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February 24, 2017

Cattle grazing law: Ekiti State, FCT got it right

Since the assumption of office by the present administration, no week passes without breath-taking stories of the gruesome murder of men and women, who attempted to stop Fulani herdsmen from turning their agricultural farms into grazing fields for cattle.
Such incidents are fast becoming a daily occurrence across the country. What worries Nigerians most about these ceaseless and inhuman atrocities is the tacit and inexplicable silence of the Federal Government, whose constitutional responsibility it is to protect all lives and property. The president has sworn to do so, as the commander-in-chief of the Armed forces, using the police, army and other security agencies to nip such aggressions in the bud.
Media report show that between May 30 and June 20, this year, as many as 81 people met their untimely death at the hands of AK-47 and other dangerous weapons-carrying herdsmen in Logo and Ukum’s Local Government Areas of Benue State alone.
It is in the light of the foregoing attacks and silence by Mr. president, that we commend the bold step taken recently by the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose by signing into law, a bill, restricting cattle grazing in Ekiti State. The new law referred to as “Anti Grazing Bill 2016”, said with this, the governor would be empowered to check the killing of Local residents and destruction of farmlands by herdsmen and their cattle. The law also strengthened security in various communities across the State.
Anyone who contravenes this law stands the risk of being tried as a terrorist and so will any herdsman caught with any weapon. “Any herdsman who violates any of these rules shall be imprisoned for six months without option of fine”, stated the law.
Interestingly, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Muhammad Musa Bello, followed the bold example of Governor Fayose some days later by barring free grazing by Fulani herdsmen in the nation’s capital. He directed the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and the FCT Task Team to get rid of herdsmen.
While we praise the courage of Fayose and Bello, we also commend other groups and individuals that have openly condemned both activities of the marauding herdsmen and the silence of the Federal Government. They include: The Labour Unions, Students group, Clerics and individuals. We recall that the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwuremadu, last week, while speaking at the 2016 convention of the World Igbo Congress (WIC) in New York, lent his voice to the call on other states and the Federal Government to pass legislations restricting cattle rea ring to modern ranches and also setting up forest rangers to enforce such laws.
We regard the rejection of the Ekiti Anti-Grazing Bill by the Arewa group and the Ekiti-based Fulani herdsmen from Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, under the auspices of Jamu Nate Fulbe Association of Nigeria as inconsequential. Their stand trivializes the value of human life in preference for that of cattle. By claiming that the new law infringes on their right to freedom of movement they appear to forget that one’s freedom ends at the point the rights of another becomes threatened. The Fulani herdsmen’s right to move about to graze their cattle should not encroach on the freedom of indigenes of the communities to tend their crops or harvest the fruits of their labour. So those who argue that only the Federal Government has right to take decisive actions to stop the atrocities of the marauding  herdsmen or that governors should fold their arms and watch helplessly while lives and property are destroyed with reckless abandon should do a rethink. A situation where imminent famine stares the country in the face because farmers can no longer enter their farms or women are afraid to be raped by herdsmen with sophisticated weapons, no doubt threatens the unity of the country.
We call on other states to follow the example of Ekiti and the FCT by passing anti grazing bills and being resolute and firm to enforce the sanctions prescribed because, for justice and peace to prevail, one needs to fight for them.

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