Cow Rights, Spare Parts Dealers, Killer Herdsmen And Human Rights By Law Mefor

It is interesting to note that none of the topmost twenty nations that produce or export cows worldwide engage in open grazing and Nigeria is not one of them. Nigeria has refused to raise cattle in confined areas, such as ranches, for political reasons.


Speaking on the proposal by senate to limit cow movement between states, Senator Adamu Aliero, the senator from Kebbi Central, claimed that those who sell spare parts throughout Nigeria have never faced restrictions. He maintained that the herders’ freedom would be violated and their means of subsistence would be disrupted by any attempt to limit their ability to move their animals wherever they may. In addition, he claimed that restricting these commercial endeavours would violate the fundamental right to free movement, which is essential for conducting business.


In that interview with Arise TV, he stated, “We’re not just talking about ranching here. We are discussing business in general. Nobody is putting any restrictions on the spare parts that certain people are selling throughout Nigeria. They are constantly on the go.”


In the bizarre argument, the most distinguished senator compares the freedom of movement that humans enjoy by virtue of being human to the freedom of cows to roam around with their herders. The senator likened the freedom of movement enjoyed by spare parts dealers—who pay taxes and rent or built their homes and businesses—to the rights of cows to move everywhere.


Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution states, “(1) Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom,” to clear up any confusion. Here, neither cows nor animals are mentioned.


The Penal Code, which is based on Islamic law, specifically prohibits trespassing, saying that it is prohibited to “hunt on someone else’s land, cut down trees without permission, or even tamper with vending machines.”


The Quarantine Act particularly forbids the free movement of cows. Even cows entering Nigeria must be kept in quarantine. The Quarantine Act gives the president or the governor the authority to enact restrictions governing the movement or transportation of cows.


Nigeria’s main problem is simply and dearth of statesmen. Leadership is the key to everything. Furthermore, leadership is a job that is correctly performed to fulfill a specific leadership role rather than a position that someone holds. The so-called leaders of the country have betrayed many hopes, and at each of these pivotal historical moments, politicians have failed to speak up in support of the country and its unity.


The political landscape of the country is riddled with blunders and mishandling of matters of significant national concern. This resulted in mismanagement of the first republic’s politics, whereby leaders schemed to establish their dominance over the rest of the nation rather than to unite and progress as an indivisible whole. Two million Nigerians lost their lives in the country’s first military coup and subsequent Nigerian-Biafra civil war as a result of the first republic’s leaders’ mishandling of national politics from ethnic and religious perspectives.


Sadly, it doesn’t appear that any lessons have been learned. Strong voices on the national scene have continued to come from religious bigots and ethnic champions, whom Aristotle referred to as tribesmen. These individuals are eager to further the limited interests of the ethnic groups they represent at the expense of the nation’s overall interests, which are frequently drowned out.


Great leaders and patriots build nations. These are the kind of patriotic leaders who rise beyond politics to become statesmen, filling the void for their countries. The lack of statesmen guiding Nigeria’s leadership is demonstrated by the fact that 64 years after independence, Nigeria is still having difficulty resolving issues related to nationhood.


Nigeria is still merely a geographical expression as a result of the blundering of individuals who pushed themselves into positions of power and abandoned their country, leaving it a shell of its former self—a nation devoid of statesmen and leaders. That is the tale of Nigeria, a giant with clay feet that is the target of cruel jokes even among other African nations.


Using an operational definition of a statesman as a guide, let’s identify people who meet the criteria in the context of the country’s polity. A recognised, accomplished, and seasoned political leader or figure is referred to as a statesman. A statesman is the antithesis of a politician in most ways. Politicians are perceived as individuals who will say or do anything to advance in their careers or win elections.


A statesman is a person who sacrifices all for the benefit of his nation and its citizens. A person’s integrity is highly regarded when they are referred to as a statesman. Generally speaking, the term “politician” denotes a person of very low moral standing.


A statesman will not compromise his fundamental principles to further his political career. No matter how harsh the criticism, a policy will be changed if it is required for the benefit of the people it serves such as ranching that its time has since come. As stated by Hans J. Morgenthau, author of Politics Among Nations, statesmen see things realistically, as they are. They look at how a policy will affect a nation.


A statesman seeks to educate people so they are capable of coexisting in a democracy, not to rule or control them. A statesman moulds the character and outlook of his or her people in addition to imparting knowledge.


So, who are the statesmen of Nigeria? Why have the leaders of the country been unable to negotiate Nigeria’s nationhood 64 years after the country gained its independence? Why do we only hear North, South, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, and so forth when Nigerian leaders speak? Why is Nigeria not their preoccupation ? How come the nation’s leadership has not been able to deal with basic issues like herdsmen-farmer conflicts if indeed they are working for overall interest of Nigeria and Nigerians?


In addition to open grazing being outdated and causing tensions between farmers and herders in areas where it is still allowed, as in Nigeria, ranching is the contemporary approach to raising cows and persons who ought to be statesmen oppose.


The term “farmer-herder conflict” refers to a variety of relationships, most commonly to resource competition between sedentary farmers and pasturalist herders. Beneath this seemingly benign name, there lurks a complicated network of presumptions, ramifications for ethnic groups, and hidden dynamics. The Fulbe, the largest pasturalist ethnic group in the region, are generally referred to as “herders” in West Africa. This is also how Spare Parts sellers come across as Igbo traders, and Senator Adamu Aliero made a subtle allusion to this fact in his Arise TV interview under reference, even if he did not state it outright.


The violence between farmers and herders has only increased in the last ten years. These disputes are not the product of inherent ethnic divisions, but rather of interconnected external forces that are a problem in Nigeria. Climate change and the ensuing droughts and desertification; migration brought on by the climate and changes in herding patterns; environmental scarcity; population growth; and an increase in extremism in the region that leads to insecurity, weapons proliferation, and displacement are some of the factors causing the conflict.


The truth is that open cattle grazing is outdated and associates herds with crime and environmental damage. Nigeria is not one of the 20 countries that produce cattle worldwide and none of them engage in open grazing. There is to embrace modernity through ranching as a way of addressing killer herdsmen and farmer conflicts—which have led to a food crisis and so much insecurity in Nigeria.


People who compare vendors of spare parts to cattle herders and AK-47 carriers are unaware that the former do not carry weapons, trespass into their hosts’ properties without authorization, destroy their farms, or murder, rape, maim, and abduct their hosts while law enforcement turns a blind eye in most cases.


Someone must inform those who are against ranching that while trading in cows, spare parts, tomatoes, onions, palm oil, potatoes, rice, beans, yam, and other goods is a business transaction, how these goods are moved must be appropriate. If not politics, nothing prevents those opponents of ranching from pushing their people to become ranchers.


A 1969 court ruling established the duty of cow owners and herders to prevent trespassing with their cows. The 1969 Decision of Hon. Justice Adewale Thompson about Open Cattle Grazing – Case No. AB/26/66: “I do not accept the contention of Defendants that a custom exists which imposes an obligation on the owner of the farm to fence his farm whilst the owner of cattle allows his cattle to wander like pests and cause damage. Such a custom if it exists, is unreasonable and I hold that it is repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience and therefore unenforceable… that it is highly unreasonable to impose the burden of fencing a farm on the farmer without the corresponding obligation on the cattle owner to fence in his cattle. Sequence to that I ban open grazing for it is inimical to peace and tranquility and the cattle owners must fence or ranch their animals for peace to rein in these communities.”


In summary, those who oppose ranching and maintain that cows should roam freely, even across farms, wish to prolong the insecurity ravaging Nigeria, which is partly caused by the hostilities between farmers and herders. Open grazing is forbidden by the Quarantine Act, Trespassing laws, and the cited court decision. In Nigeria, open grazing is a major cause of insecurity and is not in line with contemporary methods of cow husbandry. Those defending it are contributing to the problem, not to the solution to insecurity in Nigeria.



· Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; [email protected]; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.

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