Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo, on Monday in Benin said that it doesn’t make sense to pass the anti-open grazing bill into law without arresting and prosecuting offenders of the same law.
Mr Obaseki stated this at a stakeholders Town-Hall meeting on the proposed Anti-open Grazing Law.
The law which has been passed in some southern states of Nigeria bans the movement of cattle by herders in public places as a measure of curbing the persistent clashes between herders and farmers. But the decision has been criticised by most northern governors including the federal government.
Premium Times reported in September how governors of the states in Southern Nigeria met in Enugu.
At the meeting, they said they believed states should be responsible for the collection of Value Added Tax.
The governors also said “they were satisfied with the efforts of each of the 17 states to pass the anti-open grazing laws to prevent open grazing of cattle”.
At least 10 of the 17 southern states have passed anti-open grazing laws including Ekiti, Lagos, Enugu, Osun and Ondo states.
The two decisions were part of the resolutions the governors reached in their meeting held in the South-east state.
“…the meeting resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the States,” one of the seven items in the communique signed by the governors, states.
The meeting “expressed satisfaction with the rate at which the States in Southern Nigeria are enacting or amending the Anti-Open Grazing Laws which align with the uniform template and aspiration of Southern Governors and encouraged the States that are yet to enact this law to do so expeditiously.”
But Mr Obaseki on Monday said that the delay in signing the anti-open grazing bill in the state follows the need to craft an implementable law that will put an end to the growing security and economic challenges in the state.
According to him, “We are one of the few states that have not signed the the bill into law, and the reason is simple to sign a law is very simple, it doesn’t make sense to put out a law you cannot enforce.
“The best way of enforcing a law is to bring everybody together to be part of for that law. We have a crisis in our country, it is deeply rooted, there are different causes why these are happening, let us go to the root of the causes and resolve it from there.
“People have said that we have lived a hundred years together in harmony before now, why are we now having this problem today.
“If we don’t go to the reason why, then we will be scratching the surface, let us start by understanding why we are having this challenge. To sign a law is very easy, it doesn’t make sense to put out a law that you cannot enforce.
“The anti-grazing law in my view is to deal with some perception, I just want to tell you that this is not an issue between Christians and Muslims, it is not an issue between North and South, it is not an issue between Edo people and Fulani people.
“As long as we have decided that we will eat meats and drink milk, we will now have sit down and rearrange the business on how we will get the people who are producing the meat on how the must organise themselves.
“Let us not play politics with this issue, let us deal with this issue honestly and openly, there are security implications, because some people have now joined and using these herders to perpetrate insecurity.
“My worry is that if we don’t celebrate them, to understand that the business in cattle herding is separate, so that we can know those people who are using cattle rearing to perpetrate crime and insecurity in our state we will be missing the point.
“There are people who are doing their legitimate businesses of cattle herding and producing meat and their criminals who wants to destablized our country and our state,” he said.
In his contribution, the representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Edo, Oriakhi Davies, said that cattle rearing is a private business and anybody interested in the business should go and acquire land for such businesses.
Mr Davies suggested ranching as an alternative for open grazing, adding that governments should create cattle feed or import cattle feed for cattle herders to purchase such feed from government.
Also speaking, the State Chairman of cattle dealers, Saad Ahmed, said that about 45 per cent of cows consumed in Benin comes directly from the North.
Mr Ahmed appealed to the governor “to take everybody equal irrespective of their religion and beliefs”, adding that “God has blessed Edo where they have been living without any trouble”.
He stressed that most of the challenges caused by herders “are from those who are coming from far part of the North to Edo”.