Participants at the just-concluded public hearings held by the Benue State House of Assembly, on the government’s proposed anti grazing bill, have expressed support for a law banning open grazing in Benue.
The participants also endorsed the provision that open grazing be replaced with ranches, but declared that such ranches should be established by individuals, and not by the state government as proposed in the executive bill.
They also rejected the provisions of the draft bill suggesting that the state government should establish a Livestock Development Agency.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that three public hearings, organised by the Benue House of Assembly, were held simultaneously in the three senatorial districts, to gauge the feeling of the people on the bill.
The hearings, held at Oturkpo, Gboko and Katsina-Ala, were concluded on Friday.
The bill was submitted to the House by Governor Samuel Ortom, as part of efforts to curb the persistent clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
The participants unanimously agreed that a law banning open grazing by herdsmen was key to tackling the clashes, and called for its quick passage.
Moses Iorapuu, a pastor, who represented the Bishop of Makurdi Diocese,Wilfred Anagbe, said the ban on opening grazing was long overdue, adding that land owners should be consulted before any ranch was established.
Terngu Tsegba, a former member of the House of Representative, said that ranches should be created and managed by individuals, just like farmlands.
He rejected the provision mandating government to establish the ranches that would serve as the alternative to open grazing.
“The money to be used to establish the ranches should go into other critical sectors such as health and education,” he argued.
Mr. Tsegba emphasised the need to categorically state how the herds would be transported into the ranches, to guard against cattle roaming through township streets.
Moses Anagend, a first class chief, said no person’s land should be forcefully confiscated to serve as a ranch.
“Just as the herdsman’s economy depends on the cows, so does the farmer’s economy depends on the land. No one should be denied of such inheritance,” he said.
Margaret Igbetar, a former president of the Appeal Court, advised the government to listen to the voice of the people, pointing out that majority could not be wrong.
Other groups who spoke included tribal unions, religious associations, professional groups and NGOs. (NAN)