Open grazing of cattle is continuing in the 17 southern states unabated despite the May 12 Asaba Declaration by the governors.
An investigation carried out by The Nation showed that nearly three weeks after the governors’ resolution, there has been no attempt in any of the states to enforce the ban even in states with existing law banning open grazing.
Some of the other states are in the process of passing their own bill into law.
Cattle are spotted grazing daily at Alamala in Abeokuta and down the road to Ayetoro in Yewa North and Imeko, all in Ogun State.
The situation is the same at Owode-Ede, Kelebe, Ede, Iwo, Okuku, Gbongan, Ilesha, Ara among others in Osun State; Ifaki/Omuo/ Kabba highway, Ikere-Ekiti/Ise Road and other major roads in Ekiti State; Emene, Gariki, Awkunawnaw, Akegbeugwu and Akwuke villages in Enugu State.
The cattle herders, some of them boys as young as 10 years old, look unperturbed by the threat to restrict their movement.
Although Ekiti State had a law in place as far back as 2016 during the Fayose Administration banning open grazing, government appears to be shy of enforcing it.
Apart from government’s confiscation of a few cows in the early days of the law, nothing much has been done since then to bring culprits to book.
A top government official said it was hamstrung because the security agencies with the power of enforcement are under the control of the federal government.
The source said the government has no means of implementing the ban on open-grazing except Amotekun which he said is ineffective because of the inability of its personnel to bear firearms.
He added that the police and other security agencies who are authorized by law to carry arms are not committed to the enforcement of the law.
State’s limited power hinders effective enforcement of anti-open grazing law in Oyo
Oyo State which enacted its own anti-open grazing law late 2019 has also not been enforcing it.
It was introduced as a solution to hitherto incessant farmer-herder clashes which stretched the ability and resources of security agencies and community leaders in the state to the limits.
However, the Special Adviser on Security to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr Fatai Owoseni, told The Nation that the state was smoothly enforcing the law.
According to him, the government set up a mediation and reconciliation committee in every local government which resolves open grazing cases.
Because of the work of the committees, Owoseni said only very few cases, if any, get to litigation level. He said cases that involve murder and kidnapping are handled by the police instead of the committee.
His words: “The law is not redundant. It is a standard practice that each local government has a mediation and reconciliation committee in place. They amicably resolve the issues hence they hardly get to court.”
But local sources revealed that the state government itself is frustrated by the police whose lack of enthusiasm in prosecuting offenders or helplessness in handling those accused or arrested for open grazing due to pressure from above has become a source of worry.
A source gave an example of a 10-acre cassava farm in Oyo town on which herders grazed their cattle.
The owner reported the case at an Area command in Ibadan whose men moved swiftly to arrest the herders.
Although the culprits were traced to a bush, the police failed to arrest them. Instead, their leader (Seriki) was invited to Ibadan for questioning.
Instead of honouring police invitation, the source said that his lawyer wrote to the police to the effect that he would represent his client. Before that happened, the police handed off the case, citing pressure from above.
“Since the power of arrest and prosecution lies with the police, the Oyo State Government is sometimes frustrated with failure of the police to arrest and prosecute offenders,” the source said.The Ondo State Executive Council has already given consent for the anti-grazing bill which will be forwarded to the state assembly for passing (Nation)