By Afeez Olajide
Without sentiment, it is evident that Nigeria is currently grappling with widespread insecurity that has engulfed all regions of the nation. Iniquitous acts such as killings, maiming, looting, kidnappings, robberies, and banditry continue unabated. The primary cause of this relentless wave of insecurity is the failure to respond promptly when the iron is hot.
These acts of insecurity, having pervaded the Northern part of the country, stealthily spread their grip to every corner of the Western part of the country, leaving communities in a state of unrest and pandemonium. These iniquitous acts are queer, atypical and unfitting for our country. A telling example is the audacious siege by herdsmen on Soro forest in Igbeti, Kishi, and Igboho areas; a situation that was thwarted through the intervention of the military. The communities, local security men, and Nigerian forces, with the assistance of the State Government, further took decisive steps to combat this menace.
However, this situation has sparked divisive discussions among the people, and the question which is begging for answers, is whether apprehending or preventing these dismay incidents is the duty of the Governor or individuals?
Before delving into the question at hand and its underlying reasoning, it is imperative to provide a brief overview of the distinctive character of Nigeria, as it holds paramount significance at this juncture.
Nigeria is a diverse nation with various ethnic groups, each having its distinct values, norms, beliefs, standards, and livelihoods. What is apparently peculiar to the Yoruba tribes is that they have a deep-rooted agrarian heritage that dates back to antiquity, while the distinguished peculiarity of the ancient Fulanis is nomadic.
Without mincing words, in the late 90s to early 2000s, there was little or no rift between the farmers and herders in pursuing their occupations in the western region, let alone infringements on individual rights. However, from 2000 onward to the present day, a significant escalation of conflicts ensued as herders consistently violated the rights of farmers. The herders have persistently engaged in a series of alarming activities, including but not limited to killings, kidnappings, the destruction of agricultural produce, and the extortion of money, goods, and property from the native inhabitants of the communities.
These conflicts, among other concerns, have led to the crusade and agitation for the evacuation of Fulanis from the Western part of the country due to their unyielding stance and increasingly unbearable actions. Consequently, an ultimatum was issued for Fulanis to leave Igangan, Ayete in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State.
It is with respect to this, that I peer into the Constitutionality or otherwise of these actions, inactions and reactions.
First and foremost, every citizen of Nigeria enjoys fundamental rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution of Nigeria. The provision of section 41 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (hereafter CFRN) is to the effect that every citizen of the country has the right to move freely and reside in any part of the country. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that these rights can be restricted in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, and other legitimate concerns, as articulated in section 45 of the Constitution. This is especially pertinent when the rights to life, personal liberty, dignity, and freedom of movement of others have been grossly and gravely violated.
In essence, Fulanis possess the right to move, particularly given their nomadic heritage. Nevertheless, in exercising this right, they have encroached upon the rights of other people by trespassing on farmlands, perpetrating acts of violence, kidnapping, looting, raping, and various other vices, particularly in the south-western part of the nation. These countless transgressions have fueled growing frustration and driven individuals to resort to self-help to knock off the rampant violence, as government intervention has often been slow and insufficient.
It is as a result of this fact, that a question has been lingering in the atmosphere, and this question is: Who bears the duty of curbing these atrocities and insecurities in our communities?
Without doubt, our Constitution is the bedrock of our legal system, with its authority superseding all other laws in the country. In this context, the control and maintenance of security are entrusted to the Executive branch (as per Section 5 [1-2] of the CFRN), with a mandate to exercise this power judiciously, cautiously, and conscientiously. As a consequence of the failure of the authorities to take appropriate action, individuals have felt compelled to assume matters into their own hands.
In conclusion, the Constitution guarantees and safeguards the human rights of individuals in Nigeria, but these rights must be exercised without infringing upon the rights of others. Ultimately, the power to address and resolve the pressing issue of insecurity resides with the Executive, whether the President or Governor, who must wield this power with swiftness and resolve to protect their citizens. It is only through timely and decisive action that the iron of insecurity can be struck while it remains hot, saving countless lives and ensuring the security of our nation.
—Photo by geralt via Pixabay