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Nigeria: Eight Southern States Set to Enact Anti-Open Grazing Law

Following the resolution of the 17 governors of the Southern states banning open grazing of cattle in the three geopolitical zones in the South, no fewer than eight states are now set to enact anti-open grazing law to give legislative backing to the governors' pronouncement, THISDAY's investigation has revealed.

Some of these states include: Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Enugu, Edo, Imo, Ogun, Delta and Anambra,

This is coming as the apex Igbo sociopolitical organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the southern states' legislatures have declared their support for the resolutions of the 17 southern governors on open grazing and restructuring.

THISDAY, however, gathered that states that already have the anti-open grazing law in place are facing challenges of implementation due to lack of commitment of the Police to enforce the law.

The affected states include: Ekiti, Abia, Ebonyi, Oyo and Bayelsa.

In Ekiti State, the anti-grazing law was passed under the acronym : "Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing Law 2016".

But the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Funminiyi Afuye, told THISDAY that the federal government's recalcitrant posture on the creation of State police was stalling the enforcement of the state's Anti-Open Grazing Law.

Afuye said the law, passed in 2016 under the former Governor Ayodele Fayose, with the present Kayode Fayemi-led government strengthening the law further, could have been better implemented, but for unitary nature of the Nigerian Police.

Afuye appealed to the National Assembly to accede to the request for the creation of State Police in the impending Constitution

Review to be undertaken by the 9th National Assembly.

"The police seem to be firmly under the control of the federal even when the governors are the chief security officers. This is an aberration under a federation.

"But if all the states have their own police that can be controlled by the governors, a law like this promulgated by states can be enforced easily.

"But we have the Amotekun Corps that has been trying to checkmate some of these suspected herders destroying our farms and causing food scarcity."

In Abia State, the anti-open grazing law has been in existence for nearly three years.

THISDAY gathered that the Control of Nomadic Cattle Rearing and Prohibition of Grazing Routes/Reserves Bill 2016 was passed into law by the State House of Assembly in June 2018.

The law provides that the entry of trade cattle into the state shall be by rail or by road haulage.

It further stipulates that movement of trade cattle to major towns in the state shall be by truck, trailers/vehicles or pick-up vans.

It provides that defaulters, if convicted, shall be punished with a fine of N200,000 or six months imprisonment or both.

However, the anti-open grazing law has been largely ignored by the police and other federal security agencies.

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu had publicly expressed his frustration with the security agencies' failure or even outright refusal to enforce the anti-open grazing law.

The state Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu told THISDAY that the attitude of federal- controlled security agencies to take orders only from federal authorities has further reinforced the clamour for the establishment of state police.

In Oyo State, the state House of Assembly in October 2019 passed a bill titled: 'Oyo State Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation Law', which has been signed into law by Governor Seyi Makinde,.

The law states, among others, that anyone who engages in open rearing or grazing of livestock is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years or a fine of N500,000 or both.

Subsequent offenders shall upon conviction be liable to 10-year imprisonment or a fine of N2 million or both.

Speaking on the challenges facing its implementation in the state, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, told THISDAY that the state has not been able to implement the law because the security agencies with the power to enforce it are under the control of the federal government.

He said the challenge was due to the fact that the country is not practising federalism.

"While the anti-open grazing law has become fully operational in the state, however there is no doubt that there is problem in its implementation with the state not in control of the security agencies who have the force of law to enforce it. Indeed, the implementation is been hampered by the slow response by the police to enforce the law," he added.

Also despite the enactment of the anti-open grazing law by the Bayelsa State Government to keep cattle within the Bayelsa Oil Palm Estate, Elebele near Yenagoa, farmers in the state have continued to complain that herdsmen still moved their cattle around and encroached on farmlands.

Investigation revealed that the police in the state were not committed to the enforcement of the law.

But the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ayiba Fuba, told THISDAY that the state government would view seriously any case of herders of cattle in the state flouting the law.

Ebonyi State government had also enacted law on Anti-open grazing in 2018.

But since legislation: "Law No. 010 of 2018: Ebonyi State Miscellaneous Offences Law, 2018," was assented to by the Governor David Umahi, the law has become dormant due to non-implementation even with the constant clashes between herders and farmers in the state .

A top official of the state government told THISDAY at the weekend that the state government has no means of enforcing the law in the state.

"The anti-open grazing law has been passed. But you know that it is not part of the rules of engagement of the federal police or any other security agencies to enforce. So, it's hopeful that with the formation of Ebube Agu security outfit, they can begin to enforce the law in the state," he said

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