As the September 1 target set by the Governors of the 17 states in the Southern part of Nigeria begins, the federal government has been enjoined not to jeopardise the effective enforcement of the law.
The call was contained in a a Press Release signed by Comrade Jare Ajayi, the National Publicity Secretary of the Pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere.
According to him, as the reality begins to dawn that there would no longer be a room for allowing cows to roam about anyhow, the federal government might be tempted to want to use its might to frustrate the efforts of states governments in this regard. This, it can do, by using the police and other security agencies to undermine the enforcement of the said law’.
The spokesman however warned that doing so might be compounding the already bad security situation in the country.
It would be recalled that the 17 Southern States’ Governors at their meeting in Lagos on July 5, 2021, announced that open grazing of cattle would no longer be allowed in their respective states from September 1, 2021. The announcement was received with applause by their people but with reservation by Fulani cattle rearers.
As the take-off date was knocking, it was clear that many states were ready to work their talks going by the way laws to give legal backing to the proclamation have been passed or are in the process of being passed.
Of course, a few, a minute few, were yet to begin the process. As reality in Nigeria has repeatedly shown however, the problem, most of the time, was not in having a legal instrument in place but in enforcing the laws. Unfortunately and regrettably, the chances of its being successfully enforced are slim because of the lopsided nature of the country’s policing system. In Nigeria today, only the Nigerian Police can investigate and prosecute a suspect in a criminal case. Since the police is under the firm control of the federal government, it is possible to use the agency to frustrate the efforts of the states in this respect. For, as reality in Nigeria has repeatedly shown, the problem, most of the time, is not just in having a legal instrument in place but in enforcing the laws.
Enforcement of the law against open grazing is made more difficult when the interest of the powerful is at stake – as is the case on this issue of open grazing of cattle. The disposition of the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari is opposed to the declaration by the Southern Governors. Therein lies the challenges of how the law can be successfully made to work as envisaged.
It is worth recalling however that when some states in the north banned the selling and drinking of alcohol in public, they did not rely on the federally controlled Nigeria Police to enforce the law in their respective states. Rather, they set up what they called Hisbah (local police) to enforce the law. In this wise, it may not be out of place if the states concerned in the South also explore the means of ensuring the compliance of the laws they passed on grazing of cattle.
Incidentally, some states already have an instrument they could use for that purpose. By this one is referring to Amotekun in the South West and Ebube Agu in the South East. These local security networks should be allowed to enforce state laws particularly the one on open grazing. Afterall, the law against the selling and open consumption of alcohol is being enforced by Hisbah in the North. What is good for goose should be good for the gander.