Farmers and herdsmen in Oyo state were divergent in their positions on plans to evolve a law prohibiting open rearing and grazing of livestock as the state House of Assembly coordinated a public hearing on the proposed anti-open grazing law, on Wednesday.
While farmers’ associations traditional rulers, community leaders, government officials, rendered positions in favour of the passage of the bill into law, herders’ associations like Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN), JANINAT FULBE Association and Seriki Fulani of Oyo State argued that the bill was lopsided and hurriedly imposing an alien culture of ranching upon them.
Setting the tone for the discourse at House of Chiefs, Secretariat, Ibadan, Oyo state, Speaker of the state Assembly, Honourable Adebo Ogundoyin had pointed out that bill targeted peaceful coexistence among farmers and herdsmen, especially in rural areas.
Ogundoyin specifically urged farmers, community leaders, herdsmen to put aside their various interests and be keen on arriving at a middle ground.
In his own remarks, Special Adviser to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr Fatai Owoseni described cattle rearing as a business where cattle owners were expected to be leased land for business purposes.
While noting the need for increased sensitisation of all stakeholders, Owoseni cautioned those opposed to the passage of the bill into law against making inciting statements but seek peace.
Bringing in an academic input, Professor Emmanuel Salako of department of Animal Science, University of Ibadan, described the stipulated fines in the bill as not adequate.
Making reference to some fine stipulations of N50,000 in the bill, Salako argued that fines should be increased to between N500,000 and N1 million such that it is commensurate with the offence committed.
Speaking on behalf of farmers in the state, Mr S. A. Adeniyi said it was expedient for open grazing to be controlled by necessary laws.
Adeniyi held that farmers were always concerned about cattle owners’ use of underage to herd huge number of cattle, adding that RUGA was unacceptable in the South West.
Traditional rulers present at the event spoke for the passage of the anti-grazing bill into law.
Leading support for an anti-grazing law in the state, the Aseyin of Aseyin, Oba Abdulganiyu Ologunebi held that ranching in an enclosed space was acceptable in developed countries and should be adopted in the state.
He wondered why herders would herd cattle with the rifle, describing open grazing as criminal.
Oba Ologunebi however decried that the nation’s porous borders also facilitated the entry of criminal non-Nigerian herdsmen into the country.
He also fingered security agencies for allowing sums of money to influence their manner of dealing with farmers/herdsmen crisis.
Similarly, the Olugbon of Orile-Igbon, Oba Francis Alao urged the state Assembly to rapidly pass the anti-grazing bill into law to engender peaceful coexistence in the state.
Dissenting position, however, came from the National Chairman, GAFDAN, Mr Sale Bayari; the Seriki Fulani of Oyo state, Mr Saliu Kadir speaking on behalf of JAMINAT FULBE; and Chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Oyo state, Mr Yakubu Bello.
Bayari, in his presentation, held that the bill did not take into cognisance the cattle rearing culture and hereditary attachment of the Fulanis to his means of livelihood.
He added that the cattle owners needed training in how animals could be kept in ranches and survive.
This is as he described as unprofitable giving them a one year lease period renewable at the whims and caprices of the ranch owner.
In the same vein, Bello said the change from a nomadic culture to ranching could only be accepted gradually and with adequate education.
According to Bello, the developed countries referenced for having adopted ranching were far ahead of Nigeria hence mode of cattle rearing should be state and country specific.
Kadir, on his part, said it expected the state government to provide herdsmen a space for ranching, before coming up with a law prohibiting open grazing.