From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Butchers’ Association, Bayelsa State Chapter, have criticised the rationale behind the seizure of 35 cows by the state government task force on open grazing for allegedly violating the ban on open grazing.
The Bayelsa State government had last week announced the seizure of 35 cows belonging to some herdsmen along the Palm Estate/Swali road in Yenagoa, the state capital, over alleged violation of anti-grazing laws.
The Bayelsa State government through the state enforcement committee headed by the State Commissioner of Agriculture, David Alagoa, and assisted by the State Commissioner of Police, Mike Okoli, rounded up the herd while being taking for grazing along the streets.
According to Alagoa, the cows and the owners violated the stock, grazing, rearing and marketing law of the State which regulate the movement of cattle on the roads and streets of the State capital.
However, the development caused an uproar as the Butchers Association denied claims by the state government that the seized 35 cows were owned by Fulani herdsmen and were seized during illegal grazing within the state capital
The group declared that the seized cows were owned by their members and were being conveyed for slaughter for commercial purposes.
Findings indicated that the Butchers’ Association paid over N800,000 to officials of the State Ministry of Agriculture in order to secure the release of the Cows with an undertaking that cows seized henceforth will be liable to pay N100,000 and the owner liable to N300,000 fine.
Some members of the Butchers’ Association who however spoke on condition of anonymity, wondered why an association that contributes over N20million annually to the state Government in taxes, levies among others would be subjected to such treatment while conveying cows meant for commercial sale at the Swali market.
“The sellers of our cows were bringing them to the Swali market when the Committee on the implementation of the Anti-Open grazing law swooped on them. They were not Fulani herders but some of our boys. We had a meeting and will continue to maintain law and order. But we call on the state government to understand that people bringing cow for us do it by midnight to avoid heavy human and vehicular traffic. It is to meet early morning supply and it is not all about grazing,” a member of the association said.