By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
Prominent Igbo group, the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), has demanded that governors of the five South East states and their counterparts in Delta and Rivers states in the South-South zone should immediately begin the process to enact Anti-Open Grazing laws to check the illegal activities of herdsmen in the region.
The leaders urged the governors to submit draft bills to their Houses of Assembly to stop the systematic and reckless grazing of cattle on cultivated agricultural lands, destruction of crops, attacks, abduction and killings of farmers, rape of their women and daughters, and in many cases the sack and displacement of whole communities in the zones.
In a statement signed by its President, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala; Secretary, Prof Nath Aniekwu; ADF Anti-Open Grazing Bill Committee Coordinator, Barr. Max Ozoka and Mr Onochie Ukeme, the group appealed to the governors of two states (Rivers and Delta) with Igbo-speaking population to also heed its admonition.
ADF said that it is in a�?support of the political will of both our Assemblies and our Executive Governors, as well as the determination of our people to defend their life and property”.
It said: a�?Recent revelations show an unmistakable collaboration between the last two terrorist organisations (Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen). Boko Haram itself began as a political instrument of some northern politicians until ISIS became its major patron.
“But it appears that Boko Haram is now being integrated with the Fulani herdsmen. In recent times, the movement of these terrorist groups into the southern parts of Nigeria increases daily just as sophisticated military equipment are being shipped to the South with increased terroristsa�� attacks in several parts of the South.
a�?It has been firmly established that what is afoot is a Jihad being waged by the Fulani Muslims in the guise of herdsmen. The heavily armed Fulani herdsmen include both Fulani citizens of Nigeria and other Fulanis from other West African countries such as Niger, Cote da��Ivoire and Cameroon.
“There is hardly any state in Nigeria which has not witnessed the horrors inflicted by these Fulani herdsmen armed with AK-7 and other sophisticated weapons”.
The Igbo leaders said that the proposed bills should state that any lease or permission granted for a ranch in any of the states a�?is a privilege and shall not create any ownership right, title, interest or estate to the land. The land shall remain vested in the Governor in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act, 1978a�?.
It also stated that permit for ranching may be revoked at any time subject to approval of the governor without the payment of compensation to the rancher if it is because of a�?breach of state security and peace, breach of any term or condition of the lease hold or overriding public interest as stipulated under the Land Use Act;
“No land allocated for a ranch shall be sold, transferred or mortgaged unless in accordance with provisions of the Land Use Act requiring the prior consent of the governor; any livestock that strays into any other persona��s land other than a ranch and causes destruction to agricultural crops and/or contaminates any source of water supply, the owner or management of such livestock shall be liable to pay damages or compensation to the owner or community with proprietary interest in the land or source of water as may be determined by a proper valuation ordered to be done by the Department”.
The group added that a�?anyone who engages in open grazing outside permitted ranches after the enactment of the law shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to five years imprisonment or N1million fine or both.
In case of an injury to any person within the state, the owner or manager of such livestock shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction be liable to two years imprisonment in addition to footing the medical bill of the victim and paying relevant compensation as the court may determine”.
In a case where such contravention causes the death of any person within the state, ADF posits that the owner or manager of such livestock shall be guilty of an offence of culpable homicide punishable under the Criminal Code Laws of the State.
”Movement of livestock should be only by rail, wagon, truck or pick-up wagon,a�? the ADF said, adding that a�?any person(s) found moving livestock on foot within or across urban centres or rural settlements commits an offence and is liable on conviction to N500,000 fine or one year imprisonment or both for a first offender; or for a second offender, N1milllion fine or three years imprisonment or both”.
ADF continued: ”No livestock owner, manager and rancher shall possess firearms, licensed or unlicensed, on the ranch or outside the ranch and that any of them who possess or owns firearms or arms shall be prosecuted under the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act”.
The group therefore called on traditional and community leaders as well as the clergy to ensure that the provisions of the proposed law are effectively implemented”.
By Chuks Oyema-Aziken