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Open Grazing Continues In Southern States Despite Govs’ Ban

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Open grazing of cattle is continuing in the 17 southern states unabated despite the May 12 Asaba Declaration by the governors.

An investigation carried out by The Nation showed that nearly three weeks after the governors’ resolution, there has been no attempt in any of the states to enforce the ban even in states with existing law banning open grazing.

Some of the other states are in the process of passing their own bill into law.

Cattle are spotted grazing daily at Alamala in Abeokuta and down the road to Ayetoro in Yewa North and Imeko, all in Ogun State.

The situation is the same at Owode-Ede, Kelebe, Ede, Iwo, Okuku, Gbongan, Ilesha, Ara among others in Osun State; Ifaki/Omuo/ Kabba highway, Ikere-Ekiti/Ise Road and other major roads in Ekiti State; Emene, Gariki, Awkunawnaw, Akegbeugwu and Akwuke villages in Enugu State.

The cattle herders, some of them boys as young as 10 years old, look unperturbed by the threat to restrict their movement.

Although Ekiti State had a law in place as far back as 2016 during the Fayose Administration banning open grazing, the government appears to be shy of enforcing it.

Apart from the government’s confiscation of a few cows in the early days of the law, nothing much has been done since then to bring culprits to book.

A top government official said it was hamstrung because the security agencies with the power of enforcement are under the control of the federal government.

The source said the government has no means of implementing the ban on open-grazing except Amotekun which he said is ineffective because of the inability of its personnel to bear firearms.

He added that the police and other security agencies who are authorized by law to carry arms are not committed to the enforcement of the law.

Oyo State which enacted its own anti-open grazing law in late 2019 has also not been enforcing it.

It was introduced as a solution to hitherto incessant farmer-herder clashes which stretched the ability and resources of security agencies and community leaders in the state to the limits.

However, the Special Adviser on Security to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr Fatai Owoseni, told The Nation that the state was smoothly enforcing the law.

According to him, the government set up a mediation and reconciliation committee in every local government which resolves open grazing cases.

Because of the work of the committees, Owoseni said only very few cases, if any, get to litigation level. He said cases that involve murder and kidnapping are handled by the police instead of the committee.

His words: “The law is not redundant. It is a standard practice that each local government has a mediation and reconciliation committee in place. They amicably resolve the issues hence they hardly get to court.”

But local sources revealed that the state government itself is frustrated by the police whose lack of enthusiasm in prosecuting offenders or helplessness in handling those accused or arrested for open grazing due to pressure from above has become a source of worry.

A source gave an example of a 10-acre cassava farm in Oyo town on which herders grazed their cattle.

The owner reported the case at an Area command in Ibadan whose men moved swiftly to arrest the herders.

Although the culprits were traced to a bush, the police failed to arrest them. Instead, their leader (Seriki) was invited to Ibadan for questioning.

Instead of honouring the police invitation, the source said that his lawyer wrote to the police to the effect that he would represent his client. Before that happened, the police handed off the case, citing pressure from above.

“Since the power of arrest and prosecution lies with the police, the Oyo State Government is sometimes frustrated with the failure of the police to arrest and prosecute offenders,” the source said.

The Ondo State Executive Council has already given consent for the anti-grazing bill which will be forwarded to the state assembly for passing

Moves by the Ogun State Government to have a law in place to ban open grazing remain stalled.

The current state legislative Assembly under the leadership of Speaker Kunle Oluomo was at the point of passing the Ogun State Anti-Open Grazing Bill when assembly workers went on strike and stalled its passage.

The Bill was sponsored by Ganiyu Oyedeji representing Ifo 11 State Constituency and it seeks a ban on open grazing of cattle in the state.

Speaker Oluomo told The Nation that the Bill recommends quarantining of all animals brought into the state for a period of time and making animals or cattle-rearing a business venture requiring those engaged in it to purchase land and ranch the animals.

The Police said they have not received a directive to enforce the ban on open grazing by Southern governors.

There is no law yet in place against open grazing in Osun State, but the government says it will sanction those grazing in the open.

Agriculture Commissioner Adedayo Adewole speaking during a herders/farmers summit organized by the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi recently urged herders to embrace ranching.

He said: “We are not necessarily talking about the arrest of herders, we are telling herders to embrace ranching. The southern governors met recently about open grazing and ranching.

“Our government is putting measures in place to stop open grazing. There will be rules that will be moved out to stop open grazing in Osun State. We, stakeholders, will sit on a round table to discuss sanctions in a few weeks.”

Enugu State is also yet to formalise the ban on open grazing.

Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Milletus Eze, did not respond to an inquiry on when the state would legalise the ban on open grazing as he did not respond to a text message sent to him by the reporter afterwards.

When contacted, the spokesman of the Enugu Police command, Daniel Ndukwe, said the police had not been legally empowered to enforce the ban.

He said: “Do you know of any law empowering the police to enforce that? If you have any such law, point it out. Until we have such a law, the police cannot do much at the moment.”

The Akwa Ibom State Government says its effort to enact a law banning open grazing is being stalled by the nationwide strike by parliamentary workers.

Information and Strategy Commissioner Iniobong Emembong said the state is “certainly bound by the decision of the southern governors meeting.

”And you know that legislative business has been stalled for a while due to the strike by Parliamentary staff.

”Maybe legislative actions could have been commenced if the assembly was sitting”, he said.

Like some of the other states already with anti-open grazing laws, the Abia State Government has not been putting the legislation into use.

The law was passed in 2018 under the leadership of the immediate past Speaker of State House of Assembly, Chikwendu Kanu.

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu at different fora, including the visitation of the Prelate of Methodist Church, has reaffirmed the commitment of the state to the enforcement of the anti-open grazing law of the state.

an investigation by our reporter has it that regardless of the signing into law of the anti-open grazing law by the Abia State governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, herders have continued to openly rear their cows in almost across the 17 local government areas of the state.

Officials of the Edo State Government were unavailable to comment on when the state would have its own law against open grazing.

Owerri based lawyer, E E Durueke, expressed support for the Asaba Declaration saying: “Grazing of cattle should be banned and the Asaba Declaration by the Southern Governors is clear enough.”

He advised Houses of Assembly in the country to make laws placing sanctions on herders roaming the streets with their cattle.

Imo House of Assembly lawmaker and Chairman, Ethics, Privileges and Information Committee, Hon. Johnson Duru said that the House has not done anything on the issue because the House has not been in session due to the ongoing strike by assembly workers.

He added:” I am aware that there is an existing law that banned open grazing. This is in line with the position of the governors. Anything we are going to do on that law will have to come as an Executive Bill.”

The Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF), Mr Simon Lalong, said yesterday the forum agrees that open grazing is no longer sustainable.

Speaking at the 7th annual Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Lecture in Kaduna, the Plateau State Governor said that was why the forum decided to adopt the National Livestock Transformation Programme to address the problems associated with the practice of open grazing.

His words: “Contrary to some mischiefs and insinuation arising from the resolutions by the Southern Governors that the Northern Governors have done nothing about the issue of open grazing, we were actually the first to take a collective decision that the practice of open grazing is no longer sustainable.”

The Southern Governors during their Asaba meeting of May 11 said their decision to ban open grazing was to check the incessant clashes between farmers and herders.

They said: “Development and population growth has put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations in the South. Given this scenario, it becomes imperative to enforce the ban on open grazing in the South, including cattle movement to the South by foot.”

They identified the incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the South as the chief cause of the severe security challenge in that part of the country.

The National Economic Council (NEC) which comprises all the state governors and is headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had earlier in April 2018, placed a ban on open grazing citing it as the cause of the perennial conflicts between farmers and pastoralist across the country.

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