Open grazing law: Where South South governors, others got it wrong – Rivers MACBAN chairman

The recent enactment of anti-grazing laws by some state governors has elicited a mountain of mixed reactions and condemnation across the country. Joining in the reaction is the Miyyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Rivers state chapter under its chairman, Alhaji Musa Yah. GODWIN EGBA reports.

The signing into law of anti-grazing bill by some state governors to prohibit open grazing by Fulani herdsmen actually began from the month of July, 2021 even though Governor Samuel Ortom was the first to blow the whistle.

Following a meeting of the Southern Governors Forum where open grazing was prohibited in all the southern states, Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu signed it into law followed by Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu after the nod from their various state House of Assemblies. Subsequently, other governors followed with the recent exception of Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki.

The southern governors, after their meeting in Lagos set September 1 as deadline for the promulgation of anti-open grazing law. Governor Ortom had signed into law an Open Grazing Prohibition, Ranches Establishment Law 2017 and allegedly began to arrest cows on the streets of Benue even as opposition voices to the law maintained that there were no alternative ranches provided for the cattle breeders.

The argument of the authors of the laws are that open grazing is the cause of unabated destruction of farmlands and communities in southern and North-central part of the country by bandits masquerading as herders. The other argument is the perceived threat of ‘Islamisation’ and ‘Fulanisation’ against the country.

It could be recalled that scores of lives and properties were destroyed due to attacks and reprisals in various states across the country with accusing fingers at Fulani herders who go about with AK-47 guns to attack farmers.
Ortom is believed to be the leading wailer of these happenings as the state became a target by arm bearing herders to wipe out farmers and plunge the state (Food Basket of the Nation) into a perpetual state of hunger and poverty.

Rivers MACBAN kicks

However, MACBAN chairman in Rivers state, Alhaji Yau, in his reaction to the attacks by so-called herders wondered why such attackers are never arrested by law enforcement agents.

While speaking to Blueprint, he said it is not in his position to hold brief or defend herders who are accused of attacking farmers and communities in other states, but he is an authority to speak and to defend the activities of his members in Rivers.

He condemned the hasty manner some governors signed the anti-grazing bill into law, a decision he said some Nigerians described as destructive-driven agenda by some desperate politicians to destroy pastorialists’ means of livelihood.

The MACBAN chairman said unequivocally, “I am not against any government that decides to enact laws and policies to govern its people; but such laws and policies should have human face devoid of stifling lives of people or laws made to target a particular ethnic group(s) to destroy their socio-economic well-being.

“For instance, in Rivers state, we the leadership of cattle breeders association were not part of decision making of the law banning open grazing. We should have been invited to the state House of Assembly to make our contributions in order to harmonise the law.
“We could have guided the government how it could identify the real Fulanis rearing cattle in the state because there are non Fulanis living in different urban and communities in the state who are into cattle business. These set of people hire foreigners from Niger and Chad to take care of their cattle by taking them out in the night to feed. Often times, these cows stray into people’s farms and when crops are eaten up or destroyed, we the Fulanis are at the receiving end of blames of attack.

“A real Fulani cattle rearer does not live in the cities but settle in community bush away from community farms; a Fulani cattle breeder does not graze in the night but sleeps with his cows at a resting place till break of day.
“And for any careless reason any of our member’s cows stray away and destroy somebody’s crops, the owner must be held responsible to pay for the damage and possibly face expulsion from that community because our association has spelt out a standing order to that effect,” Yau explained.

The chairman also lamented that his members face attacks from unidentified persons who attack them, kill their cows in the bush as recently experienced in Eleme-Ogoni axis where 34 cows were killed. A recent one, he said was seven killed and six others missing. He noted that during the ENDSAR protest across the country, some unidentified criminals attacked their cows in a bush at night in Eteo community and killed 21 cows in a swoop.
“All these attacks and loses were reported to various police divisions in the area without reprisal from us because we rely on the police, community chiefs and youth leaders to protect our interest because of our cordial relationship with them as our hosts.

“My cry is that for over 50 years of our sojourn and business in Rivers state, we have not had crises or conflicts with farmers and host communities as being reported in other states despite attacks we receive from some faceless criminals not until some desperate politicians began to mount propaganda to give us bad names in order to destroy our means of livelihood.

“I will advise the state governors who have signed the anti-grazing bill into law to take a cue from the governor of Katsina state, Aminu Masari and make provisions for organised herdsmen to house their animals in order to discourage open grazing. This should be done by allocating land to herders to breed their cattle to avoid a possible implosion of poverty in the country in the near future.

“As a patriotic Nigerian from the Fulani extraction, I join my voice with other Nigerians who have kicked against the enactment of the anti-open grazing law already signed by some of governors without providing or allocating grazing land to cattle breeders in their states.
“Those state governments should hearken to the advice of the national president of Miyyeti Allah Kautal Hore (MKKH), Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodejo published in Blueprint edition of Tuesday, September 7, 2021 condemning those enacted laws.

“Bodejo in that report drew the attention of the governors that their laws are in conflict with the National Assembly legislative power under item 62 Section of 1999 Constitution, pointing out that, “It is important to note that inter-state movement of pastorialist is analogous to inter-state commerce which is an exclusive power of the National Assembly.”

Bodejo also reasoned with other Nigerians that the looming dangers and security implications of these laws he described as satanic on national security would destroy livestock production and send millions of people that depend on the value chain of cattle meat business such as butchers, transporters, consumers into poverty. “The laws would undermine the relative peace and stability currently enjoyed in the local communities and threaten social order, exacerbate cattle rustling in the local communities as criminal gangs and states sponsored vigilantes would use the opportunity to institutionalise their nefarious act of cattle rusting.

“The laws would lead to serious humanitarian crises as many families would be destabilised and economic livelihood disrupted, leading to massive border migrations that would create further security challenges,” Yau explained.
The MACBAN chairman opined that to avoid the above looming dangers, the southern governors and others should join the governor of Katsina to commence the ranching programme by making provisions for where the Fulani cattle breeders would station their animals for easy control.

He also appealed to the federal government to assist the state governments with funds to make provisions for Fulanis in their states as it did to the Katsina state government with the sum of N 6.2 million