The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria on Thursday said the Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 has not brought any peace to Benue State despite that it was assented to by Governor Samuel Ortom four years ago.
The group, therefore, advised Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to create an inclusive law that would accommodate the interest of pastoralists in host communities in the South-West state.
Speaking on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ programme monitored by The PUNCH, MACBAN Secretary General, Usman Baba-Ngelzerma, said laws are supposed to bring harmony and understanding in a community and not to further divide the people.
He also said pastoralists were not invited to public hearings before some states in the Southern part of the country passed their respective anti-open grazing laws.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the 17 Southern governors led by Akeredolu met in Lagos on July 5, 2021, and “set a timeline of Wednesday, 1st September, 2021 for the promulgation of the anti open grazing law in all member states”.
Akeredolu had on August 31, 2021, signed into law, the Anti-Grazing Bill passed by the State House of Assembly.
“This is worthwhile and a very laudable development aimed at stemming needless instances of skirmishes, conflicts as well as infractions on the enviably peaceful disposition of the good people of Ondo State,” Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, had said in a statement.
Some other governors in the Southern part of the country had also signed the bill into law in the last few weeks with a move geared towards curbing farmer-herder crisis and attendant insecurity in the region.
Commenting on the move by Akeredolu and his colleagues banning open grazing, Baba-Ngelzerma said, “We (Miyetti Allah) are civilised people and we know that the responsibility of making laws lies in the state House of Assemblies and we know that once a law is made by the state House of Assemblies and assented to by the Governors, that becomes a law, whether we like it or not, whether good or bad.
“But there are processes to be followed in making laws, those processes are: get all the stakeholders through public hearing, hear them, know how the law is going to solve their problem but has this been done in making the Anti-Open Grazing Law? It has never been done.
“In most of the states, none of our members have been invited for public hearing and make inputs to the law and this law is done to affect us 100%, to affect our members 100%.
“We are part of the critical stakeholders that are supposed to be invited to hear our views and protect our positions and that of the government of the states where we exist.
“In Ondo and most of the Southern states, we have indigenous pastoralists whose fathers were brought up in those states and those who are there today were also brought up there. So, if you ask them to go, they won’t know where to go because they know these states as their own states.
“These are indigenous pastoralists who are born and brought up there, whose interests and lives are supposed to be protected by the law but when you make a law without getting them to come and put in their input, the law becomes lopsided and what is the purpose of making the law then?
“A law is supposed to bring harmony and understanding in a particular place but where you make a law that does not bring harmony and understanding amongst the groups in a particular area, that law has not been done in a way to fulfill the purpose with which it is being promulgated.”
The MACBAN Secretary said there is the need to accommodate the interest of his members into the newly assented law in Ondo State through the allocation of land for ranching.
“Let’s take the example of Ondo now. A law is in place and we just have to wait and see how the law is going to accept our members but as it is now, Ondo State is calm, everybody is calm, our members are calm.
“So, we will wait and see how this law is going to be implemented but I will like to draw the attention of Ondo to Benue where a law has been put in place. Go and appraise the Benue law, has it succeeded in bringing peace to Benue? It has never succeeded in bringing peace to Benue. Rather, it has further aggravated the situation to becoming worse, day in, day out.
“Laws are supposed to bring harmony and understanding in a community,” he said.
Continuing, Baba-Ngelzerma said, “A law has been promulgated in Benue, it has been implemented but go and appraise it today. Has it succeeded in addressing the issue? No, it has not because even after the promulgation of this law, we have the fear that the law was not made in a way to solve the probem. We believe that that law was made in order to chase away pastoralists in Benue.
“The title of the law says ‘Open-Grazing Prohibition and Ranching Establishment Law’. Those two things are involved there – banning of open grazing and establishment of ranches.
“By definition, the ranches must be established before you implement the ban but what took place in Benue was the implementation of the ban even before the establishment of the ranches.”
The Benue State Governor and his Ondo State counterpart have been very vocal in their stance against open grazing in the country. On a number of occasions, they have clashed with the Presidency which continued to push for open grazing and recovery of grazing routes for herders.