By Emmanuel Elebeke
ABUJA – A Pan-Igbo group, Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), has demanded immediate enactment of Anti-Open Grazing bills to check wanton killings and destruction of farmlands and properties in five South East and two South South States.
The position of the group is contained in a statement signed by its President, Prof Uzodinma Nwala, Secretary, Prof. Nath Aniekwu, ADF Anti-Open Grazing Bill Committee Coordinator, Barr. Max Ozoka and Secretary, Mr Onochie Ukeme.
The statement urged the governors to submit draft bills to each of the Houses of Assembly to stop systematic and reckless grazing of cattle on cultivated agricultural lands, destruction of crops; attacks, abduction and killings of farmers; rape of their women and daughters, and in many cases the sack and displacement of entire communities in the zones.
The group stated that enactment of anti-open grazing bill in the states is part of ADF ‘’support of the political will of both our Assemblies and our Executive Governors, as well as the determination of our people to defend their lives and property”
ADF said: “Recent revelations show an unmistakable collaboration between the last two terrorist organizations (Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen). Boko Haram itself began as a political instrument of some Northern politicians until ISIS became its major patron. But it appears that Boko Haram is now being integrated with the Fulani Herdsmen. In recent times the movement of these terrorist groups into the Southern parts of Nigeria increases daily just as sophisticated military equipment are being shipped to the South with increased terrorists’ attacks in several parts of the South.
“It has been firmly established that what is afoot is a Jihad being waged by the Fulani Muslims in the guise of herdsmen. The heavily armed Fulani herdsmen include both Fulani citizens of Nigeria and other Fulani’s from other West African countries such as Niger, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. There is hardly any state in Nigeria which has not witnessed the horrors inflicted by these Fulani herdsmen armed with AK 7 and other sophisticated weapons.”
ADF said the proposed bills are necessary and urgent political obligation and exercise and submitted that any lease or permission granted for a ranch in any of the States “is a privilege and shall not create any ownership right, title, interest or estate to the land. The Land shall remain vested in the Governor in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act, 1978”.
It said permit for ranching may be revoked at any time subject to approval of the Governor without the payment of compensation to the rancher if it is because of breach of State Security and peace, breach of any term or condition of the lease hold or overriding public interest as stipulated under the Land Use Act; No land allocated for a ranch shall be sold, transferred or mortgaged unless in accordance with provisions of the Land Use Act requiring the prior consent of the governor; Any livestock that strays into any other person’s land other than a ranch and causes destruction to agricultural crops and/or contaminates any source of water supply, the owner or management of such livestock shall be liable to pay damages or compensation to the owner or community with proprietary interest in the land or source of water as may be determined by a proper valuation ordered to be done by the Department.
The group added that anyone who engages in open grazing outside permitted ranches after the enactment of the law shall be shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to five years imprisonment or One Million Naira (1,000,000.00) fine or both; In case of an injury to any person within the State, the owner or manager of such livestock shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction be liable to two years imprisonment in addition to footing the medical bill of the victim and paying relevant compensation as the Court may determine; In a case where such contravention causes the death of any person within the State, ADF posits that the owner or manager of such livestock shall be guilty of an offence of culpable homicide punishable under the Criminal Code Laws of the State.
It said that movement of livestock should be only by rail, wagon, truck or pick-up wagon, the ADF further submitted that any person(s) found moving livestock on foot within or across urban centres or rural settlements commits an offence and is liable on conviction to Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500, 000.00) fine or one year imprisonment or both for a first offender; or for a second offender, One Million Naira (N 1,000,000.00) fine or three years imprisonment or both.
In addition, ADF said that no livestock owner, manager and rancher shall possess fire arms, licensed or unlicensed, on the ranch or outside the ranch and that any of them who possess or owns fire arms or arms shall be prosecuted under the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act.
‘’ADF therefore calls on the traditional and community leaders as well as the Clergy and the Church to ensure that the provisions of the proposed law are effectively implemented,’’ the statement added.