Federal Government and the Anti-open Grazing Laws

June 14th, 2018

One issue that has evoked serious reaction be¬tween governments at the receiving ends of attacks by herdsmen on farmers and other rural communities is the enactment of anti-open grazing laws. The law, which is meant to provide legal framework for the grazing and rearing of animal, has been vehemently opposed by the Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).
Some other top Nigerians, especially from the core northern parts of the country, have not only opposed the enactment of such laws, but have vowed that they would not obey such laws. In fact, they have unilaterally declared such laws null and void.
It is important to recall that the anti-open grazing law is already operational in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba states. Similar bill that would eventually translate to same law was passed by the Abia State House of Assembly on Tuesday. In Ekiti State, the law prohibits open-grazing between 6p.m. and 7a.m. In Benue, the law placed ab¬solute ban on open-grazing across the state.
The anti-grazing law passed in Taraba State in July, 2017 came into effect with a caveat that it will be implemented gradually after aggressive awareness campaigns across the state. Several other states, especially in the Middle-Belt and Southern parts of the country, are working on similar legislation.
On April 26, 2018, the National Economic Council (NEC), passed a resolution banning open-grazing of animal in all parts of the country. The NEC meeting where the decision was taken was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. It was taken at a time President Muhammadu Buhari was on official trip outside the country.
NEC blamed the incessant killings by herdsmen as the core reason for taking the decision, opting for the establishment of ranches in the states affected by the herdsmen onslaught.
Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, who briefed journalists at the Presidential Villa, on the outcome of the NEC meeting, said the NEC also agreed that the states affected by herdsmen killings donate land for the establishment of ranches that will include nomadic schools and health facilities for their family members.
He added that “Niger and Kaduna have given lands, and Plateau is also giving land. We also agreed that through the agriculture ministry, we have to introduce new species of cows”. The governor further explained that the council members accepted the recommendation to stop the further influx of foreign herdsmen into the country.
But, that is the end of the matter. The contradictions in the statements by top Federal Government officials concerning series of attacks by herdsmen on communities are not helping matters. While one would say such attacks were fallout of communal disputes, the other would say mercenaries from foreign countries are the ones invading communities and killing people.
Even President Buhari’s attribution of the attacks to bandits trained by the later Libyan leader, Muomar Ghadaffi, is not helping matters also. All these contradictions portray the Federal Government as unwilling to bring such carnage to an end.
Just on Tuesday this week, the Federal Government through the Minister of Defense, Mansur Dan-Ali, came out openly to attack such enactments. According to him, “the decision of some states to enact laws to stop open grazing triggered violence.
“Whatever crisis that happened at any time, there has to be remote and immediate causes. The “remote” cause of the violence was the violation of areas demarcated over the years as grazing reserves. Cattle breeders are all over the nation, you go to Bayelsa, you see them, you go to Ogun, and you see them. If those routes are blocked, what happens? These people are Nigerians, it’s just like you going to block the river or shoreline, does that make sense to you?
“These are the remote causes. But what are the im¬mediate causes? It is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians; we must learn to live together with each other; that is basic. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!”
He also criticized the setting up of armed Forest Guard in some states and blamed them for the killings, while exonerating herdsmen.
But, the Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, countering Dan-Ali said: “Here in Ekiti, the anti-open grazing law stays. It is the Presidency that should stop looking the other way while herdsmen go about killing Nigerians.
“Methinks the Presidency should be concerned about how to take the herdsmen out of the bush and give them decent life by embracing cattle ranching.”
Fayose further questioned why the President rears his cattle through ranching rather than open grazing. He also slammed the Defense Minister for always protecting and finding excuses for herdsmen whenever they invade any community.
Bad as the situation has been, with contending forces from powerful quarters viciously aligned against one another on this issue, has anyone paused to ask questions about the owners of the cattle. Is it possible that the servants of the cattle owners, the herdsmen, would take instructions from persons outside their principal, the cattle owners?
Since there is agreement that cattle rearing is at the center of the crises, there is therefore the need to dissect the role of the real owners of the cattle in all these crises.
The AUTHORITY strongly believes that with or without anti-open grazing laws, proper identification of cattle and their owners will go a long way in finding out why the crises have persisted. Any solution without factoring the cattle owners would be like using string to mend a broken bridge. It will one be exercise in futility.

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