To curb the constant killing of farmers and destruction of farmlands by herdsmen, more southern states have enacted the anti-open grazing bill ahead of the September 1, 2021 target set by the 17 southern governors for the states in the region to enact the legislation, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.
The 17 governors of the southern states had in a meeting held in Lagos on July 5, 2021, urged the 17 states in the region to ensure that the legislation against open grazing of cattle is put in place on or before September 1.
Following the governors’ resolution, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, and Enugu state governments have sent the bills to their respective state houses of assembly, while the Osun State House of Assembly on Thursday passed the bill into law.
Ondo State House of Assembly had passed the bill into law three days before the governors’ meeting, while Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, had in March 2021, signed the bill into law.
Before the resolution of the governors, the anti-open grazing law was already operational in Ogun, Abia, Oyo, Ekiti, and Ebonyi states.
However, Anambra, Cross River, Imo, Edo, and Lagos states were yet to initiate the bill, 17 days to the September 1 target set by the southern governors.
In line with the resolution of the governors, the Delta State House of Assembly had on Monday, July 26, 2021, held a public hearing on a bill for the regulation of livestock breeding, rearing, and marketing, which will prohibit open grazing in the state.
The well-attended public hearing, held at the Assembly Complex Press Centre in Asaba, was organised by the assembly’s joint committees on Special Bills, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.
Chairman of the Joint Committees and the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Pat Ajudua, had specifically requested memoranda from stakeholders, including the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources; Director of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture; the Nigeria Police Force; Department of State Services (DSS); Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); Board of Internal Revenue; Cattle Dealers and Breeders Association; Butchers Union of Nigeria; farmers associations and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) also submitted memoranda on the ‘Delta State Livestock Breeding, Rearing and Marketing Regulation Bill’.
The bill had earlier passed the second reading on the floor of the state house of assembly on July 14, shortly after passing the first reading.
The resolution of the southern governors has also prompted Akwa Ibom State to initiate a bill titled: ‘Acquisition of Ranches, Grazing and Administration of Livestock Regulatory Bill, 2021.’
This anti-open grazing bill, which was sponsored by the lawmaker representing Mkpat Enin State Constituency, Hon. Victor Ekwere, and co-sponsored by 12 other legislators, has already scaled the first reading on the floor of the house.
The bill to outlaw open grazing of cattle in Enugu State also last Thursday passed the second reading at the state house of assembly, following the southern governors’ resolution.
The lawmakers have directed the joint House committees on Agriculture, Judiciary, and Security to conduct a public hearing on the bill.
Speaker of the assembly, Hon. Edward Ubosi said the bill would give farmers the confidence to return to their farms.
Also, in line with the resolution of the southern governors, the Rivers State House of Assembly had received correspondence from Governor Nyesom Wike to enact a law banning open grazing and rearing of livestock in the state.
Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani had at plenary read the letter on the executive bill, which was addressed to him by the governor.
The bill is titled, ‘Enactment of Rivers State Public Prohibition of Open Rearing and Grazing of Livestock and Ranching Administration Bill 2021.’
Wike, in the letter, said the bill followed a unanimous decision taken by the Southern Governors’ Forum recently to ban open grazing in the South.
Also in line with the demand of the southern governors, the Osun State House of Assembly last Thursday passed a bill to regulate animal grazing and establishments of cattle ranches and other related matters.
The Speaker, of the state house of assembly, Hon. Timothy Owoeye, at plenary, noted that the bill passed into law would prevent the destruction of farms, crops by open rearing and grazing of livestock.
Owoeye added that the bill would also prevent killings, and sexual molestation, as well as protect the environment from degradation and pollution caused by open rearing and grazing of livestock.
The Ondo State House of Assembly had three days before the governors’ July 5 meeting in Lagos, passed into law the anti-open grazing bill, in a bid to regulate the activities of herdsmen and the rearing of livestock in the state.
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, had last March signed into law the state’s ‘Livestock Breeding and Marketing Regulation Bill, 2021’, banning open grazing of livestock in the state.
Diri assented to the bill shortly after its passage by the 24-member House of Assembly.
Before the meeting of the southern governors, the anti-open grazing law was already operational in Abia, Oyo, Ekiti, Ebonyi, and Ogun states.
In Abia State, 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.
However, the state government had publicly expressed its frustration with the federal security agencies’ failure or even outright refusal to enforce the anti-open grazing law.
In Oyo State, the state House of Assembly had in October 2019 passed a bill titled: ‘Oyo State Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation Law,’ which was signed into law by Governor Seyi Makinde.
Before the setting up of the Amotekun Corps, the state government had also lamented that security agencies with the power to enforce it were under the control of the federal government.
Ebonyi State government had also enacted the law on Anti-open grazing in 2018.
But the legislation: “Law No. 010 of 2018: Ebonyi State Miscellaneous Offences Law, 2018,” has not been fully implemented and this has resulted in the constant killing of farmers by herders in the state.
Ekiti State government had also enacted anti-open grazing law titled: “Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing Law 2016”.
Ogun State Government had also signed anti-open grazing bill into law in 2016.
Meanwhile, despite the resolution of the southern governors, Anambra, Cross River, Imo, Edo, and Lagos states were yet to submit any anti-open grazing bill to their lawmakers.
In Lagos State, THISDAY gathered that the state ministry of justice was still preparing the bill.
A source at the ministry told THISDAY at the weekend that the state would not meet the September 1 target set by the southern governors.
The investigation also revealed that the Imo State government has not sent such a bill to the House of Assembly.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Declan Emelumba had referred THISDAY to the state House of Assembly, noting that it was the House of Assembly that should speak on the matter.
However, several calls were put to the House Chairman on Information, Hon. Johnson Duru, representing Ideato South constituency, was not answered as he merely replied “can I call you later,” which he did not fulfill as at the weekend.
THISDAY gathered that herdsmen have destroyed crops during open grazing in Irette, Avu, Obinze in Owerri West LGA; and Emekuku, Agbala, Amakohia/Akwakuma in Owerri North LGA.
Communities in Obowo, Okigwe, Mbaise, and other local government areas, are also affected by open grazing.
Cross River State Government has also ignored the southern governors’ demand despite a resolution by the state lawmakers urging the state government to reject open grazing because it was against an established environmental law of the state.
The Speaker of the House, Hon. Eteng Jonah William had told THISDAY that “the resolution subsists and the lawmakers remain opposed to open grazing.”
Despite the reported cases of attacks on farmers and destruction of farmlands by herdsmen in Anambra State, the state government was yet to initiate a bill to ban open grazing.
Herdsmen had reportedly stormed farm settlements known as Agweopia Camp, Iyiogbu Camp, and Iyinkolo, in Anambra West Local Government Area of the state, and beheaded scores.
The rampaging herdsmen had also killed farmers and raped women in Ayamelum, Awka North, Ogbaru, Ihiala, Orumba, and Anambra East.
In Edo State, the state House of Assembly said it already had a private bill against open grazing, which was kept in abeyance because of its sensitive nature.
The lawmakers said they were waiting for Governor Godwin Obaseki’s Executive Bill against open grazing to fine-tune it.
“The private bill was Kept in View (KIV) because we want to conduct a public hearing”, Edo State Speaker, Hon. Marcus Onobu had told THISDAY.