Benue state has been a centre of crises and killings since the beginning of the year. From one local government to the other, the state has witnessed several killings and destruction of properties resulting from clashes between suspected herdsmen and local farmers.
Many people have attributed the violent farmers-herders clashes in the state to the anti-open grazing law enacted by the state governor. However, Governor Ortom insisted the ranching law is not responsible for the spate of violence and killings.
He said even before he made the law, there had been several attacks which had claimed lives.
According to the governor, the crisis claimed nearly 2,000 lives before the making of the law last year, adding that the attacks have continued across the country where there is no grazing law in place.
He reiterated Benue state government will not be distracted by the views of those who are against the implementation of the law.
But, what is it about the anti-open grazing law that is generating such controversy, NAIJ.com highlights major facts about the law.
1. The law is officially known and cited as Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law
2. The law came into force on November, 1, 2017
1. Prevent the destruction of crop farms, community ponds, settlements and property by open rearing and grazing of livestock;
2. Prevent clashes between nomadic livestock herders and crop farmers
3. Prevent environment from degradation and pollution caused by open rearing and overgrazing of livestock;
4. Optimize the use of land resources in the face of the overstretched land and increasing population;
5. Prevent, control, and manage the spread of diseases as well as ease the implementation of policies that enhance the production of high quality and healthy livestock for local and international markets;
6. Create a conducive environment for large-scale crop production
Administration of the law
1. The Livestock Department of the state’s Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources is vested with the power to administer, regulate, and control livestock in the state.
2. The department is charged with the responsibility of issuing permits to set up ranches to Benue citizens, residents, and other livestock farmers.
Ranch establishment and administration guide
1. A prospective rancher is to get ranch permit from the government
2. He or she will secure the land to use for the ranching, through a lease, and afterward, sends a written application for ranching permit to the ministry
3. The ministry, after considering various factors such as environmental suitability, will either approve or reject the ranch permit request
4. Ranch owners are expected to pay an annual ranch renewal permit fee.
5. The ranch permit may be revoked without payment of compensation to the rancher if there is a breach of security, the interest of peace, breach of any term or condition of the leasehold or overriding public interest
6. Benue citizens are not permitted to sell leased lands to ranchers for the purpose of ranching, residence and other related purposes
7. Every ranch must have a fence
Basic provisions of the law
1. If any livestock 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 manager of such livestock will be liable to pay damages or compensation to the owner or community
2. The law prohibits movement of livestock on foot from one destination to another in the state. Movement of livestock can only be done by wagon, truck, pick-up wagon
3. Anybody that violates the above shall pay N500,000 or one-year imprisonment or both as First Offender. Second Offender will pay N1million naira or three years imprisonment or both
4. Livestock owners or managers must not possess firearms licensed or unlicensed on the ranch or outside the ranch
5. All ranch operators must engage the services of security guards for the protection of their ranches
1. Any person that rustles cattle or other animals from ranch shall be liable on conviction for a term of not less than three years or N100,000 per animal or both
2. If a castle rustler causes injuries or maims anybody while carrying out the activity, he shall be liable on conviction for a term of five years or N500,000 per animal or both
3. If the rustler causes death, he shall be guilty of an offence of culpable h*omicide punishable under the provision of the penal code.
4. A person convicted of cattle rustling may also pay compensation to the victims as the court may direct
5. Any livestock found grazing, wandering, or herding in a place not designated as ranch shall be impounded by the ministry
6. Any impounded cattle not claimed within seven days will be sold on auction to the public and the proceeds deposited to the government’s purse
The law establishes a Special Livestock Open Grazing Prohibition Task Force which shall enforce the provisions, regulations, and guidelines of the law.
Herdsmen attacks: Benue's Attorney-General explains anti-grazing law | NAIJ.com TV