Open grazing: We will arrest, try lawless herdsmen —South-West governors

Olayinka Olukoya | Abeokuta, ‘Yomi Ayeleso | Ado-Ekiti, Hakeem Gbadamosi | Akure and Wale Akinselure | Ibadan 

FOUR out of five South-West states that are experiencing the security threat posed by activities of Fulani herdsmen will arrest and put on trial any herdsman that breaks the law which bans night and open grazing in the states. 

They have also said they would leverage on the recent pact signed at a meeting of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum with the leadership of the umbrella body of herders in the country, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), in Akure, Ondo State, on Monday, to put a stop to the menace. 

However, a Fulani group, the Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN), has said the outcome of the Akure meeting was not binding on its members, saying the South-West governors conceded nothing to Miyetti Allah in the agreement reached. In an exclusive interview with Saturday Tribune, the national president of GAFDAN, Alhaji Sale Bayari, cited a number of reasons why his group is taking exception to the agreement, one of which, he said, was the fact that not every Fulani herdsman is a member of MACBAN. (See full interview on pages 8 and 25). 

The governments of Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun states separately told Tribune Online on Friday that they were determined to apply the laws fully to stop attacks and security threats occasioned by the activities of the herdsmen in their respective states. 

Amotekun will be used to deal with erring herders –Oyo 

The Oyo State government said on Friday that its anti-open grazing law would be implemented to the letter in dealing with herders who continue to engage in open grazing of their livestock. 

In particular, the state government said the 200 additional Amotekun corps members had been deployed in Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun areas to ensure the enforcement of the anti-open grazing law. 

Mr Taiwo Adisa, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, stated this in an interview with Saturday Tribune. 

He implored residents of the state to report those seen still engaging in open or night grazing to security agencies, Amotekun, the Police Mobile Force Squadron 72 in Ago-Are, or call the state’s emergency number 615. 

As against open grazing, Adisa said the law permitted ranching and therefore urged all those rearing livestock to seek land for ranching and obtain permit from the state government. 

He added that the law stipulates registration of herdsmen with a N200,000 fine and/or two years imprisonment for those guilty of nonregistration. 

Among others, the Oyo State Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation law, 2019, states that anyone who engages in open rearing or grazing of livestock is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years or a fine of N500,000 or both. 

Subsequent offenders shall upon conviction be liable to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of N2 million or both. 

The law prohibits the movement of livestock on foot from one destination to another in the state, with all herdsmen mandated to submit themselves for registration and get an identification card, which must be worn at all times. 

Furthermore, cattle movement is only permissible by rail wagon, truck or pick-up wagon, between 7.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m., while any person found moving livestock on foot is liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years or a fine of N500,000 or both. 

The law bans a minor from grazing, herding or grazing of livestock except under the supervision of an adult, while the minor or owner of cattle is liable on conviction to a fine of N300,000 or three years imprisonment or both. 

By the law, cattle owners are restricted to grazing livestock in approved ranches where persons wishing to set up ranches are to obtain permit from the state government for a period of three years, with renewal subject to the approval of the land owner. 

However, the governor is empowered to revoke permit, without compensation, to the herdsman for any breach of security. 

Herdsmen are to submit themselves to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for registration and after paying a specified fee, they are to be issued an identification card to be worn at all times. 

The law stipulates a N200,000 fine and two years imprisonment for herdsmen found guilty of nonregistration, while anyone without identification card is liable on conviction to imprisonment for one year or a fine of N100,000 or both. Any herdsman who causes injury to any person is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for five years or a fine of N500,000 or both, and pay the medical bill of the injured person.

Also stipulated by the law is that whenever any livestock strays into any person’s land other than a ranch and causes destruction of crops, the herdsman is liable to pay compensation to the owner with valuation to be determined by the state Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

If the onslaught leads to death of any person, the herdsman, upon conviction, will be sentenced for manslaughter under the criminal code law.

Also prohibited, by the law, is the sale, transfer or mortgage of any land leased to herdsman for the purpose of ranching. The Ministry of Agriculture will also be empowered to impound any livestock found grazing or wandering or herding in an area not permitted as a ranch, while impounded livestock not claimed within seven days will be sold on auction to the public and the proceeds paid into the state’s coffers.

Ekiti to begin registration of herders February 8

On its part, Ekiti State disclosed that it would commence the registration of herdsmen from February 8, 2021 as part of measures to tackle herders/farmers clashes and the growing insecurity in the state.

As part of the fallout of the Akure meeting of the governors with the MACBAN leadership, the government also said the registration would be extended to farmers in a bid to know the data of people expected in farms across the state.

Speaking with Tribune Online in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, on Friday, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Olabode Olatoyi, disclosed that any form of grazing had been banned in the government reserves, settlements and other areas government dedicated for agriculture.

He noted that the administration of Governor Kayode Fayemi was committed to the protection of lives and property of residents, saying everything would be done within the law to achieve this. He said the registration would afford the government to have complete details of those expected in the farms, whether the farmers or the herders and swiftly moved against criminals.

Olatoyi explained that the government would enforce the decisions reached at the Akure meeting on the ban of underage and night grazing and that criminal elements masquerading as pastorals would be flushed out from the state. To further achieve peace, he revealed that the government had inaugurated a special herders-farmers peace committee which would ensure regular interface among the stakeholders. He said the committee would be coordinated from the ministry.

The commissioner said: “Apart from the decisions from the Akure meeting, we have added another one in Ekiti that nobody can graze on government land again in the state, like farm settlements, farm centres, forest reserves and dedicated lands for agriculture. It is now illegal in Ekiti State.

“Also, we are embarking on registration of Fulani herdsmen and even farmers, starting from February 8 across the state for us to know those on the farm. After doing this, we will know if anytime crops are destroyed, we will know the authenticity of people involved if they are registered.

“The administration is committed to the safety of our people and their property and we will not hesitate to punish those who go against the law of the state.” He warned residents against spreading fake and unsubstantiated news on the security situation in the country, saying all efforts must geared towards achieving lasting peace in the society.

We’ll enforce law banning open, night grazing –Ogun

The Ogun State government also vowed to enforce the directive banning open and night grazing as soon as the grace period for compliance is over. This was disclosed by Hon Remmy Hazzan, the Special Adviser (Public Communication) to Governor Dapo Abiodun, in an interview with Tribune Online.

Hazzan said the directive was barely a week hence the need for the state government to monitor the activities of the herders as regards their compliance level.

He said: “When you give an order, you will give time for compliance before enforcement begins. This order is barely a week, so we don’t want to assume that anybody is not going to comply.

“We see this period as window for them to take the compliance seriously. As soon as we are ready to enforce this directive, I can assure you that it will be in accordance with the laws of the state.”

We are not extending ultimatum on registration, vacation of forest reserves –Ondo

The Ondo State government in its own reaction insisted that it would not extend its ultimatum about the registration of herders in the state and the order for them to vacate the forest reserves.

The ultimatum by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to the Fulani herdsmen to vacate the state’s forest reserves lapsed last Sunday but the level of the herdsmen’s compliance with the registration order was still low as of Friday. The commander of the Amotekun Corps in the state, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, who made this disclosure, however, stated that the herdsmen had started to comply with the order.

He said: “We have been able to talk to them to come out of the forest and register as from last Monday, while we also warned them to stop destroying farms. However, we had some reported cases which we have attended to.

“I want to confirm to you that the herdsmen have started to respect the position of the government but they have not complied fully.

“We are not extending the ultimatum given by the state government about their registration and vacating the forest.”

Adeleye stated that a team comprising members of the Amotekun Corps and representatives of the Fulani community had been moving round the state to explain the need for the herders to register and comply with the state government’s directives.

“They have started leaving the forest to register. We have also moved round with their representatives, including the Special Adviser on Hausa Matters and Miyetti Allah representatives, and some other opinion leaders from the Fulani community,” he added.

The Amotekun commander, however, condemned the destruction of a farm in Idanre in Idanre Local Government Area by some herdsmen and their cattle. He said the corps had been able to arrest the situation by appealing to the two sides and asking them to come out with a position soon.

“There was a reported case of farm destruction in Idanre community. We went there and we saw the massive destruction. We met the owners of the farm, including an old woman who was depressed by the destruction. “Although no arrest was made, we appealed to them and told them we would see what the government could do,” Adeleye said.

Stoppage of open grazing in Osun will be gradual –Govt

The chairman of the Committee on Peaceful Coexistence between Fulani/ Bororo and Crop Farmers in Osun State, Mr Mudasiru Toogun, on Friday said that Fulanis in the state have agreed to comply with the Akure pact.

Toogun said the stoppage of open grazing, night grazing and underage grazing in the state would be gradual as the government had met with the leadership of the Fulani in the state after the Akure meeting to brief them on the pact and which they had agreed to implement.

He said there was no cause for alarm in the state with the setting up of the peace committee to resolve problems between herders and farmers in the state.

“We sold the idea of setting up the same committee in other states in the South West at the Akure meeting, which they are now emulating,” he noted.

Toogun described the making of laws in the country as fantastic but said their execution was a problem. He, however, described the relationship between farmers and Fulani herders in the state as cordial but appealed to the authorities who made law on the banning of open grazing to provide the herders with an alternative for the feeding of their livestock.

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