In reaction to the controversy surrounding plans by President Muhammadu Buhari to revive the old cattle grazing routes to enable herders to move freely, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru said, Nigerians do not need to criticize the president for embarking on such plan; rather, what Nigerians should be concerned about is whether he had actually been properly advised by his Attorney General and the legal team.
The Senator was emphatic that there is nothing like grazing routes or grazing reserve law in the laws of the Federation of Nigeria. He stated that the executive powers of the President are merely coterminous with the powers of the National Assembly to make laws in line with Section 5 of the Constitution. Any area where the National Assembly cannot make laws, and there is no express grant of powers to the President under the Constitution, any purported exercise of power by the President in that regard will be null and void, because it is inconsistent with Section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
When reminded that it is very unlikely that the chief law officer of the federation will not know that there is no law that deals with the issue of grazing routes in the nation’s constitution, the Senator said, “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.”
However, he admitted 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.
Basiru categorically stated that unless the legal advisers of the President are equating a northern Nigeria law, which is not applicable in the West, Mid-West and Eastern region as it were, with a federal or a Nigerian law.
He added that the President does not have the powers to implement that law, because it is not a federal law. By Section 5 of the Constitution, the executive at the federal level can only implement federal legislation made by the National Assembly or deemed to have been made by the National Assembly. The grazing route law is not a National Assembly law; so, there is nothing for the President to implement.
According to Basiru, it is regrettable that the President has not been properly advised by his Attorney-general and the legal team. He therefore advised that they should go and check their facts, stressing that it is the states where those routes are applicable that can implement the law.
“Grazing routes law is not applicable in any state in southern Nigeria. Southern Nigeria has its own law on cattle and other related matters. With respect, it is unfortunate that we have a situation whereby the President of a country is being misadvised by his legal and policy teams for whatever reason it is.” He said,
On the possibility that the National Assembly could initiate and pass a bill to address the issue of grazing routes and then get Mr. President to sign it into law, Senator Basiru said, by virtue of the allocation of powers under the Nigerian law, the National Assembly has no powers to make laws on land use and management. Anything on grazing reserves or grazing routes is about land use and management, which is not within the competence of the Federal Government but solely vested in the state government by Section 1 of the Land Use Act.
To buttress his point, the Senator cited Sections 1 and 2 of the Land Use Act. Section 1 reads: ‘Subject to the provisions of this Act, all land contrite in the territory of each state in the federation are hereby vested in the governor of that state and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act’.
Section 2 states: ‘As from the commencement of this Act, all lands in the urban areas shall be under the control and management of each state and all other land shall, subject to this Act, be under the control and management of the local government within the areas of jurisdiction on which the land is situated’.
Senator Basiru concluded that the control and management of land is a state matter between the states and the local governments. It is, therefore, ultra vires to dabble into the issue of land use, management and control, which the issue of grazing routes is concerned with.