The Ekiti State Government, which has already passed a bill which has outlawed herdsmen grazing their cattle on the streets in the state. According to the bill which has been signed into law, any violator would be jailed for six-years. The Ekiti State House of Assembly penultimate Thursday passed the Bill which aim is to regulate public grazing in the state. Before the bill became law, submissions of the report of the Joint Committees on Agriculture and Environment by, Mr. Ayodele Fajemilehin, to the Committee of the Whole House was considered and approved in plenary presided over by the Speaker of the House, Hon. Kola Oluwawole. According to the House, the law would now reduce the incessant clashes between the farmers and herdsmen in the state. It is now a crime for any cattle, sheep and goat to graze on undesignated lands in Ekiti State.
The new law tagged, “Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing in Ekiti, 2016 Law”, however further stipulates that, “The Governor shall by an order designate land in each of 16 local government areas in the state in respect of which cattle or ruminants may be permitted to graze”. Accordingly, “no person shall cause or permit any cow, oxen, sheep as well as goat under his or her control to graze on any land in which the Governor has not designated as ranches”.
The law also forbids the movement of cattle by herdsmen and owners of goats in Ekiti State after 6.00pm”. It further contained sections which specified that: “No cattle or other rumi¬nants, shall by any means, move in the night; movement shall be between 7am and 6pm”.
Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose said that any herdsman caught grazing with arms or any weapon in Ekiti would now be charged with terrorism and be made to face the law accordingly. The signing of the law was read to the congregation of all traditional chiefs and rulers in Ekiti by Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Kolawole Oluwawole last Monday.
The chiefs were invited by the Governor for the meeting at the Osuntokun hall of the Government House in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State capital. According to Oluwawole, the state government was already working with local government officials to apportion land for grazing to all local government authorities in the state.
He also gave the highlights of the anti-grazing law as: “Grazing activities must be from 7am to 6pm on daily basis. The government shall allot certain portion of land to each local governments for grazing. 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 in Iworoko community. Any farm products destroyed by the activities of any caught herdsman shall be estimated by agricultural officer and the expenses of the estimate shall be borne by the culprit. Any herdsman who violates any of these rules shall be imprisoned for six months without option of fine”.
Governor Fayose who signed the bill into law before the congregation of all the traditional chiefs and rulers, said that the purpose of meeting with them was the importance of interfacing with the traditional chiefs on security issues in the state, development of the state, and anti-grazing law among others. He stated that he recognized the need for his government to work with the chiefs to give valuable information on activities of those who plunder state resources such as trees , farmlands and others.
Speaking about the anti-grazing law, he said: “My government took the bill to the House after what happened in Oke-Ako some months ago. The House has passed the bill and I have to assent it, it becomes a law from today that if you do anything to the contrary you will be punished by the law. Any herdsman caught with firearms or any weapon while grazing in Ekiti now will be charged with terrorism.
“I solicit for your support for this government to succeed. This is not about party politics and Ekiti should be our primary concern. I’ll continue to call you for this kind of meeting every three months to give accounts of governance”.
Anaysts see the Ekiti State action as a real step towards ending the killing spree. But there is apprehension that the police, which is a federal agency and which in the main, are accused of festering the orgy of violence through their inaction would chose not to arrest cattle herdsmen. Similarly, some say the military could be used as counterforce to frustrate the law. They cited what happened at Ugwuleshi community in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State where the military from Obinze in Abia State, apprehended about 60 rural farmers who protested the destruction of their farms, abducted them to Abia state, charged them before a magistrate court and got them detained before respite came their way. Up till now, no soldier was punished for that misdemeanor. And should such be the case, then the Ekiti law would have been dead on arrival. The world is watching.