Following the recent crisis rocking farmers and herders in different communities across the country, especially in the South East and West, the issue of open grazing had in the past few months dominated major news headlines. In that regard, it could be recalled that the 17 Southern governors in their meeting some months ago in Asaba, the Delta State capital, banned open grazing among other issues that were discussed. However, the ban on open grazing in the region was further reaffirmed during their last meeting in Lagos State, where September 1st was set as the deadline for Governors in Southern Nigeria to sign the anti-Open Grazing Bill into law in their respective states to curb the menace.
However, some governors in the Southern region have already implemented the anti-open grazing laws. The governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, was the first to sign the anti-open grazing bill into law. This was followed by his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, and now, the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, has joined his colleagues in signing the anti-open grazing bill into law.
The Akwa Ibom State governor made this known on his official and verified Facebook page. As a matter of fact, some people believe that this is a move in the right direction, while some governors in the North, the presidency and the Attorney General of the federation are of different views on the ban on open grazing. It has been argued in some quarters that the adoption of modern ranching technology is the best way to go instead of allowing cattle to move about aimlessly, destroying people's farms, which always leads to a situation where farmers have to defend themselves against killer Fulani herdsmen attacks in some parts of the country.
At this point, it could also be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari in a report by Vanguard gave an approval to the return of open grazing practice, going by what used to be during the First Republic, where herdsmen used designated grazing routes to move cattle to different parts of the country. According to the report, President Buhari made this known in an exclusive interview with Arise TV some months ago.
Against this background, this article seeks to discuss three key things governor Udom Emmanuel said as he signed the bill banning open grazing in the state. Meanwhile, Mr. Udom has been one of the PDP governors in the South-South region that always have a say on issues that affect national policy and polity in the country. However, the anti open grazing laws as signed by the governor (Udom Emmanuel) prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provides for the establishment of ranches in Akwa Ibom State.
Having said that, the governor, after signing the bill into law, made it clear that first, it could be a very painful situation when a farmer wakes up and discovers that his crops of many months of "sweat and toil" have been destroyed. As a matter of fact, I would agree with the governor that this is a very difficult situation to handle. It is unfair to see herdsmen driving their cattle to destroy people's crops without a second thought.
Second, Governor Udom pointed out that just as herdsmen and other people rear animals to make profit or for meat, the farmer's aim is also to make profit. In that regard, he warned that no one has the right to destroy another person’s source of livelihood. To my understanding, herders should work towards acquiring a piece of land and set up a modern ranch to avoid issues that could lead to crisis. As the governor said, the law has made provision for herders to embrace modern ranching.
Third, the governor made it clear that anyone whose livestock strays into another person's farm or property, no matter how highly placed, would be made to face the full wrath of the law. It is arguable to say that this law would go a long way to solve the problem of the Farmer-herder crisis in the state.
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