The Benue State Government has thrown a challenge to all critics and opponents of its law prohibiting open grazing to bring to the table any better or superior solution that would restore lasting peace between farmers and herdsmen. Also challenging the claims of the Miyetti Allah and the Cattle Breeders Association that the law restricted freedom of movement and is, therefore, offensive to the Constitution, Mr Lawrence Onoja Jnr, the State Commissioner for Information, says the law did no such thing in terms of human movement as it only confined grazing of cattle to ranches which it said is in line with international best practices for animal husbandry as well as prohibition of animal loitering.
Inviting other Nigerians to study the law so as to be better informed, Mr Onoja Jnr said the law had come to stay and that other Nigerians should condemn statements by its critics. Taking special note of critics of the law such as the Miyetti Allah as well as Cattle Breeders Association, he says such people were daring the will of the people.
“The ‘Open Grazing Prohibition Establishment Law 2017’ was enacted by the elected representatives of the people, the Benue State House of Assembly, in exercise of her powers as provided for by section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999”, Onoja said, adding that the law was a legitimate contribution to the resolution of the clashes between herdsmen and farmers which he called one of the most protracted problems across the country. Onoja also said the Constitution invested in the state governor the ownership of its land resources who holds such land in trust for the people.
Onoja warned the critics to desist from making inciting statements that he said could plunge the country into tension and called on security agencies to arrest the leaders of the two organisations for threatening the law.
Tracing the history of the law, the Commissioner disclosed how a study by the Benue State Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs had put the total cost of destruction due to herdsmen violence across 10 local government areas of the state to N95billion in 2014 alone and that deadlier attacks had followed subsequently. He denied repressiveness or selectivity of the law, saying it went farther than only cattles to all other animals such as pigs, goats, chicken, etc and has a stiffer punishment for cattle rustling than previous laws.
Assuring of government’s commitment to peaceful and legal means of resolving all conflicts within its domain, the spokesperson commended the Benue State House of Assembly for speedily passing the bill, saying it thereby foreclosed the legal and moral bases for challenging the move. While praying for the speedy recovery of President Buhari and for sustainable support for the Ortom administration, the Commissioner asked the people to report all suspicious gathering or movements to the Police.