Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja in which he blamed the incessant killings by armed herdsmen and other militias on Federal Government’s alleged inaction.
In his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/114/2018, which he filed on January 31, 2018, he asked the court to declare the incessant killings of innocent persons by the armed herdsmen across the country as illegal and unconstitutional.
The lawyer also asked the court to compel the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to disarm and prosecute suspected herdsmen who had taken part “in the murder of unarmed citizens” across the country.
He stated that the Federal Government “decided in 2016 to disarm all herdsmen but has failed to do so.”
According to the plaintiff, “the Federal Government of Nigeria has failed or refused to establish the ranches thereby further and unwittingly encouraging and stoking farmers/herdsmen clashes across Nigeria.”
He said the House of Representatives recently decided to probe the diversion of the sum of N110bn made available to some state governments for the establishment of ranches but such states refused to establish them.
He stated that “armed herdsmen have killed several people in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Cross River, Enugu, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau, Adamawa, Taraba, and other states of the federation.”
But the AGF had, in his response, asked the court to dismiss the suit, contending that the killings were not due to the Federal Government’s negligence, adding that the human rights lawyer had no evidence to show that the alleged killings were by herdsmen.
Malami added in his opposition to the suit that for it to be accepted that “persons have been killed as a result of herdsmen killings due to the negligence of the Federal Government, there must be sufficient evidence and particulars before my lord, establishing the names of the persons killed, their identities, the cause of death and the negligence of the Federal Government leading to the alleged deaths of the persons.”
In urging the court to dismiss the suit, Malami said in his response filed on March 8, 2018, “This, my lord, the plaintiff has failed to supply before this honourable court.”
Falana had, through his lawyer, Mrs. Funmi Falana, filed the suit in the wake of the killings of 73 persons by herdsmen in Benue State.
He joined the AGF, the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Chief Audu Ogbeh, and the IG as respondents.
He stated in an affidavit deposed to by a litigation clerk in his law firm, Mr. Paul Ochai, and filed in support of the suit, that “the respondents have failed or refused to arrest and prosecute the members of the armed gangs who are killing and terrorising the Nigerian people and foreigners living in Nigeria in the Federal Capital Territory and all the states of the federation.”
According to the plaintiff, “between December 2017 and January 2018, Benue State lost 73 people due to violence unleashed on them by armed herdsmen.”
He added that “the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, recently disclosed that over 800 Fulani people were killed by armed militias in Taraba State last year.”
“Instead of disarming the AK47-bearing herdsmen and militias who have been terrorising he country, the Department of State Services has said that foreign terrorists are responsible for the incessant violent clashes between farmers and herdsmen in Nigeria,” Falana stated.
Falana said he had on several occasions “narrowly escaped accidents caused by cows that are allowed to stray into the Abuja airport road due to the negligence of the respondents.”
The SAN also said he had “had to manoeuvre carefully to avoid cows that usually stray into highways and other roads in the Federal Capital Territory and other states of the federation.”
He therefore asked the court to declare “the killing of several Nigerian people by armed herdsmen in the Federal Capital Territory and in all the states of the federation since 2015 as illegal and unconstitutional as it violates the fundamental right of the deceased to life guaranteed by sections 14(2)(b), 15(3)(b), and 33 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
But the AGF has asked the court to dismiss the suit.
In the counter-affidavit and written address filed on his behalf by Mrs. Maimuna Shiru of the Federal Ministry of Justice, the AGF said Falana failed to provide evidence to show that those murdered were killed by herdsmen and militias.
The AGF added that Falana had failed to provide any evidence that identified persons had been killed by herdsmen as a result of the Federal Government’s negligence.
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