AS the September 1 deadline on ban on open grazing ban in Southern Nigeria agreed on by the 17 southern states dawns, no fewer than 12 states have failed to comply.
Apart from Abia, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Ebonyi states that have passed the law, others are either in the process or have not begun at all. In fact, five states – Anambra, Lagos, Imo, Edo and Cross River- have ignored the agreement while Rivers, Delta, Osun, Ondo, Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom and Enugu, are just in the process of complying.
It is expected that as from today, it would be unlawful for anybody or group of persons to graze farm animals openly throughout the southern region.
This development, coupled with the Federal Government’s recent statement that it had disbursed money running into billions of Naira to reactivate the moribund grazing routes totaling over 300 across the country have been generating varied reactions, particularly among the ethnic nationality groups. This is not unexpected as the announcement by the Federal Government has, by extension, ignored the open grazing ban in the south.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo has insisted that it would be implemented in the South East because the people do not have any free land for open grazing.
“In the South East, for instance, everywhere is tied to individuals, deities and even shines; so we don’t have any free land for open grazing. We have made our position clear and I want to believe that all the governors understood this very well,” the national publicity secretary, Alex Ogbonnia, stated.
He, however, stressed that in a situation where a governor in the zone disagrees with the group, as it is being alleged that the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, has done, the group would chose the path of dialogue until he understands the implication of what he is doing.
“The fact that a governor disagrees with us now does not matter until such a time when we have overstretched our patience; if he doesn’t understand, then, it will become a case.”
He also likened Federal Government’s effort to reactivate the grazing routes to reenacting the slave routes.
On his part, President of the Middle Belt Form (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, expects that by today, machinery would have been put in place to enforce the ban and also make provision for ranching.
“We are only aware of Governor Uzodimma, who is allegedly reneging on the decision to accommodate what the southern people want. But, on the issue of open grazing routes, the constitution is very clear. The president can only control the FCT in terms of land. Land is controlled by the state governors for the people and that is what the constitution says. So, the president cannot, going by the constitution, impose on the state governments grazing routes. He can only negotiate; that is what the law says.
“So, the issue of grazing routes, to me, is dead on arrival. I am not bothered about that because it is only a state governor who wants to cede his authority and power to the Federal Government that can allow such to happen in his state,” he said.
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) reiterated that even as it was not against the ban, the problems associated with open grazing should be treated as a national challenge rather than resorting to threats and ultimatums. It also appealed to all stakeholders to remain calm.
Spokesman of the NEF, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, warned against the expiration of the deadline being used as an excuse to attack cattle herders or their livestock.
He said: “The NEF has made its position very clear. We are not against the stoppage of open grazing. Our position is that the problem can be solved and must be solved as a national problem and it should not involve the kind of threat or ultimatum that we see coming from leaders who should operate at a higher level of responsibility.”
But Afenifere fears that as desirable as the ban is, it might not be successfully enforced because of the lopsided nature of policing in Nigeria. It, therefore, suggested that the southern states use the regional security outfits to enforce the ban.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, said: “As desirable as the open grazing law by southern state governments is, the chances of its successful enforcement are slim because of the lopsided nature of the country’s policing system.”
He suggested that the southern states should establish special police units to enforce the ban.
“It is worth recalling however that when some states in the north banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in public, they did not rely on the federally controlled Nigeria Police to enforce the law in their respective states. Rather, they set up what they called Hisbah (local police) to enforce the law.