The five states of the South-East said they have banned open grazing. They even claimed that each of their states has enacted a law to give the ban a legal shelter to bite. But this has been found to be false. Apart from Abia, other state governors are yet to even send an executive bill to their Houses of Assembly let alone enact the law.
Perhaps, this is the reason cows still roam the streets of the South-East at will, even near Government Houses; they brazenly invade schools’ premises, offices, among other public establishments.
The laws are not available so there is nothing to implement; that is the reality in the zone. Hence the herders and their cattle will continue to have a field day in the farms and people’s private premises, leaving on their trail agonies on the people.
Citizens of the South-East region are angry with the governors over the situation, accusing them of abandoning their people in their time of need and succumbing to the intimidation of the Federal Government.
Reacting angrily to this, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, said that the five South-East states have not passed the law banning open grazing in their states and that they have no interest in doing that. According to the foundation, “rather, what we are seeing is lip-service, falsehood and sycophancy from the leadership of the South-East Governors’ Forum.”
According to the spokesman of the Igbo elite body, Hon. Abia Onyike, “the governors have not been speaking sincerely. They have been talking individually. Only the chairman of their Forum, Governor David Umahi has been speaking, though from both sides of his mouth. They are toying with the lives of our people. It is painful and regrettable that Governor Umahi, on behalf of his colleagues, has been lying to the public that the anti-open grazing laws exist in the South-East. He knows the truth but they are never serious with the security of Ndigbo.
Umahi, ADF alleged, “has a way of manipulating his colleagues and they are also careful not to be black-mailed. The situation is so bad that they fear that they could be reported to Ask Rock as IPOB sympathisers if they dare insist on the proper things being done.
“Governor Umahi’s leadership of the Governors’ Forum at this critical moment has become a tragedy to Ndigbo. For instance, the Ebubeagu regional security outfit created by the Governors’ Forum was nothing but a smoke-screen set up to pursue the private political agenda of the governors, it has nothing to do with the security of the zone.
“In Ebonyi State, a haphazard attempt was made to put up an ill-equipped and untrained personnel which has been going about in the markets claiming to maintain law and order whereas the Fulani herdsmen still killed people in the state without any resistance.
“In the other four states of Enugu, Abia, Imo and Anambra, there is hardly any sign of Ebubeagu. So, Governor Umahi and others do not believe in the regional security project, which was why his elder brother who was the Security Adviser to the governors resigned. The governors are playing games with security in the South-East and buying time. In fact, they have, particularly their chairman, become the nemesis of Ndigbo.”
One of the leading Igbo voices and former civilian governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife advised the South-East governors to ensure that the ban on open grazing is being fully enforced.
Ezeife, who spoke on the sidelines of the meeting of Anambra Elders Council, noted with regret that open grazing has caused serious problems leading to bloodbath in the South-East zone.
Flanked by Chief Mbazulike Amechi, first Republic Aviation Minister, Ezeife contended that since the ban on open grazing was announced, no meaningful measures have been taken to address the excesses of Fulani herdsmen who indulge in open grazing.
The Association of South-East Town Unions, ASETU, said the governors have been feeding the people with falsehood and deceiving them.
“As against the claims in some quarters, there is no anti-open grazing law in any state in the South-East yet. This is painful, given that our people have made it abundantly clear that the enactment of the law will be the first most effective step in curtailing the murderous activities of the armed herdsmen in our land.
“What the South-East Governors have done is to verbally proscribe open grazing. Yet, since this verbal proscription was done, there has not been any difference. The onslaughts of the herdsmen and the unbridled movement of cattle have continued unabated.
“The lawmaking process in this regard should commence with the governors sending executive bills to the respective Houses of Assembly for the laws. Anyone who claims to have made any anti-open grazing law in the South- East should then answer these fundamental questions about lawmaking: First, when was it promulgated? Second, what is the punishment for offenders?
“We therefore insist that the governors expedite action to save the lives and property of our people by making and enforcing the anti-open grazing laws,” ASETU said through its National President, Chief Emeka Diwe.
In Anambra State, there is no law banning open grazing. However, there is a gentleman’s agreement between the leadership of herdsmen and the joint task force set up by the state government on the control of cattle on farmlands in various communities. The agreement provides compensation to be paid by either parties in cases of destruction of farmlands and killing of cows.
When some communities could no longer tolerate the roaming of cattle on their farms with the attendant friction between them and the herders, hard decisions were taken and such decisions brought sanity in the communities.
Following these frequent clashes between herders and farmers in the state, Governor Willie Obiano set up Cattle Menace Committee in the state. The committee fixed payment for compensations to reflect the current market value of cows and crop items in the state.
For instance, the governor directed recently that the sum of N12 million owed farmers for damaged crops by the herders be paid to them and about N6 million be paid to the herdsmen for cows killed, while N3 million compensation be paid to families that lost their people during herders/ farmers’ clashes. At that meeting were the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Uchenna Okafor, coordinator of the State Vigilante Service, CP Ikechukwu Aduba (rtd), traditional rulers, Presidents-General of town unions, House of Assembly members, youths of affected communities and Miyetti Allah leadership in the state. They all agreed on the need to avoid friction in any part of the state.
While the state government insisted that the ban on open grazing remained in force, the South- East chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Alhaji Gidado Sidikki insisted that the ban would jeopardize their businesses in the state and the entire South-East zone.
Siddiki said: “Our position is that we are not opposed to the ban on open grazing, but at least, we need an alternative. You know when somebody is doing business and you stop him from doing that business, he would be given an alternative on what to do.
When you say that you have banned open grazing, you need to tell us how we should graze our cows because what we know is grazing. If there is an alternative, there is no problem, and that is the only thing we are begging for.
Reminded that ranching has been proposed as an alternative option to open grazing, Siddiki replied: “Is there any provision for that ranching? If there is provision for ranching, we can do ranching but I don’t think there is provision for ranching. Even in Benue State that said it has banned open grazing and will do ranching; I don’t think there has been any ranching in Benue State in all these years. So, I don’t know if there is provision and that is our own problem.
Siddiki had, at the Anambra meeting against open grazing, argued that the herders require training and retraining on a modern system of grazing because most of the herders are illiterates and therefore do not have the knowledge of modern mechanized farming.
The agreement between cattle breeders and communities has drastically reduced conflicts and there is hardly any case of conflict in recent time. Also, the usual roaming of cattle along the road has almost disappeared.Cattle dealers now use trucks to convey cows to various locations in the state.
Contributing, the former National Chairman of the PDP called on all the state Houses of Assembly in the region to enact anti-grazing law to stop open grazing of cattle in the zone.
Nwodo who was governor of Enugu State told South-East Voice that it would be difficult to enforce what is not a law across the states in the South-East. He said it is when the law is enacted that violators could be prosecuted and punished according to the provisions of the law.
“The first thing is for our lawmakers to pass anti-grazing laws in their respective state Houses of Assembly. You cannot enforce something that is not a law. Having passed that, anybody who violates it runs against the law and would be prosecuted and punished according to the provisions of the law,” Nwodo said.
He described the security situation in the South-East as worrisome, but assured that the stakeholders are already putting measures in place to nip the ugly development in the bud.
However, Abia State Government has blamed the Police for failing to enforce the anti-open grazing law signed into law by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to check the conflict between farmers and herdsmen.
The Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, told South-East Voice that the state enacted the anti-open grazing law in 2018, stressing that it is the duty of the Police to enforce the law as a federal agency.
He said: “The anti-open grazing law was enacted in Abia State in 2018. Even without the state’s anti-open grazing law signed by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, there are other laws in this country against willful destruction of property. It is not for us to enforce; it is the duty of the Police. They should enforce the laws as they exist.
“As a responsible government, Governor Ikpeazu signed the anti-open grazing law enacted by the State House of Assembly. It is for the Police and security agencies to enforce the law. The Federal Government should do the needful.”
For the Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Amichi, Rt. Rev. Ephraim Ikeakor, open grazing is obsolete and outdated, the president and the governors should not give the impression that it must be forced on Nigerians unless they want to cause problem in the country.
According to him, Southern governors have done well to ban it and every reasonable and sensible person must accept the ban as the correct thing to be done and it must be implemented by the South-East governors, and should not be used to play party politics. It is what the people want this time, not what the parties, the president, or the governors want, rather what the people want must be done.
“We have not seen the implementation yet by any South-East governor, but we believe they will start the implementation without further delay. What the people have given them is little time to implement it. And we expect them not to look at any face, but to do the right thing and what the people want, to avoid regrets.
“Open grazing is obsolete and outdated, whether the president or the presidency likes it or not, it must be abolished. It is not practised in any modern country, and must not be practised in Nigeria, particularly in the South- East because open grazing is the main cause of the escalating insecurity crisis we have today in Nigeria; and we wonder why the President has not named the Fulani herdsmen and MACBAN who are behind them as terrorist groups.
“Instead of trying to force or impose the practice of open grazing on Nigerians, Mr. President should call the Fulani herdsmen and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, to order because they are causing the problem that necessitated the call for abolishing open grazing, and he is treating them with kid gloves.
We wonder why they have not been designated as terrorist groups, what they are doing is more dangerous and more destructive than the group they have proscribed in the South-East and trying to designate as terrorist group.
“Nigeria is crucially sitting on a keg of gunpowder if open grazing should be allowed. The leaders and leadership of this country should wake up to the reality that you cannot hold down the citizenry forever.
This is the state of things among the citizens of Nigeria. They have resolved to demand and fight for their rights without looking at anybody’s face. #EndSARS is a lesson and should be a big lesson to Nigerian leaders.
“The political leaders have woefully failed Nigerians in doing what is right, they rather do things that favour them, they do not consider the interest of the people; you are not feeding the people, and yet, you cannot allow their crops they toiled to farm to grow, you want animals to eat up their crops and when they resist, you kill them, it will no longer be acceptable.
“The people’s only survival, sustenance, safety, and support is through their farms, because they have lost faith in our leaders and you cannot deny them access and proceeds of their farms with your own private business. Our leaders should know that it is no longer business as usual. They should now face the stark reality that Nigeria and Nigerians have taken their destinies in their hands and must not accept any imposition of things that negatively affect their lives.
READ ALSO: The day herdsmen told me Akure land belonged to them
“There is no way we can have a peaceful and satisfactory Nigeria if we continue to run this nation the way it is currently being run, those who commit crime in the name of grazing their cattle, go free, the untouchables, and those who did nothing yet they are hunted to be killed as if they are criminals that must be hunted and killed,” Bishop Ikeakor declared.
The former Imo State Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Professor Chidi Osuagwu, is of the view that the governors of the South-East zone have not shown enough commitment to ending the issue of open grazing.
“Let me start by saying this; some of these states have not come out clearly on whether they have made the law against open grazing or not. This is part of the confusion.
“For the governors of the five states in the region, where did they make the law and when did they sign it? Again, the enforcers of any law in Nigeria are the police and other security agencies and these governors don’t have control of them even when the governors are part of the confusion. Nobody knows where they stand now.
“If they made the law, it is the police that will enforce it and police is controlled by the Federal Government. As far as we are concerned, we don’t know what they are doing.
“Alternatively, it will be the Ebubeagu which the South-East governors said they have created and that they will use to protect their people. We don’t see them doing that; what is clear is that nobody is protecting our people; not the federal and not the state government. You know if the people know that there is a law banning open grazing, they will be the ones to implement it,” Osuagwu said.
In Ebonyi State, the member representing Ivo State Constituency at the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Hon. Oliver Osi, said that the Governor was yet to forward a bill against open grazing to the State House of Assembly.
He described the ban on open grazing in the state as a mere government policy yet to be translated into law.
“At the moment, the state government is yet to forward a bill against open grazing to the House. Ban on open grazing is still a mere government policy yet to be translated into law.
“The so-called Commissioner for Capital Territory has not seen those cows roaming the streets as nuisance but is busy destroying people’s hard earned property in the name of sanitizing the state capital.
“We need a law banning open grazing in the state. The governor has to be sincere in his policies. The law should not be discriminative.
The member representing Nsukka East Constituency in the Enugu State House of Assembly and Chairman, House Committee on Public Account and Anti-Corruption, Rt. Hon. Chinedu Nwamba said that but for the crisis that engulfed the 5th Assembly of the House, he would have succeeded in his bill to ban open grazing and establish ranching in the state.
Nwamba maintains that for the governors’ declaration against open grazing to be effective, there should be a law on that, saying at present there is no bill against ban on open grazing in the state House of Assembly. He said at this point, an executive bill would be better for the Houses of Assembly to deliberate on.
According to Nwamba, he got threats from some Igbo people, particularly those in Diaspora who accused him of plotting to give the Igbo land to herdsmen in the guise of proposal for ranching. He noted, however, that the misconception is denying the Igbo revenue of about N16 billion it would have been taking from proceeds of cattle business if pressures on him were relaxed and his bill allowed to pass through.
“I started shouting this in 2012 when I moved it as a motion. That was when we started hearing about herdsmen attacks, robbery and kidnapping and I moved a motion that these things should be monitored. When it continued, I went for making a law that will ban open grazing or movement of cows from one place to another. So I proposed that the government should develop three ranches in the three senatorial zones of Enugu State.
“I did a research then and found out that in Igbo land, over N16 billion is spent on monthly basis in buying cows for different celebrations and I did an analysis using a basis of N150, 000 per cow. It is a very big business and there are no people making such money in the country that will not have the power to cause trouble if they want to.
“But because of the pressure and harassment I was getting from people, I decided to step it down since the tension was very high and was misunderstood. It might come up as an executive bill since the Southern governors have said they are banning open grazing, it is now time for it to come up as an executive bill and we come up with contributions depending on peculiarities. I also want to thank the Governor of Enugu State who has started ranching in Eha-Alumona through the Ministry of Agriculture, where the native cattle, Efi-Igbo, are being ranched,” Nwamba said.
Former Deputy Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe attributed the non-implementation of the ban on open grazing to fear of herdsmen attack. Ndukwe who was the deputy speaker when the law was passed blamed security agents for non-enforcement of the law.
“I was a member of the sixth Assembly when we passed the law. We agreed that the Ministry of Agriculture and that of Environment would have Forest Guards on uniform to enforce the law. We went a step further to include the Civil Defence Corp and the Police in the enforcement and prosecution of those that flout the law.
“But today what has happened? You see that the police and other security agencies are not interested in enforcing the law, Ndukwe said.
Continuing, Ndukwe who also served as Commissioner for Trade and Investment in the state, said that the morbid fear of attack by herdsmen scare people from confronting them to implement the ban on open grazing law.
He called for the formation of local vigilantes by various communities to stop cows roaming their farmlands even as he tasked security agencies to wake up to their responsibilities of enforcing the law and stop being selective.
In his contribution, the traditional ruler of Oriendu autonomous community in Umuahia North Council of Abia State, Eze Philip Ajomuiwe, tasked security agents to stop being afraid of herdsmen.
Eze Ajomiwe, a well known cassava farmer who had been a victim of farm destruction by herders and their cows, said the reluctance of security agents constitutionally empowered to enforce the ban to do the needful could lead locals and farmers who are victims to take laws into their hands.
The monarch, former Vice- Chairman of Cassava Growers Association, South-East, raised the alarm that the destructive activities of herders and their cattle on farms in communities has forced prices of farm produce up.
“Farmers are getting frustrated every day. Before now, when you farm, you reap your crops but today in Nigeria, farmers plant; cows reap the fruits. This is absurd.”
In his reaction, former Nigeria Ambassador to Argentina, Ambassador Empire Kanu, charged local communities to confront any cow grazing on their farms since government has shown lack of interest in their affairs. Kanu expressed rage over the development which he said sounded too primitive to be practised in the 21st Century.
He said that the failure of government to protect the rights of farmers had left them with no choice other than to resort to self help.
“Why should cows be allowed to keep grazing on people’s farms in this modern age? The local communities should stop them. If the law banning open grazing has been passed and the security agents are not enforcing it, the local communities should form vigilantes to confront them. They should resist them and let the heavens fall. Enough is enough!
“Go to Ghana, they have ordered that any cow grazing openly should be roasted. What nonsense is going on in this country?”
The member representing Umuahia East Constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Chukwudi Apugo, however advised members of the public against taking laws into their hands.
Apugo who expressed worry over the menace of herdsmen and the economic injury they inflict on farmers, said as lawmakers, they had done their part by passing the law banning open grazing, and tasked the executive arm of government to ensure its enforcement. Apugo also lambasted the security agencies for their lackadaisical attitude towards enforcement of the ban, warning on the dangers of the ugly development.
In his contribution, Prof. Obasi Igwe lamented the delay in enacting law to back the ban on open grazing by the governors. Igwe urged them to adopt the template already developed by former Ekiti State governor, Fayose and Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom if they are afraid of being persecuted by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, after their tenure.
“Despite claims to the contrary, except in the archives of lawyer friends, there are no known laws by any of the governors banning open grazing in their states. Of course, there have been a multitude of maybe perfunctory declarations of opposition to open grazing.
“If because of EFCC they are too frightened to enact any laws of their own, they ought to be free to simply adopt the template already developed by Fayose of Ekiti State and Ortom of Benue State. It is not clear that they are so inclined. If still too scared, there is a subsisting 1969 Court ruling banning open grazing anywhere within the Nigerian territory, their lawyers can provide them details.
“If anything else is needed, they can take refuge in the court of public opinion, telling those probably blackmailing them that the ban is what their people need and that registering herdsmen and other private businesses aids taxation and revenue generation, and enhances security.
“The herdsmen have evaded taxation for far too long and they should start paying now in the states they conduct their businesses.”
He accused governors of playing to the tune of the Federal Government, allowing their people to be killed by AK-47- wielding herdsmen.
The National Coordinator, Concerned Advocates for Good Governance, CAGG, Barrister Olusegun Bamgbose tasked the governors to refuse to be intimidated by the Federal Government in their bid to implement the anti- open grazing law in their states.