Ekiti State House of Assembly on thursday prescribed six months jail term for any herdsmen who allow his cattle, sheep and goat to graze on undesignated land for ranches in Ekiti.
The bill which was unanimously passed at the plenary sitting of the Assembly, seek to regulate public grazing in the state.
The passage of the bill followed the submission of report of Joint Committees on Agriculture and Environment by its Chairman, Mr Ayodele Fajemilehin, to committee of the whole House.
The Speaker of the House, Mr Kola Oluwawole, who presided over Tuesday plenary said the bill would now reduce the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the state.
oluwawole said “if the bill is eventually accented to by the governor, it will now become crime for any cattle, sheep and goat to graze on undesignated land for ranches in Ekiti.
According to the new bill tagged,” Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing in Ekiti, 2016″, anyone found violating the bill upon conviction shall be sentenced to six months in prison without option of fine.
Others included, “The Governor shall by an order designates land in each of 16 Local Government Areas in the state in respect of which Cattle or Ruminants may be permitted to graze.
The rest are,” No person shall cause or permit any cow, oxen, sheep as well as goat under his or her control to graze on any land in which the Governor has not designated as ranches” among others.
The bill forbids movement of cattle by herdsmen and owners of goat in the Ekiti after 6 p.m.
“No cattle or other ruminants shall by any means move in the night, movement shall be between 7 a.m and 6p.m”.
Give them loans to establish cattle ranches instead
Will there ever be a law establishing Trading Reserves all over Nigeria? I doubt it. Because that will just be like allowing the Igbos who dominate 80% of Nigeria’s tarde to take over the land of other tribes wholesale.
This is especially when a government commission will be established that is given the power to take any land that it or its members feel like taking over and adding it to our hypothetical trading reserve.
You will agree with me that establishing such reserves would amount to giving one ethnic group the keys to taking over the whole country, and in a country like Nigeria, where we have more than 100 proud ethnic groups, that would lead to many conflicts, because one thing people are very proud of in Nigeria is their ancestral lands.
To Nigerians, one’s ancestral land is one’s patrimony, given to them by their forefathers even before the British came and colonized the land. So, it is something that has one’s soul in it. For a government and legislators to come and propose a law that will give a government commission the power to take over large portions of the ancestral lands of one ethnic group is extremely unpalatable.
But when that proposed law goes even further and specifies that all the land to be collected will effectively become an area reserved for another ethnic group, it begins to look like a way to take over land from one ethnic group and give it to another. That is just how the bill presently in the National Assembly that proposes the creation of Cattle Grazing Reserves all over the country looks like.
It looks like an indirect ethnic land grab, especially when the ethnic group that will benefit, the Fulani who control cattle rearing business, is the same ethnic group that has produced the current president of the country and a large number of the lawmakers in the National Assembly.
At this point, let me take a moment to condemn the timid silence of most of the lawmakers from the Southern part of the country – and the North Central – who have kept mute while the bill has scaled both First and Second Readings. Their constituents are the ones who will be adversely affected by this bill and they cant find their voice?
Then let’s look at this thing called grazing, which has led to this proposed solution. The plain truth as everyone seems to have realized is that grazing is outdated and unfit for the new millennium.
But instead of the Federal Government to encourage ranching which is the in thing now, they are trying to encourage grazing reserves where only one ethnic group will be advantaged while all other ethnic groups will be unfairly disadvantaged.
Grazing has led to many deaths in many parts of the country, from the South West to the South East; from the South South to the North Central. Frequently, quarrels occur between farmers and cattle herdsmen because when farmers come to their farms, cows have eaten all the crops the farmer took a lot of effort to plant.
No human being will be happy to come to his workplace and see that all his labours have been destroyed just like that. Some of these farmers whose crops are destroyed are not even commercial farmers but subsistence farmers, who are so poor the only real money they have are the crops they have planted, which they hope to later exchange for other badly needed commodities.
So, when these farmers protest, they are attacked and killed and the men in their community are killed and the women raped. Now that is very bad. But thankfully, the Federal Government has recognized the urgent importance of phasing out grazing. But ranching, not grazing reserves is the answer to ending grazing and the problems that come with it.
If the cattle rearers want to get land fo their activities, they should go and buy land like any other Nigerian businessman. The government should not condemn and seize people’s lands to give it to one ethnic group.
What the government can do, because of the urgency of phasing out grazing is to grant loans to the herdsmen, to go out and persuade people to sell lands to them for cattle ranching.
Currently, the bill to introduce grazing reserves has passed Second Reading in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. According to or constitution, if the bill passes Third Reading… the only thing that will stop it from becoming law is if President Buhari refuses to sign it.
I even hear the proposed bill to would require anyone who wants to challenge the addition of his land to the grazing reserves by the Federal Government to first take permission from the same Federal Government he wants to sue. That’s Apartheid loading, folks.
So now is the time for everyone who values peace to call their lawmakers and put pressure on them to make sure that this bill does not pass Third Reading in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. It’s contents portend rancour for the nation.
Phone your senator and representative and tell them not just to vote against the bill, but also to make sure they speak vehemently against it. Tell him to oppose the bill in the next reading. Let the grazing reserves bill be stopped.
You can get the phone number of your senator from this link. If 100,000 Nigerians can call their senators and ask them to oppose this bill, it will make a great impression on the senators, and they would know how dear the matter at hand is to you the voter.
Tell the senators to instead propose the setting up of a fund that would provide loans for any cattle rearing organization that has been in the profession for up to 20 years, so, businesses that have been rearing cattle for a minimum of 20 years can easily get financing to go buy land from any part of the country to establish cattle farms or ranches. (Nothing wrong with that.)
This does not mean that other Nigerians cannot wake up one day and decide to enter cattle ranching, but rather, that they wouldn’t qualify for the loan from the fund, and can source their cash from elsewhere.
What I am simply saying is that: Yes, we all agree that grazing should be phased out. But it should not be replaced with grazing reserves, but rather with ranching #replacegrazingwithranchesnotreserves.
Reason being that creating grazing reserves all over the country today will seem like an indirect land grab on the behalf of one ethnic group to the detriment of all others. And you will agree with me that such will cause a lot of bitterness and acrimony in the polity.
In the past few months we have seen a multiplication of bloody clashes and tensions between Fulani herdsmen and farmers from various parts of the country. These parts include the South South, South East, South West and the Middle Belt/North Central.
One of the bloodiest clashes is the one that happened recently in the town of Agatu in Benue State, where hundreds of people were reportedly killed and thousands displaced from their homes. But the violence is not restricted to that place.
A kingdom in Delta State lost its monarch when he was kidnapped and murdered by suspected herdsmen. In the South West the same fate almost met Olu Falae, a traditional ruler and politician of Yoruba stock. The story is not much different in the South East, as the people of Nsukka and other areas have claimed that their farmlands have been attacked, their youth killed or maimed and their women raped.
All this has led to a huge outcry and accusations that President Buhari , who is not just a Fulani man, but reportedly one of the Grand Patrons of the Fulani cattle breeders association is biased towards them – that, that was the reason for the silence of the Federal Government in recent times in light of the killings of locals by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Perhapse to dispell those insinuations, President Buhari, through his minister for agriculture Audu Ogbe, has announced that Federal Government has mapped out grazing areas where the Fulani herdsmen would be restricted to.
Nigerians have been told that in 24 months no cows will be seen roaming about in any part of the country.
That announcement has been widely welcomed, but if not handled well the implementation could backfire and lead to greater crises.
This is because the Fulani herdsmen are held with great suspicion by many in other parts of the country, rightly or wrongly. A lot of people believe that the whole crises is fuelled by an attempt by the Fulani to take over the country and with time, appoint traditional rulers of their own in every zone.
The herdsmen are even accused of forming a whole new ethnic group in Plateau State for the same purpose. If amid such speculation, the ownership papers of grazing land is handed over to the herdsmen when the government finally launches the grazing lands project, it will create a lot of controversy in the land.
That is why the ownership of the grazing areas must remain in the hands of the Federal Government – the same way military barracks in the country are owned by the Federal Government.
Not adhering to this may open President Muhammadu Buhari to political risks as it would create a perception that the president is furthering territory-grabbing by his ethnic group at the expense of national interest.
The Federal ownership of grazing lands will serve as additional protection for the Fulani herdsmen. Research has shown that the presence of Federally owned barracks all over the country has protected guests of local communities during times of inter-ethnic tensions.
For instance, the Hausa community in various parts of the country have been known to seek and find adequate refuge in Federal barracks during times of ethnic tension. That has sometimes been more helpful than having to swarm the motor parks and then still face risks on their way out of the troubled area.
Of course the same level of protection from harm given in the barracks should be provided for the Fulani herdsmen in the Federal owned grazing areas. That way, the agelong tension between the Fulani herdsmen and locals can be brought to an end, and the Fulani herdsmen can face their business of cattle rearing without being accused of attempting to occupy and take over the lands of other people for ethnic purposes.
NB: The only way the herdsmen may own grazing land in a way that will be acceptable to the local populations is if they employ the strategy of ranching. That way they buy the land with their own money; and it must be emphasized that the Fulani herdsman has every right to buy landed property from any part of the country, just like the Igbos and every other ethnic groups who buy land from outside their indigenous zones.
This approach may even be better than the grazing lands approach, because it will completely isolate President Buhari from any accusations of preferential treatment towards his ethnic group and it will open the business of the herdsmen to greater commercial potential.
According to government officials, the herdsmen are still very reluctant to abandon their nomadic culture. but so were the cowboys of the United Staes before they fully embraced ranching, and today they are the better for it.