Fulani herdsmen threaten legal action against Oyo Assembly over anti-open grazing bill

Cattle used to illustrate the story.
Cattle used to illustrate the story.

The public outcry that characterised the anti-open grazing bill at the Oyo State House of Assembly took another dimension Wednesday when Fulani herdsmen in the state vowed to drag the state lawmakers to court over the proposed law.

At a meeting in Igangan, an agrarian community in Ibarapa North Local Government Area, that lasted several hours and with hundreds of the herdsmen from across the state in attendance, they resolved to use legal options to fight the bill.

The bill entitled, ‘Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation Bill 2019’, which has passed through second reading at the House of Assembly was jointly sponsored by the Speaker of the Assembly, Adebo Ogundoyin, the deputy Speaker, Abiodun Fadeyi, Majority Leader, Sanjo Adedoyin, and the minority Leader, Asimiyu Alarape.

The bill, when it becomes law, would prohibit open grazing in the state.

The House had two weeks ago, organized a public hearing for stakeholders to bare their minds and make suggestions to the proposed bill.

During the public hearing, farmers and some Fulani’s in the state disagreed over the proposed anti-grazing bill.

While the farmers’ ambassador, Azeez Maboreje, in his address, lauded the lawmakers for taking the bull by the horn for considering the bill; the national chairman of Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria, Sale Bayari, in an 18-page position paper, said the bill if passed into law would punish poor herders, saying, “it is impossible in our country for any peasant small scale herdsman to go into ranching.”

However, the Deputy Speaker of the House, Abiodun Fadeyi, while speaking at a town hall meeting on Monday in Ibadan, had insisted that the proposed law is not in any way to punish or witchhunt Fulani herdsmen in the state.

Mr Fadeyi who spoke at the town hall meeting organized in conjunction with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), for the people of Ona-Ara State constituency where he represents, noted that the open rearing and grazing regulation bill 2019 is not in any way targeted at any group or set of people.

“We have passed many bills since we came in the last four months. Numerous bills. When this administration came into government, we enacted some of the bills to establish some of the ministries,” he said.

“And the one that is germane is the anti-grazing, open rearing bill and the anti-corruption bills. The anti-open grazing bill is not only a discourse in the state alone, it is throughout the country. It is the bill that will help us in terms of generating revenue for the state.

“We are talking about the anti-open grazing bill now that will help us in terms of the internally generated revenue (IGR), that will encourage private ownership of ranches and what a few and to control or to curtail the movement of the herders from one place to the other indiscriminately. So these are some of the things the bill will be able to do and not to witchhunt the herders or anyone.”

But, the Fulani herdsmen at their meeting presided over by the Sarkin Fulani of Oyo State, Saliu Abdul-Kadir, described the bill as “too draconian” and targeted at crippling Fulani herdsmen from practising their age-long cattle rearing activities across the state.

“We will go to court. We will seek legal redress if Oyo State Government insists on imposing this bill on us,” Mr Abdul-Kadir said.

Reeling out the communique of the meeting to journalists, the Oyo State Secretary of Gan Allah Fulani Development Association, Garba Umar, said the Fulani herdsmen had resorted to rejecting the bill in its totality because they perceived it as one that would cause a serious setback to their means of livelihood.

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“The implementation of the bill as it is will cause commotion,” he said.

“It is simply this issue that threw up IDP Camps in Benue. And we don’t want all this to happen here in Oyo State where we have been living peacefully with our fellow farmers for ages.

“However, if we are pushed to the wall, we know the next level. Our next level is to seek the legal option. We will go to the court of law over the matter.

“But for now, we are begging Oyo State Government to see us as Nigerians and partners in progress who, for ages immemorial, have added values to the economy of the State.

“It is also a matter of fact that we Fulani dominate large percentage of voters in Oyo State. Government only recognize us during electioneering and voting periods. Government is not giving us any facility or loan to boost our cattle rearing business while the farmers, on the other hand, get agric loans, fertilizers, etc. Is this the only way Government is now repaying us for our patriotism?

“We are equally opposed to ranching which is capital intensive. Why not ask the farmers also to fence their farm holdings? How much are we going to be spending per caged cow per annum in form of feeding, etc.? We do not agree.

“Government should rather checkmate the inflow of foreign Fulanis who have been responsible for the security challenges in the land.”

Matthew Opeoluwa, Special Assistant, New Media to the Speaker in a message to Premium Times reacting to the court threat, said the House would soon release its position on the herdsmen’s decision.



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