By Magnus Eze, Enugu
Arguably, the most palatable news that came out of Enugu State in recent times was the passage of the anti-open grazing bill by the State Assembly on September 2, 2021.
Southern Governors’ Forum had fixed September 1 for all member states to enact laws banning open grazing of cattle.
The excitement that trailed the heartwarming move followed the carnage that several communities in Enugu State had suffered in the hands of marauding Fulani herders.
Member representing Ezeagu State Constituency, Chima Obieze told Daily Sun that the bill represented the yearnings of their people: “What we have doesn’t restrain anybody from free movement. What we’ve done is to restrict movement of cattle. We agree that where one man’s right stops, another begins.
“Our people have suffered enough in the hands of herdsmen, they rape our women, maim and kill our farmers; they kidnap and also destroy our crops.”
The bill which was sponsored by the House Leader, Ikechukwu Ezeugwu among others, seeks to prevent the destruction of farms, farm crops, community ponds, settlements and property by open rearing and grazing of livestock.
Aside preventing killings, sexual molestation and clashes between arable farmers and pastoralists, herders and rustlers, other objectives of the bill are to “Protect the environment from degradation and pollution caused by open rearing and grazing of livestock.
“Optimize the use of land resources in the face of overstretched land and increasing population. Prevent, control and manage the spread of animal diseases.
“Create a conducive environment for large scale crop production and reduce incidence of road accidents caused by open rearing and grazing of livestock.”
The lawmaker explained that the bill which is awaiting Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s assent will take effect 30 days after it is signed into law.
On the implementation the bill, the Chairman, House Com-mittee on Works, Housing and urban Development, said that there was no cause for concern as according to him, it was an executive bill so, the necessary modalities and would have been mustered for that.
He explained that bill provides for a task force committee that would see to its effective and successful implementation: “It’s a sensitive law, not one that could be done alone by the House without the significant input of His Excellency, Gov. Ugwuanyi.
“It was an executive bill so we expect the executive to enforce it. They can’t say that it is not enforceable. We have the Forest Guards and very robust neighborhood watch. I don’t think the implementation will be an issue. A task force committee will see to the enforcement of the bill when eventually assented. A Deputy Commissioner of Police will be part of the committee representing the Nigeria Police. So, the implementation will be possible.”
When signed into the law by the governor, grazing outside “permitted ranches” becomes an offence. Any person or group of persons that disregards the law, upon conviction is “liable to a term of imprisonment of not less than three years without the option of fine as well as forfeiture of the herds of cattle or livestock under his or her control to the State Government.”
It also provides for the leasing of land by any intending herder from the owners for a period not exceeding three years which will be renewable after expiration: “Permits shall be issued to a Nigerian who is authorized to conduct business under the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”