Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Fayose issues violent herdsmen red card

The new law signed by Governor Ayo Fayose to regulate grazing in Ekiti State is already raising some dust. The  enactment of the law resulted from an attack on the village of Oke Ako by suspected herdsmen. The issue is already attracting national and international attention.

Fulani herdsmen are kicking against the law enacted by the government of Ekiti State against grazing beyond the stipulated time of 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Before the Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing Act 2016 was signed by Governor  Ayo Fayose on August 29, many communities had sordid stories to tell about the daring brutality and ruthlessness of the rampaging herdsmen.

At a stakeholders’ meeting summoned by the former Commissioner of Police in charge of the command, Taiwo Lakanu, (currently in charge of Imo State command), in February last year, attacks by the herdsmen dominated talks.

The attack sparked state-wide and nation-wide outrage. Many inhabitants of Oke Ako and other neighbouring communities such as Ipao, Irele, Itapaji and Iyemero who also experienced constant threat of herdsmen, fled to areas they considered safe.

But the visit of Fayose to Oke Ako two days after the attack has changed all that. The governor vowed to clip the wings of the rampaging herdsmen.

Fayose forwarded an executive bill to the House of Assembly for consideration and passage into law which resulted in the Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing Act 2016 which has given the state government the weapon to curb the menace of the herdsmen.

“Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing in Ekiti, 2016,” which forbids grazing or movement of cows at night provides that grazing activities must be from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on a daily basis and it also prohibits the use of firearms and any weapons. Culprits shall be charged with terrorism.

It states: “No person shall cause or permit any cattle or other ruminants belonging to him or under his control to graze on any land in which the Governor has not designated as ranches, no cattle or other ruminants shall by any means move or graze at night and that cattle movement and grazing are restricted to the hours between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m..”

The implementation of the law has been generating ripples with majority of Nigerians hailing it while some interest groups sympathetic to the cause of the herdsmen criticised the law.

The new law has now pitched Fayose against the umbrella body of cattle owners in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) as both sides are firing verbal salvos at each other.

What sparked the latest feud was the governor’s dramatic encounter with two herdsmen caught rearing their herd after 6:00 p.m. allowed by law to carry out their business.

The drama occurred along Ado-Afao Road on the outskirts of the Ekiti State capital when Fayose was on his way to Ikole Ekiti on October 12 to inaugurate some projects to commemorate the second anniversary of his administration.

The sight of the cows and the herdsmen at such an “unholy hour” infuriated Fayose who ordered his convoy to stop. Governor Fayose emerged from his car to give the herdsmen and their cows a “hot chase.”

But the governor followed up the action with the inauguration of a security outfit to enforce the new law in all nook and cranny of the state. The security body is known as Ekiti Grazing Enforcement Marshals (EGEM).

At EGEM’S inauguration, Fayose declared that any cow confiscated under the State Grazing Regulation Law will be slaughtered and shared to the people as part of the “Stomach Infrastructure” policy of his administration.

Fayose further explained that the setting up of the EGEM was aimed at nipping in the bud the killing of innocent people and destruction of their means of livelihood by armed herdsmen.

He said: ”We have a right to life, to survive and to possess things, especially peasant farmers, whose means of livelihood are taken away by cattle feeding on their crops.

If peasant farmers are deprived of their gains, that is condemnable.

“We will bring to permanent end the situation whereby some people take away other people’s means of livelihood.

“Some people go as far as grazing in the night when farmers are no longer in their farms,” he said.

While frowning at cattle rustling by some people, Fayose added that the law was in the interest of cattle breeders as well, as their operations would be streamlined.

The governor added that the phone numbers of the marshals would be made public and warned the marshals against going beyond their mandate.

“This is not an opportunity to harass or intimidate innocent people. You are to enforce the law and not to break it. Anybody found going beyond his bounds would be dealt with accordingly,” he said.

In her opening remarks, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Modupe Alade, said the law had helped in curbing incessant attacks on local farmers by herdsmen and feasting on crops by cattle.

The Chairman, Hunters’ Association, Ikole Local Government Area, Joseph Osasona commended Fayose for the initiative.

Osasona recalled that it was the prompt intervention of the governor in Oke Ako-Ekiti early in the year  that sent a strong signal to lawbreakers to stay away from the state.

Apparently outraged by Fayose’s outburst, MACBAN condemned the setting up of EGEM, describing the action as “unscrupulous and targeted at our members who are bona fide citizens of our country.”

MACBAN, in a statement by its spokesman, Baba Othman Ngelzarma, alleged that EGEM  shot five cows and carted away the meat but the herdsman was able to flee with the rest of the cattle.

The group further said: “As far as we know, Ekiti State is not an island of its own but a state within the Federal Republic of Nigeria and while the Governor is permitted to carry out actions geared towards protecting the interest of Ekiti State, such actions should follow due process of the law.

“We deplore this act of brigandage and call on Governor Fayose to offer unreserved apology to MACBAN, and equally set machinery in motion with a view to compensating our members who lost five cows in this primitive adventure.

“We are hereby constrained to implore the Federal Government, through its security agencies, to wade into this unprovoked and primitive aggression against our members, before this macabre incident develops into unquenchable inferno involving our members and Ekiti State government.”

But the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), viewed MACBAN’s outburst as a terror, threat and an assault on Yoruba people until an apology is tendered from the herdsmen’s body.

In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Kunle Famoriyo, the ARG took strong exception to that comment, saying, “such open threat against the people and government that accommodated your business interest is terrorism.”

It further accused MACBAN of deceit in its opposition to the law, noting that the group “had always exonerated its members from herdsmen’s vicious crimes, blaming it on ‘foreigners from other countries.

“Sanity, therefore, prescribes that MACBAN should be happy with the enactment of such a law that will ensure genuine cattle breeders are not stigmatised by criminals from other countries.”

Addressing a news conference at the Governor’s Office, Ado-Ekiti on Tuesday, October 24, Fayose accused the Federal Government of backing the herdsmen to unleash terror on communities in the country, alleging plans to repeat massacres carried out in Benue and Plateau states in Ekiti.

Source: The Nation.

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