BY GEORGE OKOJIE, Lagos
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN has urged the Federal Government to halt the lamentation about influx of foreign armed herders into the country, saying certain protocols of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) allows the government to shut out armed foreign herders.
The legal luminary in a statement said it was high time the Federal Government prohibited the influx of armed herders into the country.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed recently said some of the bandits and criminal herdsmen terrorising the country are foreigners, saying the federal government is seeking an amendment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on free movement of human and cattle within the sub-region.
Apparently reacting to the statement Falana picked holes in Mohammed’s claim affirming that the ECOWAS protocol does not permit the uncontrolled entry of armed herders into Nigeria.
According to him the major problem is lack of, “ostensive lack of enforcement of extant laws”, adding that the government can prohibit the movement of cattle and herders into the country pursuant to section 20 of the animal disease act.
He said, “With respect, the ECOWAS Protocol A/P.1/5/79 Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment (Free Movement Protocol) does not permit any form of trans border banditry and illegal possession of arms and ammunition.
“Instead of seeking a review or an amendment of the Protocol, the Federal Government should take advantage of Article 4 thereof which states that ‘Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 3 above, Member States shall reserve (the right to refuse admission into their territory any Community citizen who comes within the category of inadmissible immigrant under its laws.
“It is submitted that such restrictive domestic inadmissibility laws allow Nigeria to invoke her domestic laws to deal with the menace of trans border criminality traced to armed herders and bandits.
“One of such domestic laws is the Animal Diseases (Control) Act (Cap. A17) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 that provides for the importation and exportation of animals, surveillance of importation, seizure or destruction of animals, control of trade animals e.t.c. among other things.
“Specifically, the Act states that the importation of any animal, animal products or biologics into Nigeria from any other country by land, sea or air is prohibited except under a permit granted by the Director who in each case shall state the conditions under which the animal, hatching eggs or poultry may be imported.
“Another relevant legislation is the Firearms Act (Cap. R11) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 which provides that no person shall have in his possession or under his control any firearm except in accordance with a licence granted by the President acting in his discretion or except in accordance with a licence granted in respect thereof by the Inspector-General of Police.
“Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of the Firearms Act is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a minimum sentence of ten years or five years imprisonment depending on the provision(s) breached.
“As a matter of urgency, the Federal Government should direct immigration officials to prevent armed herders from entering the country while the Police should be allowed to arrest and prosecute herders caught with arms without licences.”