FG’s radio station for herdsmen is illegal, unconstitutional —Falana, Rotimi-Williams, Ubani, others

•Expert warns of grave implication for economy

Scathing criticism and condemnation are mounting against the decision of the Federal Government to establish a radio station to exclusively serve Fulani herdsmen.

Senior Advocates of Nigeria and a communication expert told Saturday Tribune that the move was not only patently illegal and unconstitutional, but the consequences for the nation’s economy would be dire.

Three senior lawyers, Femi Falana, Ladi Rotimi-Williams and Monday Onyekachi Ubani, all ruled the decision illegal, because there was no evidence of due process in sourcing and securing public fund for the project.

They all also agreed that constitutionally, the policy might be breaching critical provisions of the rule book, regarding what the central government should be involved in.

Falana in particular has a lot of harsh words for those trying to resolve criminality with preachment.

He said: “It is illegal, to the point that it was not budgeted for and I also agree that there are languages deemed official. But beyond that, it is totally misleading to want to settle the issue of criminality by preaching to those carrying arms. You can’t resolve the issue of people carrying guns by establishing a radio station. The only solution to the herders issue, is scientific and that solution is ranching like they do in Kenya, Mozambique and even Botswana, a country with a population of 1.76 million people and 2.8 million cattle.

“The herders don’t move around, because it is primitive and dangerous to allow cattle from Sokoto to Lagos.

“The children of the herders even go to school within the ranches and they are the largest producers of meat in Africa. To end violent clashes, no radio station can do it. The encroachment of Sahara desert forced them to move to the South. But there is also Kalahari desert in Botswana but because of ranches, there is no Fulanization allegation. They didn’t establish radio station. Our history doesn’t not support what the government is saying now. Ahmadu Bello’s ranch was in Mokwa, Awolowo’s ranch was in Akunnu in Ondo State, while Zik established the one in Obudu.

“The military destroyed the ranches, created grazing zones, which have been stolen by absentee farmers, many who are generals. Under the Jonathan administration, young people were sent to Botswana to study ranching and were not engaged when they completed their training. There was a certain  N100 billion under Jonathan meant for ranches, which nobody can explain the whereabouts today. Buhari’s administration acquired 55,000 hectares in 11 states for ranches, not a single one has been established. This problem is self-inflicted and it can only be scientifically resolved through ranches. Those who are claiming that there are 1,000 Fulani settlements in the South-West, should please help the people by exposing those settlements, because the claim is doubtful since no one has seen any.

“The Buhari administration is to be fully blamed for abandoning the rule of law, which has created room for bandits, terrorists, armed robbers and kidnappers, to terrorize our people and Section 14 of the constitution says security and welfare of Nogerians  shall be the primary purpose of government.”

For Rotimi-Williams, the move is unconstitutional.

“The money, will it come through parliament? They have to budget for it. They can’t take money from the treasury  without budgeting. It will be divisive. If the Fulani have a radio station, that means Afenifere should have, Ohanaeze should have and we are talking about one Nigeria. If Zamfara wants to speak in Fulani tongue, that may be understandable, but not the Federal Government. Were money even appropriately appropriated for it, the people’s representatives can still kick against it. Even if budgeted for, it is still unconstitutional. It is wrong, illegal and unconstitutional.

“It means we have no confidence in the constitution, that is why we are doing what we are doing. Maybe we should go bak to regionalism, when everybody had their constitution. Boko Haram is an Islamic body. Fulani herdsmen are Muslims or have you heard of Salvation Army or Jehovah witnesses setting fire to mosque? We are not learning anything because history isn’t being taught. We are not going the right way and they are attacking Obasanjo because they don’t like him. They may not like him, but we should look at the message, not the messenger. If you don’t like OBJ, what about Soyinka, he is saying the same thing.”

Ubani’s worry is about the divisive way the government he voted was going.

“My advice is that governments should not divide the country. We should be careful with policy statements. The objective of the radio station isn’t clear. This is the people who have been killing. Would you open a radio station for Boko haram, IPOB, Niger delta militants?

“Who budgeted for the radio project? The objective should be well explained, before people start thinking it is legitimate to cause crisis and havoc and get government to give you what you want. What are they encouraging, that people should break the law? There is so much suspicion in the system.

“We should be a bit more sensitive. I voted for this government and I don’t want it to further polarize the nation. If you are pleasing one section and displeasing others, that can’t be a unifying policy or government.”

An economic expert, financial consultant and Chief Executive  Officer of Wealthgate Advisor, Mr. Adebiyi Adesuyi, stated that the advent of the proposed ethnic radio station, Fulani Radio, will be of dire consequence to the nation’s economy; when it eventually begins operations.

Adesuyi, in an interview with Saturday Tribune, stated that one of the implications of the radio station, is that it would be run with the tax payers’ funds.

“This is particularly worrisome, going by the fact that at this point in time, government should have no business in running any business enterprise, especially at a time when its resources have continued to dwindle. Its focus ought to be about creating that enabling environment for business to thrive,” he argued.

He expressed the belief that since the proposed radio station might not enjoy the type of patronage the regular radio stations enjoy, in terms of advertisement, government would be left with no option but to dip its hands into the nation’s treasury, to ensure its survival.

Adesuyi also counseled other ethnic groups on the need to monitor activities on the proposed radio station, by engaging the services of people within their communities that understand Fulfulde, to ensure they are not caught unawares.

The immediate past chairman of the Board of Directors, Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC), Honourable Kola Akanji,  however described the proposed radio station  as a very good idea, especially if it is carried out in good faith.

Speaking with Saturday Tribune on the controversial issue, Akanji saw nothing wrong in having such a sectional radio station; since there are radio stations, especially foreign ones that conduct programmes in other indigenous  languages, such asYoruba, Hausa and even pidgin.

“As far as I’m concerned, if  the whole thing is done in good faith and with good intention, there is nothing wrong with the idea. Now BBC broadcasts in pidgin and Yoruba Language, because of specific, targeted audience.

“So these are itinerant nomads. They move from one place to the other. So, if you have a radio, giving  different kinds of messages to them wherever they are, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, especially if it is done with good intention.

“There is no way that would affect the cohesion and unity of the country. The VOA broadcasts Hausa language. Has that divided Nigeria?” he asked, rhetorically,  in response to claims that the existence of such a radio station would further impact negatively the fragile cohesion existing among the nation’s different ethnic groups.

The former OSBC boss, however, argued that such radio station should not

be a brand new media outfit.

“I think what they have to do is to use the same FRCN signals, but they will be broadcasting specifically to them. It is what FRCN can do. They don’t have to set up a radio station. If we are going to have a radio station, targeted at the nomads, let FRCN handle it, let it become one of the channels of FRCN,” Hon. Akanji submitted.

The Nigerian Association of Women in Agriculture is another strong stakeholder in the agricultural sector.

The Chief Executive Officer of the association, Mrs Elizabeth Chahul, who is based in Benue State, strongly opposed the move.

She said it was unnecessary as it would definitely not serve the interest of the generality of Nigerians, adding that if the Federal Government was sincere about having effective communication with the herdsmen, it should have used the language that majority of Nigerians understand.

“Or why is the government not also thinking of establishing Tiv or Idoma radio? Or are people in those areas not part of Nigerians? So, there is no need for Fulani radio,” she said.

But the Youth Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture has a different view.

The group, which is also a stakeholder in the agricultural sector, welcomes the initiative, saying the radio station, will serve its purpose if operation is strictly in line with the stated objectives.

The founder, Mr Innocent Ogirinye, in a conversation with Saturday Tribune, said the herdsmen of nowadays are quite different from those of old days, who had nomadic education and that their case is peculiar and should therefore be approach in a unique way.

“There is nothing wrong with coming up with such a radio station,” he stated.

He, however, pointed out that the mode of operations of the station should be guarded so that it would not be abused and used for pecuniary interests contrary to its stated purposes.

According to him, the radio station should not be bringing in people whose comments on issues of public concerns would cause uproar and crisis in the field or elsewhere in the country.

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