By Emmanuel Uffot
Few weeks after Governor Udom Emmanuel inaugurated a 14-man committee to monitor and implement the enforcement of the enacted anti-grazing law in the state there are still concerns about the law bringing the desired result. The concern is raised by some persons who had argued that despite the law and the governor going a step further to set up what could be regarded as a task force to ensure compliance by the herdsmen, they are still seen parading the streets and communities with their cows.
A community leader in Nnung Udoe, named Etefia Umoetuk, who expressed concern about the effectiveness of the law, reiterated the fact that going by antecedent of the herdsmen and their atrocities which the federal government seem to be reluctant in curbing the menace of the Fulani herdsmen, he doubts whether the law would be implemented to the fullest.
It could be recalled that during the inauguration of the enforcement committee shortly after the anti-open grazing bill was signed into law, the governor had emphasised that the law was not targeted at any individual or group of persons but meant ‘‘to ensure the orderly organisation of agricultural activities across the state’’.
The governor, who was represented by Emmanuel Ekuwem, the Secretary to the state government had said that the law would be in the best interest of all Nigerians who need the produce of crop farmers and the meat and dairy products of the livestock farmers to balance their diet.
Hear him:The typical staple food on the table of an average Nigerian is a symbiosis of livestock products and crops; food such as garri, pounded yam, amala, meat, fish and vegetables. ‘‘The law is not against any person. It is to make sure that we eat a balanced diet because if cattle do not destroy the vegetable component of what we eat’’, noting that ‘‘all the vitamins will be lost’’. When you ensure a balanced diet, the population of Nigeria will be healthy and when the population is healthy, we have a productive population. he remarked.
Beyond the enforcement of the anti-open grazing law which barred herdsmen from moving along the roads and communities to graze their cattles, the committee which is headed by Glory Edet, Commissioner for Agriculture was also saddled with ‘‘the responsibility of establishment of ranches and livestock administration, regulation and control’’.
The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, had on September 15 signed into Law the bill that prohibits open grazing of cattle in the state.
Akwa Ibom, with the enactment of the law comes on the heel of a resolution by Southern governors on the vexed issue on Juky 5, 2021, during their meeting join states like Benue, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Oyo, Abia, Lagos, Anambras and Enugu that had earlier enacted the anti-open grazing law in a bid to check encroachment of farmlands by cattle which has in recent years been a source of conflict between farmers and Fulani herdsmen.
The Southern governors resolution had mandated member states to enact legislations against open grazing of cattle in their states on or before September 1, 2021.
Governor Udom who stated that the new law is no respecter of persons irrespective of status or calibre, hinged on the benefits of the law which according to him will ‘‘promote modern techniques in animal husbandry, prevent the destruction of farms by wandering cattle while reducing clashes and killings between herders and farmers in the state’’.
“It will also promote international best practices in livestock administration, regulation and control in the state, among other things.”, he said.
The decision of the governors in the Southern states of Nigeria to make a case for the banning of open grazing in their territory was informed by directive by President President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General,that each state should set up a cattle colony for grazing of cows by the herdsmen. Stakeholders in the south and the governors had vehemently opposed it, stating that it was not right for the Katsina state born Nigerian President to arm twist state governors to carve out their land for Fulani herdsmen for the purpose of rearing their cows when it is purely a private business.
It is instructive to note that signing of anti-open grazing law in Benue state by Governor Emmanuel who set the pace was opposed by Myetti Allah. This led to increase in the recent attack on villages in Benue state by suspected Fulani herdsmen which has resulted in scores of deaths .