Despite criticisms and opposition, mainly from the North, that have continued to trail the resolutions by the Southern Governors Forum, to implement the ban on open grazing in the 17 states that make up the geopolitical zone, governors of the affected states insist they are ready to go on with their plans once the bill is passed by lawmakers in the states’ Houses of Assemblies and later signed into law.
Asked how enforceable is the bill if eventually signed into law, given the fact that the states are still going to rely on the men and officers of the Nigerian Police Force, a federal government organ, to implement the ban, Ekiti State Commissioner of Information, Hon. Akin Omole, dismissed the envisaged problem with a wave of hand.
“The first thing to look at is to see the power that a particular governor has under the law,” he said. “If the state government has power under the constitution of Nigeria to carry out something, a policy, the question of whether it is the federal government that has the police does not arise. It is the constitutionality of that decision that is important, if it is within the powers of the state shows the governor can act without any fear of any sort.
“The second thing is that if a governor is part of a decision taken with others, I do not see any situation where he can come back and say he was not part of that decision. It was a well-thought out decision and he has not come out to say he is dissenting, so, we don’t have any difficulty in that so far we are able to come home and see the constitutionality of our actions. If it is constitutional, you can be sure that our governor will implement it.”
Reacting to the criticisms and opposition the resolution has generated so far, from Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders of Nigeria (MACBAN), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and some Northern Nigerian governors, Omole saw that as a storm in a teacup.
“We are a state government,” he said. “If anybody is opposing something, we are not under anybody. If somebody is opposing a particular thing, it is the law that put the governor there and he will operate within the law. If so far that we are guided by law, we don’t mind who is opposing one thing or the other. It is the law that will determine our decision not minding whether an individual is against it or not. Nobody is bigger than the law of the country. It is the law that is our guide and we will continue to act in accordance with the law of the country.”
The Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu echoed similar sentiments on the issue. He said the state government is already working on a law to give legal backing to the ban on open grazing of cattle in southern Nigeria as announced by governors of the 17 states of the Southern region. He told Saturday Sun that very soon, the law which is expected to spell out sanctions against violators of the ban, will soon be rolled out for the police to enforce. Like Omole argued, he added that it was the duty of the police to enforce laws made by constituted authorities at the federal, states or local government level.
“The police do not have a choice,” he explained. “Once a law is made by a constituted authority, in this case, the state assembly and signed into law, the police cannot say it’s a state law. Let me tell you that majority of the laws enforced by police are state laws. Majority of the offences in this country are offences at the level of the state.” According to him, the other 16 states of the South will need to domesticate the law prohibiting open grazing for the purpose of seamless enforcement in the region.
In Imo, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba informed that the bill to enforce the ban on open grazing is already underway in the state’s House of Assembly. He assured that once the bill is passed into law the state government would not waste time in implementing it.
Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, said the Southern governors would work out modalities for the implementation of the law banning open grazing.
He added that the fact the governors met recently and agreed to ban open grazing in their region, shows that it is their (Southern governors) responsibility to determine how to go about it. He said: “Southern governors met and took a decision. They will work out modalities for its implementation. It’s not for states to say how they will implement the law.”
But while majority of the states are waiting to pass a bill on it, states like Bayelsa and Ebonyi had already done so. In a chat with Saturday Sun, the Balyesa State Government said that its anti-opening law which was signed into by Govenor Douye Diri was already in full operation before the 17 Southern Governors resolution took place.
Diri had assented to the Livestock Breeding, Rearing and Marketing Regulation Law 2021 which banned opened grazing in the state, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr David Alagoa noted. The man who heads the 23-member committee constituted to implement the ban in consonance with representatives of security agencies assured that the state will not have any problem implementing the resolution of the Southern governors with the anti-opening grazing law.
According to him before the bill was passed into law, there was a public hearing on the matter attended by the representatives of Miyetti Allah. He said after the governor assented to the bill after it was passed into law. That was after the state government had met with representatives to explain to them the nature of the implementation and consequences of default.
His words: “We meet with the Miyetti Allah and explained to them that we have banned open-grazing in the state. We gave them the option of moving their cattle to Bayelsa Palm, where we have over 1000 hectares of land for grazing or leave the state. Some of them that were comfortable with the Bayelsa Palm moved their cattle there and others left. So now in Bayelsa State, there are no cattle roaming about because we have banned opening grazing. We have a lot of farmers who have borrowed money for their farms so we cannot afford to have cattle to destroy those farms. There is no problem with the implementation in Bayelsa.”
Ebonyi is another of the Southern states in the country that has enacted a law against open grazing. The state Governor, David Umahi, recently wondered why the Fulani herdsmen were still grazing their cows openly in clear defiance to the law. He thereafter ordered local government chairmen in the state to work with the local vigilante and the Ebubeagu security operatives in the state to enforce the law.
Addressing journalists in Abakaliki recently after the weekly state security council meeting, he said though herdsmen had left the state after their attack on Egedegede Community in Ishielu Local Government Area of the state for fear of reprisal, there is urgent need for effective enforcement of the law in all parts of the state. He said: “The information we have is that no herdsman is in Ebonyi, as at today. That is to further prove that they were privy to the attack on Egedegede Community. We are not asking them to leave but they should remain wherever they are for now until tension subsides.
“We are expecting the good ones to return when normalcy returns, but the bad ones should not return to soil of Ebonyi because we will not take it any longer. Only the ones who are ready to respect our law against open grazing and those ready to live in peace with our people should return.”
Special Adviser to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State on Security Matters, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos and Benue States, also noted that before all the governors in the Southern part of Nigeria, agreed to ban open grazing in the region, the state already Anti-Open Grazing Law.
In an interview with Saturday Sun in Ibadan, he explained that the Oyo State House of Assembly held a public hearing, during which inputs were taken from different stakeholders, including the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).
He stated further that apart from the Anti-Open Grazing Law, provisions have also been made for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for settlement of cases. He warned that those in the forest that have been parading themselves as herdsmen to deceive members of the public would be treated as criminals. He noted that the law is very clear on who can prosecute and would be followed strictly. He added that all law enforcements agencies must obey the law, saying Amotekun Corps is also a creation of the law.
But in its reaction, the Anambra State government said that there was no plan to enact a law for the enforcement of the ban on open grazing noting that the governor, Chief Willie Obiano, had given the security agencies the directive to enforce the ban.
The Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment in the state, Don Adinuba, made this stance known when he told Saturday Sun that the state government would not go beyond making use of the security agents to enforce the ban.
“We will make use of the security agents. That’s all. The law is not necessary. The governor can issue a directive. Secondly, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum had in February or so banned open grazing. So, whether it is in Anambra or Imo or Lagos, it is the same situation. Enacting a law against open grazing is not necessary. And the state is not planning to come up with a law. We don’t need it.”