There was drama at the Taraba State House of Assembly on Tuesday morning as hundreds of herdsmen, butchers, and cattle and sheep dealers stormed the assembly to protest the anti-grazing bill before the lawmakers in the state.
The protesters threatened to begin a sit-at-home on Tuesday.
The protesters had earlier taken to major roads in Jalingo, the state capital, protesting the bill which they described as “anti-human” and targeted to subdue the herdsmen and also to undermine and restrict activities of the Fulani ethnic group in the state.
They called on the lawmakers to strike out the bill, proposed by Governor Darius Isiaku, in the interest of peace,
“From the initial stage, we were not involved in the process and it contravenes Nigerian constitution,” said Umar Danburam, the north-east zonal chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association during the protest.
“So even if you (lawmakers) do your way to pass it; we will challenge it to Nigerian apex court.”
Speaking earlier, the state chairman of Miyetti Allah in Taraba, Sahabi Tukur, said the rights of Fulani nomads will be trampled upon if the bill is enacted into law.
He expressed shock that some lawmakers have thrown their weight behind it.
“It’s unfortunate that some of you lawmakers in the state assembly including the Rt. Hon Speaker are backers, and with this we begin to have second thought that legislative process is usurped.
“We want to advise that as elective representatives and lawmakers, you should avoid enacting laws that could bring disunity, chaos or anarchy.
“Though we are not preaching violence, but if care is not taken, some people may take laws into their hands by attacking our people and this will cause breakdown of law and order,” he told the Speaker of the Assembly, Abel Diah, who received the protesters.
In his remarks, Mr. Diah condemned the threat by the protesters. He said the protest was in ignorance since, according to him, “the issues raised were accommodated within the proposed bill.”
“The committee set up by the House of Assembly to handle the process of the bill had given three weeks within which to conduct public hearing on the bill before passage, where all issues that appear unclear will be addressed.
“So, I am calling on the aggrieved persons or groups to compile all areas they are not comfortable with as a memorandum for the public hearing. The Assembly had given room for groups and individuals to attend the public hearing with their lawyers.”
While Mr. Diah spoke, the protesters chanted “Karya Ne! Bama So, Bamu Yarda ba,” meaning “This is lie; We will not support the bill,” while their leaders tried to control the crowd.
While fielding questions from reporters shortly after leaving the protesters in anger, the speaker said, “I see the protest as a deliberate move by some individuals to cause public disorder in the state capital, as they did not follow due process, which was the reason security did not allow them access into the assembly complex.”
“How can you mobilise for protest and you allow your members to carry arms? The Assembly is an organised place and the security will not allow disorder.
“I think that was why they were not allowed access into the complex. But as a leader who was elected by the people, I insisted I will attend to them, even in the midst of their weapons.”