Anyone who rears or grazes cattle or any other livestock openly in any part of Oyo State now risks at least five years jail term or a fine of N500,000 or both if found guilty of the offence.
The punishment attached to open grazing of cattle or any livestock in the state is contained in the recently passed anti-open grazing bill by the state House of Assembly.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the bill, “The Oyo State Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation law, 2019”, was sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Adebo Ogundoyin; his Deputy, Abiodun Fadeyi; Majority Leader, Sanjo Adedoyin and Minority Leader, Asimiyu Alarape.
Our correspondent recalls that the bill was passed into law by the lawmakers on Thursday despite the resistance from some herders in the state who threatened the assembly with legal action.
The bill is currently awaiting Govenor Seyi Makinde’s assent into law.
If the governor signs the bill into law, as expected, Oyo will join other states like Benue and Ekiti that have enacted similar laws.
The bill, when finally signed into law by the governor, recommends five years imprisonment or a fine of N500,000 or both for anyone who engages in open rearing or grazing of livestock.
It also recommends that subsequent offenders shall upon conviction be liable to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of N2 million or both.
According to a copy of the bill obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, it prohibits the movement of livestock on foot from one destination to another in the state.
It mandates herders or cattle rearers to submit themselves for registration and get an identification card, which must be worn at all times. Anyone caught without identification card is liable on conviction to imprisonment for one year or a fine of N100,000 or both.
It states that cattle movement is only permissible by rail wagon, truck or pick-up wagon, between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., while any person found moving livestock on foot is liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years or a fine of N500,000 or both.
The proposed law also prohibits a minor from grazing, herding or grazing of livestock except under the supervision of an adult, while the minor or owner of cattle is liable on conviction to a fine of N300,000 or three years imprisonment or both.
It also recommends that cattle owners are restricted to grazing livestock in approved ranches, while persons wishing to set up ranches are to obtain a permit from the state government for a period of three years, with renewal subject to the approval of the landowner.
The proposed law also empowers the state governor to revoke the permit, without compensation, to the herdsman for any breach of security.
It further recommends N200,000 fine and two years imprisonment for any herder or cattle rearer found guilty of failure to register with the state Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
It also stipulates that any herdsman who causes injury to any person is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for five years or a fine of N500,000 or both, while such person who causes the injury shall be allowed to pay the medical bill of the injured person(s).
It states further that whenever any livestock strays into any person’s land other than a ranch and causes destruction of crops, the herdsman who is the owner of the livestock is liable to pay compensation to the owner with valuation to be determined by the Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. If the onslaught leads to death of any person, the herder(s) upon a conviction will be sentenced for manslaughter under the criminal code law.
It prohibits the sale, transfer or mortgage of any land leased to herdsmen for the purpose of ranching. It recommends that the Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development shall be empowered to impound any livestock found grazing or wandering or herding in an area not permitted as a ranch. It states further that impounded livestock not claimed within seven days will be sold on auction to the public and the proceeds paid into the state’s coffers.
For these provisions to be enforced, the bill recommends the establishment of a task force to be named, “Open Grazing Prohibition Task Force.”
The “Open Grazing Prohibition Task Force” which will see to the implementation of the law, would comprise representatives of the state government, security agencies, farmers’ association, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, vigilante and the judiciary.
Politics of the law
Oyo State is currently the only South-west state governed by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which also has a majority in the state assembly.
Governor Seyi Makinde defeated the candidate of the then governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Adebayo Adelabu, to win the March governorship election.
In Ekiti State, the only other South-west state with a similar anti-open grazing law, the law was promulgated by the former PDP governor, Ayo Fayose.
In Benue, which has a similar law, though the law was proposed when the governor, Samuel Ortom, was in the APC, his insistence of the law, which was vehemently opposed by the APC-led federal government, is believed to have contributed to his exit from the party.
Mr Ortom defected to the PDP on whose platform he won his re-election.
Proponents of the law argue that it will, among others, reduce significantly the incessant clashes between herders and farming communities over grazing rights. Thousands of Nigerians have been killed in such violence.
Opponents, however, say such a law is discriminatory and is not the best way to end the violence.
To curb such violence and also assist herders, the federal government and willing states are putting in place structured cattle settlements that will be equipped and restrict grazing to within them.
Download Oyo’s anti-open grazing bill passed by lawmakers HERE.