We congratulate the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, for signing into law the “Anti-Grazing Bill 2016,” and we commend the members of the Ekiti House of Assembly for the timely passage of the bill.
The law was long overdue. The government acted within its powers as per the Land Use Act. The law specifies areas in each local government area of the state where herdsmen could graze their cattle. It specifies time when such grazing would cease. Anyone caught grazing on portions of land or any farmland not allotted by government shall be apprehended and made to face the law. Any herdsman caught with firearms and any weapons whatsoever during grazing shall be charged with terrorism. Any cattle confiscated shall be taken to government cattle ranch at Erifun and Iworoko Ekiti community in the state.
The Ekiti State Government has demonstrated leadership in an issue which needed it for years. Even if the law is not perfect as it presently stands, even if it had loopholes, we endorse it as an act that is timely and courageous, a vital contribution to the maintenance of peace and security in Ekiti.
The enactment of the law is traced to the killing of two persons by herdsmen in Oke Ako community in Ikole Local Government Area of the state. The law was therefore a natural reaction to that incident. It shows a government that is in tune with the needs and problems of its people.
There has been no dispute over the ability of farmers and herdsmen to live and carry on their livelihood side by side and in peace. For nearly 100 years, there had been few occasional squabbles, usually sorted out without violence, at a time the herdsmen conducted their business armed with a staff, a bow and a few arrows.
But, trouble began a few years ago when the herdsmen discovered they could tyrannize and terrorize farm communities by arming themselves with AK-47 rifles. Worse, they got away with it. No questions were asked as to the sources of these weapons of war for which the herdsmen clearly had no licence to possess.
The destruction of farm crops by herdsmen in the last five years has occurred in almost all Southern states of Nigeria and would probably be estimated to cost hundreds of millions of Naira.
It has occurred also in some parts of North, including Kogi, Taraba, Plateau, Kaduna, Benue, and Zamfara states. The herdsmen have also killed hundreds of farmers in the country. The number of those displaced are numerous. Indeed in the World’s Index of Terrorism, the Fulani Herdsmen rank 4th in the list of the world’s most violent organizations.
We think the silence of the Federal Government on this issue has not been golden. Government’s exhortations to the security agencies to apprehend the herdsmen have been ineffective. The trampling of farmlands by herdsmen and their cattle and the depredations of the herdsmen in Benue, Plateau, Enugu and, indeed, other states with a history of farmers-herdsmen confrontation call for laws similar to that now in force in Ekiti State.
It is no longer enough to grieve; we should back our outrage with action as the Ekiti State Government has done. We urge the Ekiti State government to go the extra mile to ensure that the law is fully and rigorously enforced. Herdsmen with AK-47 rifles are likely to commit terrorist acts. They need to be tried.
We think that the ultimate solution to the herdsmen carnage is that Nigeria must change from herding to ranching. The Ekiti law shows the way to go in the short term.