By Nwanosike Onu, Awka, Sunny Nwankwo, Umuahia, Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki, Damian Duruiheoma, Enugu, Simon Utebor, Yenagoa, Chris Njoku, Owerri, and Uja Emmanuel, Makurdi

• Southeast town unions plan protests against governors
• Ohanaeze: Ban ineffective without law
• We won’t repeal our grazing law, Benue tells Miyetti Allah

It seems to be business as usual for some herders in parts of the southern states especially in the rural areas, as they continue to graze their livestock in the open despite the ban on such activities.

Reports from our correspondents across the states suggest that little has changed in the way herders have been grazing their cattle , goats and rams since the take-off of the ban on September 1.

The only exception so far is Ondo State where the State Security Network – Amotekun –  on Thursday arrested three herdsmen and 56 cows for allegedly violating the anti-grazing law.

The suspects were arrested at Iwara, a community in Ikare Akoko, headquarters of Akoko North East Local Government, after allegedly destroying a farmland.

The Commander of Amotekun Corps, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, confirmed the arrest and vowed that the law would be enforced across the state.

He asked leaders of herders’ associations to educate their members on how to conduct themselves without creating conflict.

The arrested persons were fined for their actions.

The Seriki Hausa Akungba Akoko, Alahaji Idris Jumil Ismaila, thanked the governor of Ondo State for allowing them to settle out of court and promised to get herders comply henceforth.

It was gathered that herders in the rural areas of the Southwest,Southeast and Southsouth are going about their  business unmolested.

A resident of Anambra State, Dr Elo Aforka, told The Nation that the pronouncement of Governor Willie Obiano on the ban was insufficient without a proper law.

“The only way to run a society is by law. Any civil society is run by law and not by utterances,” Aforka said.

He alleged that clashes between the cattle breeders and communities in the state persist and the people are yet to see the ban implemented.

Another social commentator in the state, Emma Okafor, told The Nation that the impact of the ban on open grazing had not been felt in Anambra State

He said the governor was expected to present a bill to the State House of Assembly, based on the agreement reached by the 17 Southern governors, yet, he refused to act.

Information and Public Enlightenment Commissioner, C -Don Adinuba, had earlier told The Nation that the government inaugurated a committee to ensure harmony between herders and locals.

The leader of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Alhaji Gidado Sidikki, corroborated the government’s claim.

A farmer in one of the rural communities in Awka North Local Government Area of the state said herders still encroach on farms.

But the 62-year old woman, who does  not want her name mentioned, said harassment from the herders has reduced a bit, compared to two -three years ago, adding that the herders still move around the state with their cows.

The situation is not different in Abia State where a law banning open grazing is already in place.

Asked why violators had not been arrested, the Chief Press Secretary of Governor Ikpeazu, Mr. Onyebuchi Ememanka, said the Police, Abia State Command should explain to the public why they have been unable to enforce  the law on anti-grazing as signed into law by the governor of the state.

A resident of the state, Mr. Ohaeri Stephen, said the Police should ensure compliance with the law.

Many herders exit Ebonyi

Investigation showed that a large number of herders relocated from Ebonyi State before the take- off of the ban on open grazing and following two attacks on residents of Ohaukwu and Ishielu local government areas earlier in the year.

A resident of Onicha Local Government Area, who gave his name as James, said the herdsmen were a terror in the area.

“They raped women, attacked and killed people and destroyed farmlands. They contributed to the increase in  food prices as many farmers suffered poor yield due to the destruction caused by cattle.”

Ban has restored calmness, says Bayelsa govt

Bayelsa State Information, Orientation and Strategy Commissioner Ayibaina Duba, says the enforcement of the anti-open grazing law passed on March 10, 2021 has been effective and restored calmness in the state.

“Since we started enforcing the anti-open grazing law more than six months ago, we have not had the frictions that we were seeing before,” he said in Yenagoa.

“I think for now there is some kind of calmness. We have not had any skirmishes anywhere so far that are reported to us.

“At the beginning, they (herders) were carried along in all the processes before implementation started. It is not as if they were left outside of the entire process. Several meetings took place. I think so far, so good, particularly with the movements of the herdsmen, we have not heard those issues we used to have before the law.

“I think there is considerable compliance because we have not had issues like we used to have before. We have some level of peaceful coexistence in the state.”

Herders, farmers peacefully coexisting in Imo

All through the  week, herders and their livestock were sighted on the Owerri-Port Harcourt road, Nekede, Ngor Okpalla and the  Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) .

Information and Strategy Commissioner, Declan Emelumba, said farmers and herders are  peacefully coexisting in the state out of  mutual respect and understanding.

He said the state already has an open grazing law which became operative since 2006, adding that  the law provided for areas that are restricted from open grazing and that the herders have been abiding by it.

Southeast town unions plan protests against governors

The Association of South East Town Unions (ASETU) has threatened to embark on protest against any governor in the geo-political zone who delays in  putting the appropriate law on anti-grazing in place..

Speaking with The Nation in a telephone interview, spokesman of ASETU, Collins Opuruzor, said the community leaders were disappointed that some of  the governors in the Southeast  were yet to act on the collective decision of southern governors on the issue.

Opuruzor accused the governors of paying lip service to the only law that gives protection to their citizens.

He said: “After the September 1 deadline, we’re already meeting to take a decision on that. We  may be forced to mobilize Ndigbo for protest against any Southeast governor who  is yet to legislate on that all important ban.

“To us, the verbal proclamation has no impact whatsoever on open grazing until a law is put into effect by the governors.

“As ASETU, our position has always been that there is a need for legislation that will ban open grazing in Igboland. We started this over five years ago and went ahead to dispatch letters to all the Southeast governors and their houses of assembly urging them to legislate on that.

“But we are disappointed that almost all the governors in the southeast are paying lip service to that.”

Also, the apex Igbo sociocultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has said that open grazing of cattle and its attendant consequences might continue in Southeast because of the absence of any law prohibiting it.

According to the spokesman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Ogbonnia, “You can’t be talking about the impact when the law is not in existence. It is only when the law exists that you think of how it is impacting on the people.

“For now, open grazing is still in operation until a law is brought into existence to that effect.”

Some residents of Amokpo and Ugwogo in Nike in Enugu East Council Area as well as Udi Ngwo, Night Mile Corner and Eha Amufu all in Enugu State said there is no indication of any ban on open grazing.

One of them said: “There has never been any time we stopped seeing herders in the  bush. So, we have not seen the impact of the ban here.”

An estate agent, Chuma Uzor, told our correspondent that Amokpo, Ugwogo and Nike seem to hold special attraction to the herders.

Uzor said: “The ban on open grazing by Southern governors was greeted with applause not only by farmers in the communities around the state, but by  us the estate agents and land speculators. This is because our members have been at the receiving end in the sense that we encountered these herdsmen in the course of doing our businesses as land sellers and buyers.”

The Enugu State House of Assembly last week passed the bill prohibiting open grazing.

The bill however, is yet to be signed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

Benue replies Miyetti Allah: We won’t repeal our grazing law

The Benue State government yesterday insisted that there was no going back on the Anti- Open Grazing Law passed by the State House of Assembly and signed by Governor Samuel Ortom.

Reacting to comments by the   National Secretary of Meyitti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Baba Ngelzarma, branding the law as a failure, Ortom’s Chief Press Secretary CPS, Terver Akase, declared that the law has come to stay and there is nothing MACBAN or anyone else can do about it.

His words: “The MACBAN National Secretary is not new to contradictory statements. It is on record that he and other officials of the group visited Benue State in 2017 and after a meeting with Governor Samuel Ortom, addressed the media where they pledged support for the state’s Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law.

“On that occasion, Ngelzarma who spoke on behalf of the delegation, admitted that with their deeper knowledge of the law during their visit to Benue, it was now obvious to MACBAN that the legislation was indeed not targeted at Fulani or any other group. Their only appeal was for extension of the November 2017 deadline given for the commencement of implementation and enforcement of the law.

“That the Miyetti Allah mouthpiece now goes to national television to kick against the same law they once described as ‘a win-win for all’ only proves that he is a merchant of crisis and one of those bent on truncating the peace building process in Benue and other states of the federation.

“Miyetti Allah’s anger towards Governor Samuel Ortom is well understood. We expected the MACBAN National Secretary and his group to feel frustrated after the governor refused to accept their offer to betray his people and repeal the law in order to attract personal favours from their sponsors.

“Miyetti Allah ought to know that Benue’s law on open grazing has recorded tremendous success since it was enacted. Many people who own livestock in the state have ranched their animals, while over 400 law breakers have been arrested with some already tried by competent courts and convicted.

“The utterances of Miyetti Allah confirm what Governor Ortom has been saying all along that they are responsible for the killing of Benue people. Miyetti Allah are sacred cows who are not only untouchable but who also enjoy the protection and patronage of their sponsors; otherwise, they should have since been proscribed and their members put behind bars.

“Lastly, we must make it clear to Miyetti Allah groups and others who want Benue to repeal the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law to stop daydreaming. The law has come to stay, and no amount of sponsored propaganda can compel the State Government to repeal it.”

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