The Benue state government, in its effort to stop the protracted attack on Christian farming communities in which hundreds have been killed, has enacted an Anti- Open grazing law which prohibits the grazing and movement of cattle across farmlands and communities with effect from 1stNovember 2017.
“Any person found guilty of open grazing, shall be sentenced to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of N1,000, 000 (about £5000). It is an offence if livestock stray to the other persons’ land. No open grazing, no movement of livestock on foot within and across Benue state and no livestock owner or farmer shall carry firearms,” states the bill.
Governor Samuel Ortom said: “The law brings an end to the incessant clash between livestock/herds rearers and crop farmers in the state, who in attempts to protect their respective interest, clash, kill maim and destroy persons and properties.”
He added that, “the law also encourages large-scale livestock and crop farming in a secure environment and the Ministry of Agriculture has been empowered to administer and regulate livestock production in the state.”
Commending the legislation, an Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace, IDFP said: ‘’The step will go a long way in addressing the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farming communities.”
The Chairman of the council, Bishop Sunday Onuoha urged other states to follow the example of Benue state.
An Islamic movement in the country, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, had threatened not to comply with the new law. National President of the group, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodejo, and National Secretary, Saleh Alhassan, insisted the Fulani would not accept the grazing law.
“How can a Nigerian ask other Nigerians to leave a place they are constitutionally entitled to be?” the group said.
The Nasarawa State chapter of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) expressed its concerned that the bill will affect the migration of Fulani herdsmen into communities sharing borders with Benue and may lead to crisis.
“Some herdsmen are coming from the northern part of Nigeria and passing to Enugu, Abakaliki, Cross Rivers, Anambra and they will pass through Benue and if the international cattle road is blocked, we will have a problem,” the group said.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos