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Eight Southern States Set to Enact Anti-Open Grazing Law

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Following the resolution of the 17 governors of the Southern states banning open grazing of cattle in the three geopolitical zones in the South, no fewer than eight states are now set to enact anti-open grazing law to give legislative backing to the governors’ pronouncement, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.

Some of these states include: Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Enugu, Edo, Imo, Ogun, Delta and Anambra,
This is coming as the apex Igbo sociopolitical organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the southern states’ legislatures have declared their support for the resolutions of the 17 southern governors on open grazing and restructuring.

THISDAY, however, gathered that states that already have the anti-open grazing law in place are facing challenges of implementation due to lack of commitment of the Police to enforce the law.
The affected states include: Ekiti, Abia, Ebonyi, Oyo and Bayelsa.
In Ekiti State, the anti-grazing law was passed under the acronym : “Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing Law 2016”.

But the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Funminiyi Afuye, told THISDAY that the federal government’s recalcitrant posture on the creation of State police was stalling the enforcement of the state’s Anti-Open Grazing Law.

Afuye said the law, passed in 2016 under the former Governor Ayodele Fayose, with the present Kayode Fayemi-led government strengthening the law further, could have been better implemented, but for unitary nature of the Nigerian Police.
Afuye appealed to the National Assembly to accede to the request for the creation of State Police in the impending Constitutionl

Review to be undertaken by the 9th National Assembly.
“The police seem to be firmly under the control of the federal even when the governors are the chief security officers. This is an aberration under a federation.

“But if all the states have their own police that can be controlled by the governors, a law like this promulgated by states can be enforced easily.
“But we have the Amotekun Corps that has been trying to checkmate some of these suspected herders destroying our farms and causing food scarcity.”

In Abia State, the anti-open grazing law has been in existence for nearly three years.
THISDAY gathered that the Control of Nomadic Cattle Rearing and Prohibition of Grazing Routes/Reserves Bill 2016 was passed into law by the State House of Assembly in June 2018.

The law provides that the entry of trade cattle into the state shall be by rail or by road haulage.
It further stipulates that movement of trade cattle to major towns in the state shall be by truck, trailers/vehicles or pick-up vans.
It provides that defaulters, if convicted, shall be punished with a fine of N200,000 or six months imprisonment or both.

However, the anti-open grazing law has been largely ignored by the police and other federal security agencies.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu had publicly expressed his frustration with the security agencies’ failure or even outright refusal to enforce the anti-open grazing law.

The state Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu told THISDAY that the attitude of federal- controlled security agencies to take orders only from federal authorities has further reinforced the clamour for the establishment of state police.

In Oyo State, the state House of Assembly in October 2019 passed a bill titled: ‘Oyo State Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation Law’, which has been signed into law by Governor Seyi Makinde,.

The law states, among others, that anyone who engages in open rearing or grazing of livestock is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years or a fine of N500,000 or both.

Subsequent offenders shall upon conviction be liable to 10-year imprisonment or a fine of N2 million or both.
Speaking on the challenges facing its implementation in the state, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, told THISDAY that the state has not been able to implement the law because the security agencies with the power to enforce it are under the control of the federal government.
He said the challenge was due to the fact that the country is not practising federalism.

“While the anti-open grazing law has become fully operational in the state, however there is no doubt that there is problem in its implementation with the state not in control of the security agencies who have the force of law to enforce it. Indeed, the implementation is been hampered by the slow response by the police to enforce the law,” he added.

Also despite the enactment of the anti-open grazing law by the Bayelsa State Government to keep cattle within the Bayelsa Oil Palm Estate, Elebele near Yenagoa, farmers in the state have continued to complain that herdsmen still moved their cattle around and encroached on farmlands.

Investigation revealed that the police in the state were not committed to the enforcement of the law.
But the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ayiba Fuba, told THISDAY that the state government would view seriously any case of herders of cattle in the state flouting the law.

Ebonyi State government had also enacted law on Anti-open grazing in 2018.
But since legislation: “Law No. 010 of 2018: Ebonyi State Miscellaneous Offences Law, 2018,” was assented to by the Governor David Umahi, the law has become dormant due to non-implementation even with the constant clashes between herders and farmers in the state .
A top official of the state government told THISDAY at the weekend that the state government has no means of enforcing the law in the state.

“The anti-open grazing law has been passed. But you know that it is not part of the rules of engagement of the federal police or any other security agencies to enforce. So, it’s hopeful that with the formation of Ebube Agu security outfit, they can begin to enforce the law in the state,” he said

Eight Southern States Set to Enact Law

Despite the challenges in the implementation of the law by the states that had enacted it, no fewer than eight states are now set to enact anti-open grazing law following the pronouncement of the 17 southern governors.
In Ondo State, the anti-open grazing law has passed through the public hearing stage at the Ondo State House of Assembly.

The Chairman, House of Assembly Committee on Information, Hon. Gbenga Omole, told THISDAY at the weekend that the proposed law, was committed for public hearing after it had passed through the First and Second Reading.
He said the proposed law had been committed to committee level and would have been passed if not for the strike by Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN).

The lawmaker said the proposed law, when passed would replace the former Western State Forestry Law, that is no longer useful for the current situation concerning grazing.
In Enugu State, the state lawmakers said they were eagerly awaiting the Executive Bill expected to herald the anti-grazing law in the state.

Chairman of the House of Assembly Committee on Information, Hon. Jeff Mba told THISDAY that the 24 members of the assembly were ready to support any move to protect the lives and property of the people.
He explained that since it would be an executive bill, the legislators were eagerly expecting the executive arm of government to do the needful.

In Edo State, the state House of Assembly said it already had a private bill against open grazing, which was kept in abeyance because of its sensitive nature.
The lawmakers said they were waiting for Governor Godwin Obaseki’s Executive Bill against open grazing to fine-tune it.

“The private bill was Kept in View (KIV) because we want to conduct a public hearing”, Edo State Speaker, Hon. Marcus Onobu, told THISDAY on Friday.
Onobu however, added that with the outcome and resolution of the Southern Governors’ Forum in Asaba, Delta State, the assembly was more determined to work on the anti-open grazing bill by passing it into law as soon as possible.

Osun State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode told THISDAY that the state had already put a law in place, which places duty on owners of livestock to take proper care of their livestock and keep them in check within perimeter fencing to prevent them from roaming and disturbing other people’s properties or damaging crops .

She further disclosed that the state government is ready to review the law to accommodate other current realities if the need arises.

“According to Section 27(4) of the Law, any person who violates the provision of the law is guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to a fine or imprisonment or both,” she explained.
She disclosed that Osun State has always been supportive of stakeholders in agribusiness and farmers , whether those in crop farming or livestock farming know this.

“The existing law discourages open-grazing. To further ensure peaceful co-existence in our agribusiness sector, the state also has a committee in place where herders and crop farmers relate and resolve issues before they spiral out of control. We have been able to manage the sector because Governor Oyetola is particularly interested in growing agriculture as a business.”

However the commissioner stressed that “if there is a need to review the existing Livestock Roaming Law to accommodate new sections or current realities, you can be rest assured that our response will be swift. We are all about safety and security of citizens of Osun, livestock farmers, crop farmers, everybody counts in Osun”
Also in his own submission the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Timothy Owoeye who spoke through to THISDAY through the lawmakers’ image maker, Hon. Kunle Alabi confirmed that the state has a law that prohibits open grazing of livestocks.

The Cross River State Government is also planning to enact the anti-open grazing law.
THISDAY gathered that the state lawmakers had through a resolution urged the state government to reject open grazing by cattle and other animals because it was against an established environmental law of the state.
The Speaker of the House, Hon. Eteng Jonah William, told THISDAY that “the resolution subsists and the lawmakers remain opposed to open grazing.”
According to him, the resolution of the Southern governors’ forum was just an affirmation of the position held by the lawmakers.

Though the Cross River State Government was not represented at the Southern Governors’ meeting in Asaba, Delta State, where open grazing was banned, the Special Adviser on Media and Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ben Ayade, Mr. Christian Nta, told THISDAY that the state was part of the decision, and would wait for modalities to be worked out before enacting any law.

Ayade had introduced the cultivation of special specie of grass known as “King Grass,” to be exported to other parts of the country to feed livestocks.
In Anambra State, there is no law banning open grazing of cattle but a member of the Anambra State House of Assembly, who spoke to THISDAY said the lawmakers were awaiting executive bill on the issue to curb the frequent clashes between herders and farmers.

Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Declan Emelumba referred THISDAY to the state house of Assembly, noting that it was the house of Assembly that has right to talk on the subject matter.
A member of the House of Assembly told THISDAY that the lawmakers will initiate the bill as soon as the security challenges in the state are resolved.

Southern Speakers, Ohanaeze Back 17 govs’ Resolutions

Meanwhile, the apex Igbo sociopolitical organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the southern states’ legislatures have declared their support for the resolutions of the 17 southern governors on open grazing and restructuring.
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr. Alex Ogbonnia told journalists in Enugu at the weekend that the move would go a long way in dealing with the prolonged clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

He regretted that the herdsmen have been allowed to carry guns over the years which has often given them the courage to always attack communities that do not allow them to destroy their farms.
“Everything they talked about during the meeting is in line with the position of Ohanaeze and we are very comfortable with it because open grazing has been the source of the problem,” he said.

On reactions by some northern elements over the ban, he said “it is normal for people to protest against moves, whether good or bad. Change comes with a level of resistance. But we hope they will come to realize the importance of the ban and queue in because it is something that has to be done”.

On their part, the speakers commended the Southern Governors “for coming together to speak with one voice”, saying the resolutions of the Southern Governors were pathways to resolving the plethora of problems facing the country, including insecurity.

They said that the issues that prompted the resolutions reached by the governors in the recent meeting in Asaba were too well known to all Nigerians, that all that was required was for the federal government to take appropriate steps urgently to address the issues canvassed by the southern governors.

In a statement made available to journalists, the lawmakers vowed to use their position to give the resolutions by the governors the needed legislative backing or support.
The Speakers in a statement made available to THISDAY in Asaba, said: “We the Speakers of State Legislatures in Southern Nigeria commend the Governors of the Southern States for their patriotism and firm belief in the unity of the country.

“We adopt all the positions in the communique and reiterate the call for the ban on open grazing of cattle in the South.
“We support the call for the restructuring of the country to enthrone true federalism and therefore the convocation of a National Dialogue is inevitable,” the statement added.

“We also urge the Governors to send bills to the (respective) Legislature, where necessary, to address some of the issues in the communiqué”.
They hailed the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, for providing the platform for the meeting of the governors.

The speakers’ resolution was signed by Chief Sheriff F.O Oborevwori, Deputy National Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria; Mr Aniekan Bassey, Vice-Chairman South-South, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria; Francis O.Nwifuru, Vice-Chairman South East, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria; and, Prince Olakunle Taiwo Oluomo, Vice-Chairman South-West, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria.

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