By Vincent Kalu, Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos; Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu; George Onyejiuwa, Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri; Judex Okoro, Calabar; Paul Osuyi, Asaba; Lateef Dada, Osogbo; Tony Osauzo, Benin, Obinna Odogwu, Awka and Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore has mocked the17 Southern Governors for their failure to meet the September 1 deadline they set for themselves to enact and begin to implement the anti-open grazing laws throughout Southern Nigeria. Speaking to Saturday Sun on the issue, the National President the group, Abdullahi Bodejo said that his members knew that the Southern governors would not come together to speak with one voice on the matter when it comes to implemenatiaton. Bodejo who accused them of coming together for ulterior motive, 2023 politics and an agenda to take over Fulani cattle-rearing business, threatened to drag the states that have enacted such laws to court.
But insisting that their collective will to do so is still on course, aides and spokesmen of some of the 17 Southern governors that took the collective decision at their Asaba meeting to enact a law banning open grazing of cattle across the states that fall under the zone, have opened up on why the states couldn’t meet the September 1, 2021 deadline set for the implementation.
Of the 17, only six, namely, Abia, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Imo, and Enugu have in place an anti-open grazing law. In fact, Enugu just passed its own on September 2, less than 24 hours after the expiration of the deadline. Though no official statement was issued as to why the state missed the deadline, a privileged source from the State Assembly attributed the delay to the magnitude of harm open grazing had caused the state. The House, he said, was careful to make extensive consultations with all stakeholders to ensure that the bill meet the required goal for the good of all. The source noted that what was important “is that the bill has been passed and I know Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi will not waste time in signing it into law.”
Five states, namely Rivers, Delta, Osun, Ondo, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom are in the process of complying. But some of the states like Anambra, Lagos, Imo, Edo, and Cross River who were reported earlier as ignoring the agreement has come out to deny the report.
In Imo, the State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr Cyprain Akaolise insisted that there was no need to come up with another anti-open grazing law as the state already has one banning open grazing of cattle in restricted areas of the state, including the state capital. This, he explained, is much better than the kind being proposed by the southern governors.
According to him, Imo State Law No. 9 of 2006 signed by Chief Achike Udenwa, former Governor of Imo State on 19th January 2007 did not call for total ban but prohibition of cattle grazing in restricted areas of the state. “A cattle herder cannot take his cattle into cultivated land within Imo State,” he said. “So but the herdsmen could do their grazing in the forest. The other states should copy our own law.”
Like Imo, Cross Rivers State too claims to have passed its own law in 2017, four years before the Southern Governors Forum came up with the resolution at the Asaba meeting. Speaking on the matter, the former Speaker of Cross River House of Assembly, Rt Hon William Jonah Eteng, disclosed that the state was one of the earliest to pass law against open grazing.
Gaul, Speaker between 2015 and 2019, however noted that the law was not, and has not been assented to by Governor Ben Ayade. According to him, the lawmakers went for the traditional ranching because they don’t have empty land neither does their culture permit movement of cattle from one place to another because the people engage in arable cropping of vassals, yams, cocoyam and maize.
He said: “We don’t support open grazing in our state. But if it is the culture in the North to move cattle around, no problem. The President under our present constitution does not have land to give anybody because with the 1975 Land Use Act, the lands are under the management of state governors.
In Akwa Ibom, the Executive is yet to send the bill to the State House of Assembly.
Chief Whip of Osun State House of Assembly, Hon. Lekan Olatunji, also claimed that the legislators have passed the bill but added that the Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is yet to sign it. “We recently passed a bill to regulate animal grazing and establishment of cattle ranches in the state,” he said. “It’s just awaiting the Governor’s consent and I’m sure that will be done very soon.”
However, it was gathered that the bill was not forwarded to the office of the governor till he travelled out recently. But speaking on the matter, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor, Ismail Omipidan assured that the governor would surely sign the bill if it is on his table. He added that the governor just returned to the state on Wednesday, September 1.
In Lagos, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, assured that very soon, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will sign into law the Anti-open grazing Bill which he said, was already before the state House of Assembly for consideration.
Noting that the executive arm of government had deliberated on the bill and deemed it worthy before passing it to the State House of Assembly to do the needful, he added that the moment the House of Assembly passed the bill, the governor would append his signature to make it law in the state.
But investigation by Saturday Sun shows that the bill is being worked on in both Edo and Delta States. The Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Hon. Marcus Onobun, who spoke on the matter, attributed the delay to the recess embarked upon by the members while assuring that the bill will soon be passed as it is being worked on. On their own part, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, assured that the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led administration would ensure that the bill is implemented as a step towards promoting healthy and harmonious living among farmers and herders.
“No state can even start implementation immediately because after passing the bill and assenting to it, you need to give people time to adjust. You need to give the herders time to either return their cattle or build ranches,” he said. “For now in Delta, we are still going to be seeing cattle on the streets because the law has not been enacted and we have not started implementation.”
He attributed the delay in passing the law to the dissolution of the State Executive Council shortly after the decision to ban open grazing was taken by the southern governors. But then he insisted that the September 1, 2021 deadline was not for the implementation of the ban but for the passage of the bill and enactment of the law.
Of the lot, Anambra may end up as one of the states that will not implement the decision, as there is no indication to that effect. The State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment in the state, C. Don Adinuba, when contacted, simply told Saturday Sun that he did not participate in the Asaba meeting; and that his principal, Governor Willie Obiano, has not briefed him on his position on the matter.
A member of the state House of Assembly representing Nnewi North Constituency, Nonso Okafor, who claimed to have been planning to move a motion in that regard, however, noted that the plan did not materialise before they went on their annual recess.