SOUTH EAST VOICE
June 23, 2021
•The ban should be fully enforced — Ezeife
•Adopt Fayose, Ortom’s template if afraid of EFCC — Enugu monarch
•Ebonyi yet to forward a bill to the House of Assembly — Lawmaker
•Blame Police for not enforcing anti-open grazing law — Abia Govt
•Anambra has no law on grazing, but gentleman’s agreement exists
•Listen to the yearnings of the people — ASETU
•Govs not firm on stopping it — Osuagwu, former Ohanaeze Chairman[/i]
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Peter Okutu, Chinedu Adonu, Ikechukwu Odu, Steve Oko & Nwabueze Okonkwo
The five states of the South-East said they have banned open grazing. They even claimed that each of their states has enacted a law to give the ban a legal shelter to bite. But this has been found to be false. Apart from Abia, other state governors are yet to even send an executive bill to their Houses of Assembly let alone enact the law.
Perhaps, this is the reason cows still roam the streets of the South-East at will, even near Government Houses; they brazenly invade schools’ premises, offices, among other public establishments.
The laws are not available so there is nothing to implement; that is the reality in the zone. Hence the herders and their cattle will continue to have a field day in the farms and people’s private premises, leaving on their trail agonies on the people.
Citizens of the South-East region are angry with the governors over the situation, accusing them of abandoning their people in their time of need and succumbing to the intimidation of the Federal Government.
Reacting angrily to this, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, said that the five South-East states have not passed the law banning open grazing in their states and that they have no interest in doing that. According to the foundation, “rather, what we are seeing is lip-service, falsehood and sycophancy from the leadership of the South-East Governors’ Forum.”
According to the spokesman of the Igbo elite body, Hon. Abia Onyike, “the governors have not been speaking sincerely. They have been talking individually. Only the chairman of their Forum, Governor David Umahi has been speaking, though from both sides of his mouth. They are toying with the lives of our people. It is painful and regrettable that Governor Umahi, on behalf of his colleagues, has been lying to the public that the anti-open grazing laws exist in the South-East. He knows the truth but they are never serious with the security of Ndigbo.
Umahi, ADF alleged, “has a way of manipulating his colleagues and they are also careful not to be black-mailed. The situation is so bad that they fear that they could be reported to Ask Rock as IPOB sympathisers if they dare insist on the proper things being done.
“Governor Umahi’s leadership of the Governors’ Forum at this critical moment has become a tragedy to Ndigbo. For instance, the Ebubeagu regional security outfit created by the Governors’ Forum was nothing but a smoke-screen set up to pursue the private political agenda of the governors, it has nothing to do with the security of the zone.
“In Ebonyi State, a haphazard attempt was made to put up an ill-equipped and untrained personnel which has been going about in the markets claiming to maintain law and order whereas the Fulani herdsmen still killed people in the state without any resistance.
“In the other four states of Enugu, Abia, Imo and Anambra, there is hardly any sign of Ebubeagu. So, Governor Umahi and others do not believe in the regional security project, which was why his elder brother who was the Security Adviser to the governors resigned. The governors are playing games with security in the South-East and buying time. In fact, they have, particularly their chairman, become the nemesis of Ndigbo.”
One of the leading Igbo voices and former civilian governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife advised the South-East governors to ensure that the ban on open grazing is being fully enforced.
Ezeife, who spoke on the sidelines of the meeting of Anambra Elders Council, noted with regret that open grazing has caused serious problems leading to bloodbath in the South-East zone.
Flanked by Chief Mbazulike Amechi, first Republic Aviation Minister, Ezeife contended that since the ban on open grazing was announced, no meaningful measures have been taken to address the excesses of Fulani herdsmen who indulge in open grazing.
The Association of South-East Town Unions, ASETU, said the governors have been feeding the people with falsehood and deceiving them.
“As against the claims in some quarters, there is no anti-open grazing law in any state in the South-East yet. This is painful, given that our people have made it abundantly clear that the enactment of the law will be the first most effective step in curtailing the murderous activities of the armed herdsmen in our land.
“What the South-East Governors have done is to verbally proscribe open grazing. Yet, since this verbal proscription was done, there has not been any difference. The onslaughts of the herdsmen and the unbridled movement of cattle have continued unabated.
“The lawmaking process in this regard should commence with the governors sending executive bills to the respective Houses of Assembly for the laws. Anyone who claims to have made any anti-open grazing law in the South- East should then answer these fundamental questions about lawmaking: First, when was it promulgated? Second, what is the punishment for offenders?
“We therefore insist that the governors expedite action to save the lives and property of our people by making and enforcing the anti-open grazing laws,” ASETU said through its National President, Chief Emeka Diwe.
In Anambra State, there is no law banning open grazing. However, there is a gentleman’s agreement between the leadership of herdsmen and the joint task force set up by the state government on the control of cattle on farmlands in various communities. The agreement provides compensation to be paid by either parties in cases of destruction of farmlands and killing of cows.
When some communities could no longer tolerate the roaming of cattle on their farms with the attendant friction between them and the herders, hard decisions were taken and such decisions brought sanity in the communities.
Following these frequent clashes between herders and farmers in the state, Governor Willie Obiano set up Cattle Menace Committee in the state. The committee fixed payment for compensations to reflect the current market value of cows and crop items in the state.
For instance, the governor directed recently that the sum of N12 million owed farmers for damaged crops by the herders be paid to them and about N6 million be paid to the herdsmen for cows killed, while N3 million compensation be paid to families that lost their people during herders/ farmers’ clashes. At that meeting were the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Uchenna Okafor, coordinator of the State Vigilante Service, CP Ikechukwu Aduba (rtd), traditional rulers, Presidents-General of town unions, House of Assembly members, youths of affected communities and Miyetti Allah leadership in the state. They all agreed on the need to avoid friction in any part of the state.
While the state government insisted that the ban on open grazing remained in force, the South- East chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Alhaji Gidado Sidikki insisted that the ban would jeopardize their businesses in the state and the entire South-East zone.
Siddiki said: “Our position is that we are not opposed to the ban on open grazing, but at least, we need an alternative. You know when somebody is doing business and you stop him from doing that business, he would be given an alternative on what to do.
When you say that you have banned open grazing, you need to tell us how we should graze our cows because what we know is grazing. If there is an alternative, there is no problem, and that is the only thing we are begging for.
Reminded that ranching has been proposed as an alternative option to open grazing, Siddiki replied: “Is there any provision for that ranching? If there is provision for ranching, we can do ranching but I don’t think there is provision for ranching. Even in Benue State that said it has banned open grazing and will do ranching; I don’t think there has been any ranching in Benue State in all these years. So, I don’t know if there is provision and that is our own problem.
Siddiki had, at the Anambra meeting against open grazing, argued that the herders require training and retraining on a modern system of grazing because most of the herders are illiterates and therefore do not have the knowledge of modern mechanized farming.
The agreement between cattle breeders and communities has drastically reduced conflicts and there is hardly any case of conflict in recent time. Also, the usual roaming of cattle along the road has almost disappeared.Cattle dealers now use trucks to convey cows to various locations in the state.
Contributing, the former National Chairman of the PDP called on all the state Houses of Assembly in the region to enact anti-grazing law to stop open grazing of cattle in the zone.
Nwodo who was governor of Enugu State told South-East Voice that it would be difficult to enforce what is not a law across the states in the South-East. He said it is when the law is enacted that violators could be prosecuted and punished according to the provisions of the law.
“The first thing is for our lawmakers to pass anti-grazing laws in their respective state Houses of Assembly. You cannot enforce something that is not a law. Having passed that, anybody who violates it runs against the law and would be prosecuted and punished according to the provisions of the law,” Nwodo said.
He described the security situation in the South-East as worrisome, but assured that the stakeholders are already putting measures in place to nip the ugly development in the bud.
However, Abia State Government has blamed the Police for failing to enforce the anti-open grazing law signed into law by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to check the conflict between farmers and herdsmen.
The Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, told South-East Voice that the state enacted the anti-open grazing law in 2018, stressing that it is the duty of the Police to enforce the law as a federal agency.
He said: “The anti-open grazing law was enacted in Abia State in 2018. Even without the state’s anti-open grazing law signed by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, there are other laws in this country against willful destruction of property. It is not for us to enforce; it is the duty of the Police. They should enforce the laws as they exist.
“As a responsible government, Governor Ikpeazu signed the anti-open grazing law enacted by the State House of Assembly. It is for the Police and security agencies to enforce the law. The Federal Government should do the needful.”
For the Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Amichi, Rt. Rev. Ephraim Ikeakor, open grazing is obsolete and outdated, the president and the governors should not give the impression that it must be forced on Nigerians unless they want to cause problem in the country.
According to him, Southern governors have done well to ban it and every reasonable and sensible person must accept the ban as the correct thing to be done and it must be implemented by the South-East governors, and should not be used to play party politics. It is what the people want this time, not what the parties, the president, or the governors want, rather what the people want must be done.
“We have not seen the implementation yet by any South-East governor, but we believe they will start the implementation without further delay. What the people have given them is little time to implement it. And we expect them not to look at any face, but to do the right thing and what the people want, to avoid regrets.
“Open grazing is obsolete and outdated, whether the president or the presidency likes it or not, it must be abolished. It is not practised in any modern country, and must not be practised in Nigeria, particularly in the South- East because open grazing is the main cause of the escalating insecurity crisis we have today in Nigeria; and we wonder why the President has not named the Fulani herdsmen and MACBAN who are behind them as terrorist groups.
“Instead of trying to force or impose the practice of open grazing on Nigerians, Mr. President should call the Fulani herdsmen and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, to order because they are causing the problem that necessitated the call for abolishing open grazing, and he is treating them with kid gloves.
We wonder why they have not been designated as terrorist groups, what they are doing is more dangerous and more destructive than the group they have proscribed in the South-East and trying to designate as terrorist group.
“Nigeria is crucially sitting on a keg of gunpowder if open grazing should be allowed. The leaders and leadership of this country should wake up to the reality that you cannot hold down the citizenry forever.
This is the state of things among the citizens of Nigeria. They have resolved to demand and fight for their rights without looking at anybody’s face. #EndSARS is a lesson and should be a big lesson to Nigerian leaders.
“The political leaders have woefully failed Nigerians in doing what is right, they rather do things that favour them, they do not consider the interest of the people; you are not feeding the people, and yet, you cannot allow their crops they toiled to farm to grow, you want animals to eat up their crops and when they resist, you kill them, it will no longer be acceptable.
“The people’s only survival, sustenance, safety, and support is through their farms, because they have lost faith in our leaders and you cannot deny them access and proceeds of their farms with your own private business. Our leaders should know that it is no longer business as usual. They should now face the stark reality that Nigeria and Nigerians have taken their destinies in their hands and must not accept any imposition of things that negatively affect their lives.
“There is no way we can have a peaceful and satisfactory Nigeria if we continue to run this nation the way it is currently being run, those who commit crime in the name of grazing their cattle, go free, the untouchables, and those who did nothing yet they are hunted to be killed as if they are criminals that must be hunted and killed,” Bishop Ikeakor declared.