ANTI-GRAZING AND SHARIA LAW: TWO PRODUCTS OF STATE LEGISLATION
When Zamfara State instituted the Sharia legal system On the 27th of January, 2000, people within and outside the state respected the Right of the Zamfara State House of Assembly to make laws for the state. Yes, some people protested,as it was a religious law, and Nigeria is a secular state. They wanted to know about the law, but when explanations were given, the complaints seized. Zamfara State has been under Sharia law since then, it has sharia courts all over the state.
Kano State emulated Zamfara by instituting the sharia legal system on the 21st of June, 2000,while Bauchi State also did same on the 21st of June 2001.States like Sokoto, Katsina, Jigawa, Kebbi, Yobe followed in implementing the sharia law, While states like Kaduna, Gombe, and Niger have implemented the sharia legal system in some parts with large Muslim populations.
While this states have been under Sharia law as passed by the their respective State Houses of Assembly, nobody has ever threatened them or prevented them from practicing the law passed by their legislators.
Even when Sani Yakubu was convicted of killing a woman and her two young children during a robbery at their home in the northern state of Katsina, and was hanged at a prison in Kaduna on the 3rd of January, 2002,nobody protested or complained as sharia law was duly recognized by the citizens of the States involved.
When Amina Lawal Kurami On the 22nd of March 2002, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery and for conceiving a child out of wedlock by a sharia court in Funtua, Katsina state by one Judge against the the three required to be present before a conviction, and the person she identified as the father of the child was not prosecuted for lack of evidence and deemed innocent by the court without any DNA tests, we still respected the decision of the sharia court as the state was under sharia law. the law was not branded as ‘wicked or obnoxious’. Amina Lawal had to approach the Sharia Court of Appeal twice before her death sentence was overturned on the basis that her Right to proper defense was not ensured, only one Judge was present for her conviction, and two other reasons. The fact that her sympathizers globally stood by her to approach the sharia Court of Appeal amounts to respect for the sharia law.
The implementation of the sharia law saw some people relocate to other cities/states, especially those who were involved in business ventures(sale of liquor, etc) that were Haram(forbidden) under sharia law. Those who stayed back conducted themselves within the dictates of the law. Personally, I witnessed a sharia court session in Kawo, Kaduna North Local Government area of Kaduna state.
In Kano State, we have seen where Hisbah Guards(morality police) have arrested many people suspected to be offenders under the sharia law. They conduct raids on Hotels, arrest people, and destroy liquor. Those arrested always subject themselves to whatever punishment that is meted out to them, as it is a law duly passed by the State House of Assembly, and assented to by the State Governor.
Today, the Benue State House of Assembly has passed the Anti-Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Bill, Governor Samuel Ortom has signed it into law,sensitization on the law has been done, and is still going on. The purpose of the Anti-Open Grazing Law is to protect herders from rustling, and farmers from invasion and attacks. The people of the state, whose representatives made the law have accepted the law, in fact, they can’t wait for the implementation to start.
The President of the cattle Breeders Association, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello, described the Anti-Open Grazing Law as “wicked, obnoxious and repressive.”
The National Secretary of the Cattle Breeders, Engr Salleh Hassan has issued threats and promised to resist the implementation of the law. To make it worst, they have called on all Fulani men to converge on the Benue Valley from the 1st of November, 2017, the day the Anti-Open Grazing Law is expected to come into force,six months after it was passed.
I am not drawing a comparison between the Anti- Grazing Law and the Sharia law, I only used the sharia Law to remind those opposing the Anti-Grazing Law that when their State Houses of Assembly passed the sharia law, we never threatened them, even though some of the things forbidden under the law affected the lifestyle, business and financial fortunes of many people. We respected the sharia law because it was what the people wanted, the State House of Assembly did what the people wanted, and the Governor(s) signed it into law.
In Benue State today,The continuous loss of lives and property in Benue due to farmers and herders clashes can no longer be allowed to continue. Benue as the Food Basket of the Nation has not been able to produce to feed it’s population in recent years, largely due to the clashes between farmers and herders, which has led to attacks on villages in Benue State, leading to the loss of several lives and property worth not less than N95 billion between 2012-2016.
Pained by the continuous attacks and loss of lives and property , the people of the state through their representatives passed the Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Bill ,which applies to all animals, indigenes and non-indigenes resident in the state. The Governor who is also the people’s Governor signed it into law.
Let it be known that The “ Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017” was enacted by the elected representatives of the people, the Benue State House of Assembly in exercise of her powers as provided for by section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Part 2 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution reinforces the House of Assembly’s power by providing that “a House of Assembly may make Laws for that State with respect to industrial, commercial or agricultural development of the State.”
Their is a popular saying that, “one good turn deserves another.” All we ask is for all to respect the decision of the people of Benue State as spoken through their elected representatives and the Governor, Samuel Ortom.
We respected, and still respect Sharia law anywhere it has been adopted. We call on others too to respect our Anti-Open Grazing law, as ranching is the best practice worldwide today. The law is also the only permanent solution to cattle rustling, it also protects farmers from invasion and attacks, and the law is not targeted at anyone,as both farmers and herders are protected under the Benue State Anti-Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law.
Written by David Mzer