The planned ban on open grazing across the southern states may not materialise from next month as originally scheduled, according to indications yesterday.
This is because the law regulating such activity is yet to be in place in at least four of the states including Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Anambra and Enugu.
And following moves by the federal authorities to recover 368 grazing sites in 25 states, the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self Determination (NINAS) yesterday threatened a fresh round of protests should the federal government carry out its plan.
Southern governors, during a meeting in Asaba, Delta State on May 11 resolved to ban open grazing in their states.
September 1 was set for the commencement of the ban.
But at press time yesterday, the Enugu and Akwa Ibom Houses of Assembly were yet to conclude work on the bills while Cross River was yet to come up with its own bill. Anambra State seems not to be interested in the plan.
Enugu State Information Commissioner Chidi Aroh said the executive arm was still waiting for the bill from the legislature to enable it to commence implementation of the ban on open grazing in the state.
“It’s only proper as executive that we’re waiting for what the House said they are doing,” Aroh said.
“We cannot start talking about what we would do about a bill that is before the legislature, which the House has not yet passed into law.
“Once the bill is passed and it gets to the executive, we will do the needful.”
Bill enters second reading in A’Ibom
The anti grazing bill is currently being worked on in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly by a committee headed by Mr. Kufreabasi Edidem.
Chairman of the assembly committee on Information, Mr. Aniefiok Dennis said: “The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly is working tirelessly to ensure that the Anti-open Grazing Bill is given accelerated attention.
“As I speak, the bill has entered second reading. By next week, it will get to third reading. I want to assure you that the House will complete work on the bill and pass it.
“Hopefully, the governor will assent to it before the September 1, 2021 deadline as agreed by Southsouth governors at their Asaba meeting.”
Anambra not interested in ‘such law’
An aide to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State told The Nation that the state government is not interested in such a law because there is no need for it in the state.
The aide, who asked not to be named, said a committee set up by the governor on grazing was on top of its game.
“Let me tell you the truth, Anambra State Government is not interested in such law,” the aide said.
Continuing, he said: “We have a committee headed by the State Police Commissioner with other security heads, traditional rulers and leader of the herders as members.
“And that committee always meets to discuss herders-farmers problems, and such issues will be settled amicably. Therefore, Anambra does not need any other law.”
The Southeast Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, told The Nation that some governors wanted to get Obiano involved in what he is not interested in.
He said the committee established and charged with the responsibility of herders/community affairs with prominent persons and his association has done well in that direction.
Information and Public Enlightenment Commissioner, Don Adinuba, told The Nation that he was not briefed about the decision of the southern governors on the issue of open grazing law.
For that, he would not talk on the issue as big as the enactment of open grazing law, adding that any problem Anambra encounters with the herders would be amicably resolved.
“That’s my assurance to you,” he said.
Chairman of the State House of Assembly on Information, Okechukwu Okoye, said he was not aware of any anti-grazing bill before the assembly, which is currently on recess.
He said he would find out if the state government had sent such bill to the Assembly when it resumes on September 9.
Cross River’s bill in the cooler
The 8th Cross River State House of Assembly under the speakership of John-Gaul Lebo passed an anti-grazing law in 2017, but the governor did not sign it and no further action has been taken by the legislature on the bill since.
Agriculture Commissioner Ntufam Okon Owuna said he had no information on the bill, but Lebo confirmed that the assembly, under his leadership, passed the bill and sent it to the governor for ascent.
The Nation gathered that the governor did not ascent to the bill.
Oyetola yet to sign anti-open grazing bill
Although the Osun State House of Assembly passed the bill on August 12, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is yet to sign it.
But he said yesterday that he is fully in support of the position of southern governors on the ban.
Speaking on a private radio station, Rave FM, in Osogbo yesterday, Oyetola said he was one with his colleagues across the south that there should be no open grazing of cattle.
He also said he was not aware of the existence of any grazing route or site in his state.
“I am not too sure we have a grazing reserve in Osun,” he said.
He added: “I have not been able to confirm if we have. The position of the southern governor is a unanimous decision which I can’t say anything to the contrary.”
Ebonyi may exhume old law
Ebonyi State may fall back on the State Miscellaneous Offences Law 010 of 2018 to check open grazing.
The Chief Press Secretary to Speaker Ogbonnaya Nwifuru, Leo Ọketa, told The Nation that the law passed by the House contains sections which expressively ban open grazing.
Secretary to the State Government and Coordinating Commissioner, Dr Kenneth Ugbala, said security agencies and other relevant authorities in the state have been charged to ensure strict enforcement of the law banning open grazing and movement of cows within the state.
Ugbala maintained that the state government would not go back on the ban on open grazing and movement of cows in the state.
He noted that the enforcement became necessary to ensure that the law was not violated.
My comment on open grazing was misinterpreted, says Uzodimma
Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State said yesterday that his recent statement on open grazing law was interpreted out of context by a section of the media.
The governor, who spoke through Information and Strategy Commissioner, Declan Emelumba said what he said was that farmers and herders were peacefully coexisting in the state based on mutual respect and understanding.
He said that contrary to insinuations, the state has an open grazing law which became operative in 2006.
The law, according to him, restricts herders from certain areas and they have been abiding by it. He also said the memorandum of understanding (MOU) which was signed by farmers and herders has been working well.
He said whereas a law on anti-grazing may be desirable, dialogue and understanding, as being used in Imo State, are more effective in addressing conflicts.
Ohanaeze chides Uzodinma over comment
Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide had urged Uzodimma against going against the decision of the southern governors on the ban on open grazing.
The Chidi Ibeh led group said its suspicion had been reinforced with the continued absence of Governor Uzodinma at the meetings of Southern governors in Asaba and Lagos.
It said any Southeast governor who encourages open grazing “will never escape the wrath of the people.”
It warned that “he will be excommunicated from any Igbo gathering and ceremonies from 1st September 2021” if he did not rescind his move to allow open grazing in the state.
Abia ready with own law
The ban on open grazing in Abia State is covered by the law ABSN No. 6 Control of Movement and Taxation of Cattle and other Animals Law of 1994 and a 2018 law passed by the state House of Assembly.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has repeatedly said that the state is ready to enforce the law.
His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Onyebuchi Ememanka, said: “We were one of the first to get our own law.
“The House passed it and the governor assented over a year now.”
Asked why there hasn’t been any arrest and prosecution of offenders, Ememanka replied: “Ask the Commissioner of Police.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Geoffrey Ogbonna, could not be reached for comments.
The Bayesla State version of the bill was signed into law on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 by Governor Douye Diri, even before the Southern governors meeting in Asaba.
The Governor had said the law was meant to ensure harmonious living between cattle dealers and other inhabitants of the state and to forestall the violent clashes being experienced in other parts of the country.
To enforce the law, one week after the bill was signed into law, Diri inaugurated a 23-man committee to implement it.
The governor had told the committee members chaired by the Commissioner for Agriculture, David Alagoa, that the implementation took effect from the date it was signed into law.
‘Our problem with enforcement of law in Oyo’
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Mr.Taiwo Adisa, said yesterday that the federal agencies which are supposed to help in enforcing certain provisions of the law in the state are holding back.
“The readiness has been there since 2019 when Governor Seyi Makinde assented the Bill passed by the House of Assembly that bans open grazing and standardised the issue of grazing in Oyo State,” Adisa told The Nation in Ibadan.
“What you may say is lacking will be as a result of the operating environment within the milieu of Nigeria. Operating environment in the sense that the agencies that are supposed to implement the law appear to be holding back to full implementation of the law. And when I talked about agencies, I mean the police principally.
“But, as it is, the state government has taken it upon itself to train specific task force that will come in full force and be sure that the law is implemented. But the government is still fine running the process for the fine tuning of the emergence of the task force, and as soon the task force is ready with the training completed, they will be released into the forests to sanitise and ensure that nobody grazes openly within the corridors of Oyo State.
“The anti-open grazing law passed by the state assembly has clarified what anybody needs to do on the issue of grazing in Oyo State.”
Ogun bill awaits governor’s assent
A Law to Regulate Animal Grazing, Establishment of Cattles Ranches in Designated Grazing Areas of Ogun State and for other Matters incidental thereto and connected therewith of 2021, passed by the State House of Assembly, is currently awaiting the signature of Governor Dapo Abiodun.
The governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, and Special Adviser on Public communications, Hon. Remmy Hazzan, said he would sign the bill by September 30.
Self- determination agitators threaten fresh protests over grazing sites recovery
The Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS) vowed yesterday to launch a fresh round of protests should the federal government go ahead with its planned recovery of 368 grazing sites in 25 states of the federation.
The group said government should be prepared for a “never-seen-before mass revolt” in southern states that permit grazing reserves.
It warned governors “within the NINAS territory” to respect the wishes of their people on the issue of the grazing reserve.
It said: “For the avoidance of doubt, under the Land Use Act of 1978, all lands in Nigeria vest in State Governors who hold same in Trust for the People. With the possible exception of the Federal Capital Territory, the Federal Government of Nigeria does not own any land upon which it can establish grazing routes.
“It follows that any governor in the Alliance Territories who cedes any land to the Federal Government in the name of Grazing Route will be doing so in breach of the Trust in which such lands are held and worse still, in defiance of the overwhelming Will of the People.
Meanwhile, socio-political activist and critic, Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, has said that the Land Use Act contained in the 1999 Constitution does not give the federal government any authority on land anywhere in the country.
Onitiri said any move by the federal government to forcibly take over any land would not be in the best interest of the country and could lead to avoidable conflicts.
He said: “I beg to disagree with the recent Grazing Reserve Order of Mr President when considered alongside with the plea of Mr. President with the Service chiefs not to make him fail in his governance.
“Any sane mind will find these two conflicting stand points very absurd. The Land Use Act, which is part of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and which President Buhari swore to uphold, firmly placed administration of land in the purview of state governors.”