ne voice, they say, is the most powerful and lethal weapon a team, a group, a family, a society possesses to overcome any adversaries, looming danger, and threats. When a team is divided within itself, the enemy is given the access to penetrate through the loopholes created by the division. Thus the saying, “ In unity we stand but divided we fall”.
In recent times, Nigeria has witnessed a spate of murder, kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, and all sorts of evil all across the land and the footprints left behind always point accusing fingers at herdsmen grazing on foot across the States especially within the Southern region of the country.
To curb any further conflicts and clashes between farmers and herders in the region, the Governors of the 17 Southern States agreed on May 11 to prohibit open grazing and livestock movement by foot which they termed as crude, archaic, anachronistic, antiquated, and outdated going by the standard in this modern-day settings.
The Governors’ decision was revealed following a meeting in Asaba, the Delta state capital. The Governors stated that the decision was made as part of their efforts to boost regional security.
“The Forum noted that the incursion of armed herders, criminals, and bandits in the Southern part of the country has created a serious security challenge, preventing citizens from going about their daily lives, including engaging in various productive activities, posing a threat to food security and general security. As a result, the meeting determined that open grazing of cattle be prohibited throughout Southern Nigeria,” said Rotimi Akeredolu, the Forum’s chairman.
The resolution, however, was met with diverse emotions across the country, with the Presidency and a number of parties rejecting it.
The President had said the suggested plan was of “doubtful legality” and would not resolve the farmer-herder conflict, while the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, had also criticized the Southern Governors’ move, comparing it to a ban on spare parts sales in the North.
Despite the controversy surrounding the proposed scheme, Akeredolu maintained that their decision was final.
So, what has transpired since the resolution was passed by the 17 Southern Governors? The Governors set September 1 as the deadline for enactment of the bill at a follow-up meeting in Lagos in July.
Despite the September 1 deadline set for the law’s enactment, six southern states have yet to sign the anti-open grazing bill.
While some states have already passed the legislation, others are still working on it.
States that have passed the legislation.
The anti-open grazing law was already in effect in the states of Ekiti, Ebonyi, Abia, Oyo, and Bayelsa prior to the Governors’ resolution.
On August 19 and 31, the States of Rivers and Ondo joined the others in banning open grazing.
After the deadline, Enugu, Akwa-Ibom, Osun, and Lagos enacted the law in their various States.
States where the bill has been passed but the Governors have yet to sign it.
A measure to control animal grazing and the creation of cow ranches in defined locations around the State was passed by the Ogun state House of Assembly on July 8, but it is still pending the Governor’s signature.
The Delta House of Assembly passed a bill restricting open grazing, indiscriminate breeding, rearing, and sale of cattle on September 14th.
The measure was passed after Ferguson Onwo, the Majority Leader of the House, moved for the bill’s third reading.
On September 22, the measure had its first reading in Anambra’s State Legislature.
States that do not appear to be on the verge of passing the bill.
Despite the resolution, the states of Edo, Cross River, and Imo remain hesitant to pass the legislation.
Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki has refused to send the bill to the State House of Assembly for consideration, while Cross River Governor Ben Ayade is said to have refused to sign a 2017 anti-grazing bill passed by the State House of Assembly.
Imo governor Hope Uzodimma declared there was no law banning open grazing when interacting with journalists in August. According to the Governor, the State regulates grazing activities through a collaborative effort between farmers and herders.
However, the State Legislature’s Spokesman, Duru Johnson, challenged Uzodinma, claiming that the state had enacted a law prohibiting open grazing, which was signed by previous Governor Achike Udenwa.