the southern states. The Land Use Act enacted uniform regime of land ownership, management and administration throughout Nigeria. It vests in the governor of each state ownership, management and control over all land within the territory of each state.
“The Land Use Act is incorporated in the constitution and it is clearly entrenched constitution in the sense that it can only be amended by a special majority of the National Assembly and with the support of not less than 24 of the 36 State assemblies.
“In effect, the Federal Government of Nigeria acting, either through the President or any other federal authorities, cannot designate a grazing route, where none existed.
“My humble advice to the Attorney General of the Federation is to advise his client (the President) to request the governor of any state where he intends to create grazing routes that you cannot revoke the right of occupancy of the citizen for the purpose of giving the land to the private commercial interests of another sets of citizens.”
Also, Norrison Quakers (SAN) said the laws regarding the control of lands in Nigeria were contained in the Land Use Act.
Quackers said, “If I am not mistaken, you have Section 1 and 2 of the Land Use Act explaining that the control of lands is a power of state governors who have the sole authority over lands in their territories.
“However, Section 28 states that the Federal Government can forcefully take over lands for issues of federal interests on special occasions. Though I am not sure that in the explanation of the section, you will see something like cattle grazing. So, in summary, lands are under the control of state governments.
“As regards the gazette, a gazette is a publication of the law and you need to understand that the Land Use Act contains the law binding the use of lands in Nigeria, and it has been made public for all to see.
“If perhaps there is a gazette that speaks on grazing routes, it must have been made public at some point, there must have been individuals who have sighted it. But for now, the Land Use Act has annulled every pre-existing gazette on land matters.”
Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) said the gazette existed in the North.
He stated, “Gazettes are legal notices or documents that contain anything that would be published in it. Obviously in the North, it is very common; market places, cattle routes are gazette; if you check the laws in the northern part of the country, to protect them.
“Usually, when the government wants to possess or acquire lands, there are processes that should be followed. The Federal Government can get or possess lands through the state government. This does not mean it cannot possess one, the FG needs to follow due process and the purpose must be in the public interest.”
Rasheed Adegoke (SAN) also faulted Buhari. He said, “The statement made by the President referring to grazing routes and the ‘rights’ of herdsmen to open grazing is not well-informed. It is unfortunate that the President is not aware that there is no such law that sustains grazing routes for animals or herdsmen in Nigeria.
“The fons et origo of our laws is the constitution which has integrated the Land Use Act as one of the Acts of the National Assembly that can only be amended in line with the amendment provisions applicable to the Constitution itself.
“In this regard, the law regulating use and management of land in Nigeria today is the Land Use Act which has vested land in the governors of each state. The Federal Government does not own land the same way the governor owns land.
“Thus, the Federal Government cannot appropriate land in any part of Nigeria except in accordance with the Land Use Act which requires the Federal Government to go through the governors and it must be for overriding public interest like building a hospital, constructing roads, dams etc. The Federal Government cannot instruct the Attorney General to go and retrieve land for grazing of animals which is a personal business of herdsmen or cattle rearers. There is no law in Nigeria today that preserves grazing routes for animals.”
Another SAN, Ifedayo Adedipe, stated, “I am not aware of a federal gazette that marks Nigeria across the six geopolitical zones with grazing routes. As I understand it, during the First Republic, there were some grazing routes in the North but not in the entire country.
“If the President is sure that a gazette exists, which maps out grazing routes across the whole of Nigeria, then he should produce it. What worries me the most is the fact that the President seems so fixated on this grazing issue involving the Fulani. He is the President of Nigeria for crying out loud, not the President of the Fulani. His position on this issue is so embarrassing.”
Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), berated the Federal Government. He said, “Land, in itself, is not a federal issue. The control of land is vested in the governor of each state as provided under the Land Use Act. The Federal Government has no power to interfere in any land matter, except where it concerns the Federal Capital Territory.
“I think it is a very simple and straightforward matter. Open grazing is archaic and we should not be talking about it in 2021. As a matter of fact, open grazing constitutes cruelty to animals and it should not be encouraged at all.”
Adegboyega Awomolo, (SAN), told The PUNCH that Nigerians should be guided by the Land Use Act.
He stated, “In my view, the Land Use Act, which has become part of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has changed the narrative and objectives of the whole issue. I believe we should all be guided according to its provisions.”
Grazing reserves: FCT, 22 states register, seven provide 400,000-hectares, says FG
Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Thursday said 22 states and the Federal Capital Territory had registered for the National Livestock Transformation Plan as part of measures aimed at establishing grazing reserves.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, who stated this at the 44th National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development, in Abuja, said seven of the states had mapped out 400,000 hectares of land for grazing reserves.
Nanono said this as Acting Director, Animal Husbandry Department in the ministry, Winnie Lai-Solarin, said the 19 northern states, Oyo and Ogun states were among states that had registered for the NLTP
The Spokesperson for the Senate, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, on his part, challenged the Husbandry Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to produce grazing reserves gazettes which it claimed, were in 21 states of the federation including Oyo and Ogun states.
According to a report on Thursday, the department said there were grazing routes in 21 states including Ogun and Oyo.
Basiru in while responding to The PUNCH’s enquiries, faulted the ministry’s claims
He said, “Let them (Ministry officials) send copies of the laws and the gazetted locations to me.”
Western Region created farm settlements in Oyo not grazing routes – Makinde
Also, the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, said there was no grazing route in the state.
Makinde, while responding to an inquiry by one of our correspondents through his Chief Press Secretary, Taiwo Adisa, said on Thursday that he was not aware of any grazing route or grazing reserve anywhere in the state.
He said, “ I am not aware of any grazing route in Oyo State. The Western Region, which gave birth to Oyo State was not known for cattle grazing.
“Rather the leaders of the Western Region set up farm settlements which had spaces for ranches. So, it is not likely that Oyo State, would have made provisions for grazing routes.”