Dele Awogbeoba, a political analyst, writes on the announcement by the chief of army staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai that the Nigerian Army is setting up grazing reserves in their barracks in all states of the federation.
From 1967, Nigeria has been operating a federal system of government. Under civilian rule, that has ensured that power is dispersed between the federal, state and local governments. Each layer of government have their own powers distinct from the other.
State governments have the power to regulate economic activity and commerce within its state borders. The army, Navy and Airforce have to abide by local , state and federal law especially as it pertains to commercial activities outside of its core duties of the protection of the state from external aggression and the protection of the state from internal terrorist actors.
In that vein, it is highly curious that the chief of army staff, General Tukur Buratai would announce an intention to set up grazing reserves within its barracks located in states of the federation. It is also curious that of all activities that may be embarked upon within barracks, the army will choose to ranches as its chosen field with which to allow dependents of its rank and file to embark upon on Army property.
It is clearly a method designed to circumvent the resistance of the country to the establishment of ranches throughout the country for the benefit of a single ethnic group.
The solution, in my mind, is very clear. Those states that have decided to pass laws preventing grazing within states unless in designated areas, should make it clear in their laws that Army, Naval and Airforce Barracks shall not be deemed to be a designated area for the purposes of the law. It should also prescribe a 10 year prison sentence for the commander of that Cantonment and if that officer was compelled by a senior officer to permit such activity then that senior officer will be liable to be sentenced to that prison term. Additionally, if the Chief of Army staff had been notified and had failed to give orders to the commanding officer of the offending barracks then that army chief must also be liable to that same 10 year prison term.
States should not be cowed. This is a civilian government and there is true federalism in place. The states simply need to give effect to the dichotomy of power between the state and the federal government.
The army , over the last few years, have been an embarrassment to Nigerians as credible fighting force. It is better that it expends its energy improving upon its core area of specialism rather than acting on the behest of the interests of a single tribe in Nigeria.
Dele Awogbeoba is a political commentator. He can be reached via email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.