Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) has faulted Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed’s stance on grazing Fulani herdsmen in the Southern part of the country.
In a statement made available to journalists on Saturday February 20, Falana insinuated that it was hypocritical for Bala Mohammed who demolished people’s houses because they encroached on government land as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, to say that herdsmen have a right to stray into people’s land and reside in forest reserves without government permission.
The lawyer who also wondered why the Governor who defended herdsmen carrying AK-47 rifles could go on to demolish a house storing such guns, averred that Section 43 of the constitution allows freedom of movement but does not give anyone the freedom to settle anywhere.
“Under the Bala Mohammed administration in the FCT, thousands of houses were demolished on the grounds that they were illegally built on landed properties belonging to the Federal Government.
“The ex-minister wanted to demolish the entire Mpape housing over a million people. He had claimed that the owners of the various properties had trespassed on the land belonging to the Federal Government.
“The people whose properties had been marked for demolition briefed our law firm to seek legal redress. On behalf of the community, we approached the FCT High Court for urgent intervention. In an epochal judgment delivered the Justice Kutigi, the planned demolition was halted.
“Governor Bala Mohammed has ordered that a house being used as a den of criminal activities in Bauchi and ordered that 1,000 rifles found therein be confiscated. But the same governor said last week that herders be allowed to bear AK 47 rifles illegally in spite of overwhelming evidence that the weapons are being used to take over farmlands, kidnap people and rape women.
“So if the building warehousing 1000 AK-47 rifles in Bauchi was demolished Governor Bala Mohammed why is he asking Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to allow herders armed with scores of AK-47 rifles to operate in Ondo State without licences issued the appropriate authorities?”
Falana further asked Bala to stop deceiving herdsmen, while querying him for mounting pressure on corporate bodies engaged in the exploration of crude oil in Alkaleri Local Government to pay compensation to members of Baranbo community but claiming that land belongs to no one when Fulani herdsmen are asked to vacate forest reserves in Ondo state.
“Governor Bala Mohammed should stop misleading herders to acquire land for cattle business without complying with the Land Use Act, Urban and Regional Law, Forestry Law, Anti Grazing Law in the affected states.
“In particular, the attention of the governor ought to be drawn to Section 42 (1) (e) and (g) of the Forestry Law Cap 56 Laws of Ondo State, 2006 which provides that whoever in any forest reserve, except with the authority in writing of the prescribed officer, digs, cuts, turns or cultivates the soil or makes a farm or plantation; pastures cattle or permits cattle to trespass or trespasses in any part of a forest reserves in which trespass shall be prohibited an order of the governor or during any period specified in an order of the Governor shall be liable on summary conviction as the court may impose or to imprisonment for five years or to both.”