Despite apprehension among communities, the Ondo State government is to acquire lands and designate areas for ranching across the state.
This is in pursuant of its proposed ban on open grazing of cattle as contained in its Anti Grazing Bill currently before the Ondo State House of Assembly.
The government has moved to legalise the ban on open grazing and establish a Livestock and Ranch Administration and Control Committee, following the state of insecurity occasioned by indiscriminate activities of herdsmen leading to farm destruction and clashes with farmers.
A bill to that effect was submitted to the House of Assembly in February and has only scaled first reading since then.
The bill as proposed by the state government, espouses the establishment of designated ranches that could be procured either by the state or local government or privately acquired by the livestock farmers in different local governments of the state.
The law, when passed, will put an end to open grazing, night grazing and under-aged herders in the state.
“No person shall cause any livestock belonging to him or under his control to graze on any land in which the governor has not designated for such purposes and in which he has not fully obtained the required permit,” Part VI(1) of the bill, states.
The bill also prohibits cattle rustling and any such act done by arms is punishable by life imprisonment.
The governor is provided with the power to designate land by an order to be known as “general ranch” in each local government in respect of which livestock may be permitted to graze.
The bill also provides that intending ranchers would procure a ranching permit from the Ondo State Livestock and Ranch Administration and Control Committee, based on the approval of the governor.
This will follow a written agreement between the community or family heads, who are owners of the land, and such ranching permits are also subject to revocation.
While ranching permits are renewable annually, the land owners are prohibited from selling the land while the period covered by the permit subsists.
Under the proposed law, all commercial livestock farmers in the state must register their businesses with the Ministry of Agriculture in the state after which they would be given identification numbers that would be boldly inscribed on each of their livestocks.
“Any livestock found not duly registered in the above stated manner shall be considered to be a wild or wandering animal and therefore liable to arrest by law enforcement agencies, confiscated by the government and put up for sale at a public auction,” the bill further states.
Violators of the law risk three years imprisonment and fines not exceeding N100,000, even as livestock owners would be required to pay in full damage done by their livestock to farms after due evaluation by the livestock and ranch administration agency.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Bamidele Oleyelogun, promised that the bill ”would be given expeditious, but thorough treatment, given its importance to ensuring security and wellbeing of the people”.
The 17 southern governors recently at a meeting in Asaba, Delta State, agreed to ban open grazing of cattle across states in the region and also called for the restructuring of the country to address issues threatening national unity.
Some of the states like Oyo and Ogun had earlier proposed bills, banning open grazing in their states.