The Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, has asked cattle breeders in the state to register with traditional rulers in their local governments within 14 days in furtherance to enforcing the grazing control act.
He also said there was no going back on the law, given that it was part of government’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the lives and property of Ekiti citizens.
Mr. Fayose however reached a truce with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria at a meeting on Thursday in Ado-Ekiti.
After the signing a peace pact, the governor released nine cows seized by the anti-grazing officials, saying it was a gesture to underscore the promise by the cattle breeders to cooperate with the government.
He said he had directed the suspension of activities of the Ekiti Grazing Enforcement Marshals till Thursday, so as to enable the free movement of cattle to designated ranches in the state, hoping all the herders had complied.
“Today, I am giving cattle farmers in the State 14 days to register with traditional rulers in the communities where they are operating, while the traditional rulers will forward the registered herdsmen to the state government,” he said.
The governor, who addressed the meeting, both as a governor and also a cattle farmer, said he had no grudges against the Fulanis or any other tribe.
He said he had 83 cows, and had warned the man watching over them not to break the law, as he would be responsible to any loss to the anti-grazing marshals.
“It is in pursuit of this vital responsibility of government that we have chosen to control cattle grazing in Ekiti State and it is being done in other civilised countries of the world,” he said.
“Or are cattle breeders leading their cattle across city centres and major roads, with the cows defecating everywhere in cities like London, New York, Paris, or even Accra in Ghana and Mecca in Saudi Arabia?
“Let me therefore reiterate that there is no going back on the total enforcement of the Prohibition of Cattle and other Ruminants Grazing in Ekiti State Law, 2016, which came into force on August 29, 2016. It is a law that all residents of Ekiti State must obey.”
Mr. Fayose also warned that herdsmen going about with arms would be arrested and charged with terrorism.
“If we are encouraging our people to embrace farming by giving lands to them to farm through the creation of Land Banks in the 16 Local Councils, and many of them have borrowed money to invest in farming, when these farmlands being cultivated with borrowed funds are destroyed by herdsmen, who are also engaged in their own form of farming, how do we get others to embrace farming?” he asked.
He recalled that two persons were killed, people’s wives raped by those hiding under the guise of rearing cattle in Oke Ako Ekitii in May this year, but wondered why the leaders of the Miyetti Allah did not show concern.
“I was therefore miffed when I read in the newspapers that the Miyetti Allah threatened a reprisal attack on the government and people of Ekiti State and I, as the one the people elected to provide them must not shy away from that responsibility of protecting the people against any aggressor,” he said.
“When I heard that you were coming to invade our land, we were also prepared for you people because I am not one of the governors that are afraid of anyone.
“As I speak to you today, I am reiterating that Ekiti people and all residents of the State will be protected with everything within my power. That is my duty as a governor and I will perform it without fear or favour.”
Mr. Fayose said he was however delighted that the cattle breeders had seen reasons to cooperate with the government to enforce the anti-grazing law.
According to him, it was untrue that the Ekiti Grazing Enforcement Marshals were shooting cows, adding that cow rearers should not see themselves as different from other farmers.
“As cattle farmers, which I am one, we must realise that we are not different from other farmers,” Mr. Fayose said.
“We are not also different from other businessmen who own business premises where they transact their businesses.
“If fish farmers are providing their own ponds and poultry farmers building their own pens, while also buying feed for their animals, there is no reason we as cattle farmers should not also provide our own ranch and feed our cows without encroaching on other people’s farmlands and properties.
“Therefore, you have a duty to join in the crusade to free our State from the menace of herdsmen. You must expose those hiding under cattle grazing to perpetrate crimes like armed robbery, murder, rape and willful destruction of people’s properties.”
The Southwest Chairman of Miyetti Allah, Mohammed Abass, advised governments at all levels against politicising the crisis between his members and farmers in some states.
Mr. Abass, who said the cattle business was very profitable in the southwest, noted that politicising the agriculture sector would destroy the Agro business, which would in turn adversely affect the diversification process of the government.
“We want to appeal to the government to leave us out of politics,” said Mr. Abass. “We are here to do our business and whatever crisis we have, I think we should be able to resolve it.
“But when issues that could be resolved are being politicised, then it assumes a dangerous dimension.
“Cattle business is profitable in the southwest. Many of us were born here and we have multi-million naira businesses which government can bank on and make enough revenues.
“So, we are pleading with Governor Fayose to ensure that this business thrives in Ekiti.”