By Davies Iheamnachor, Port-Harcourt
The Rivers State Executive Council has approved the proposed bill that will give legal teeth to the ban on open grazing in the State.
The council also approved a proposal for the establishment of Rivers State Residents Registration Agency Bill that will make it mandatory for residents of the State to be registered.
Kelvin Ebiri, the Special Assistant to Governor Nyesom Wike on Media said in a statement that the council did the endorsements at its meeting at Government House, Port Harcourt, a meeting presided over by Governor Wike.
However, the statement noted that the Attorney General of the State and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor (SAN) disclosed in a briefing that it was impossible for the State to enforce the resolution of the Southern Nigeria Governors Forum on the ban on open rearing and grazing of without an enabling law.
The Attorney General of the State said the state did a draft of the legal instrument, which has been adopted by the council.
Adangor said: “You will all recall on that on the 11 May 2021, the Southern Nigeria Governors Forum meet in Asaba and in that crucial meeting adopted series of the resolution, most critical of it was that open rearing and grazing of cattle will remain ban throughout Southern Nigeria. His excellency, Governor of Rivers State was part of that meeting.
“But we realized that we don’t have any extant law criminalizing or prohibiting open grazing. And so it has become necessary for the office of the Attorney General of Rivers state to propose a bill for consideration by the State Executive Council.
“That bill came up before council for deliberation. And after exhaustive deliberation and discussion of the highlights of that bill, the same was approved by the council for onwards transmission to the Rivers State House of Assembly for necessary legislative action.”
He said when the bill is assented to and passed by the State governor, open grazing of livestock would be criminalised and prohibited in any part of the State.
The Commissioner of Justice explained that livestock rearing activities would only be permitted within the precinct of a ranch and such ranch would have been certified by the State government.
Adangor said: “Now when that bill is passed into law, it will criminalize, prohibit open rearing or grazing of livestock in Rivers state. If you look at that bill, it is divided into four parts.
“The first part deals with the objectives of the bill; that is what the bill intends to achieve and then also deals with the establishment of the state and local government livestock and ranch administration and control committees.
“The second part of the bill deals with the establishment of ranches and issuance of ranching permits. The third part deals with the prohibition of open rearing and grazing of livestock offenses and penalties, therefore.
“The final part of the bill deals with miscellaneous provisions including the power to arrest, detain and impound trespassing livestock and the jurisdiction of the court to try offenses.
“In summary, once that bill is passed, no person will be allowed to openly graze livestock in Rivers State, except within the confines of a ranch. And to establish a ranch you must apply to the state committee for approval. And that committee having regard to the guidelines it is going to issue, may or may not issue approval to establish a ranch.”
Adangor further noted that the council approved the proposed Rivers State Residents Registration Agency Bill that will make it mandatory for residents of the State to be registered, including any visitor staying in the state beyond two weeks.
He said: “We thought that it is necessary for Rivers State government to have a bill that will require mandatory registration of all residents in Rivers State. In other words, that bill makes provision for mandatory registration by every person who lives and does business in Rivers State.
“That bill is going to establish an agency that will superintendent the implementation of that bill. So if you come to Rivers state and you are going to stay in the state for a period of more than 2 weeks, you will be bound to register.
“Of course, you can register in person or register electronically. And if you fall to register, that constitutes an offense under the bill when passed into law.”