By Ogbu A. Ameh
The contentious Benue State Anti Grazing Law cannot be critically discussed without looking at the fundamental national issues that aggravated it. The crux of the matter is how to make the concept of federalism work for Nigeria. Scholars and social thinkers have unanimously agreed that; three things must be done to the current structure.
Although, details of their postulations are not my basic concerns for this feature article now, but it bears seeming correlation to my points of argument in this piece.
The Benue trough and Benue state in particular has been the centre of crises and killings over the years. 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 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.
Long before escalation of clashes and killings, Benue state government raised alarm over planned attack on the state by armed men. According to the governor, the crisis claimed nearly 2,000 lives before 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.
What is it about the anti-open grazing law that is generating such controversy as we look at the highlights of major facts about the law?
The law is officially known and cited as Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law. The law came into force on November 1, 2017.
Prevent the destruction of crop farms, community ponds, settlements and property by open rearing and grazing of livestock. Prevent clashes between nomadic livestock herders and crop farmers. Prevent environment from degradation and pollution caused by open rearing and overgrazing of livestock. 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. Create a conducive environment for large-scale crop production administration of the law.
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. 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: a prospective rancher is to get ranch permit from the government. 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. The ministry, after considering various factors such as environmental suitability, will either approve or reject the ranch permit request. Ranch owners are expected to pay an annual ranch renewal permit fee. 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. Benue citizens are not permitted to sell leased lands to ranchers for the purpose of ranching, residence and other related purposes and every ranch must have a fence.
Basic provisions of the law:
If any livestock strays into any other person’s land other than a ranch and causes destruction to agricultural crops 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. 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. Anybody that violates the above shall pay N500,000 or one-year imprisonment or both as First Offender. Second Offender will pay N1 Million naira or three years imprisonment or both. Livestock owners or managers must not possess firearms licensed or unlicensed on the ranch or outside the ranch. All ranch operators must engage the services of security guards for the protection of their ranches.
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. If a castle rustler causes injures 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. If the rustler causes death, he shall be guilty of an offence of culpable homicide punishable under the provision of the penal code. A person convicted of cattle rustling may also pay compensation to the victims as the court may direct.
Any livestock found grazing, wandering, or herding in a place not designated as ranch shall be impounded by the ministry. Any impounded cattle not claimed within seven days will be sold on auction to the public and the proceeds deposited in the government’s purse. Enforcement; the law establishes a Special Livestock Open Grazing Prohibition Task Force which shall enforce the provisions, regulations, and guidelines of the law.
Against the backdrop of this preamble which focuses on the Benue State’s Anti Grazing Law that generated avalanche of criticism, political grand standing and character assassinations culminating in escalated bloodletting as a vendetta, we can begin the deconstruct certain contradictions.
Fulani herdsmen or Fulani pastoralists are nomadic or semi-nomadic Fulani people whose primary occupation is raising livestock.The Fulani herdsmen are largely located in the Sahel and semi-arid parts of West Africa, but due to relatively recent changes in climate patterns, many herdsmen have moved further south into the savannah and tropical forest belt of West Africa.
The herdsmen are found in countries such as Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Cameroon. In Senegal they inhabit northeastern Ferlo and the southeastern part of the country. In many of these countries, the Fula often constitute a minority group.
Fulani herdsmen’s engage in both random and planned transhumance movements. Random movements are usually taken by the pure nomadic Fulani herdsmen, while planned movements are taken by the semi-nomadic pastoralist. A primary reason for the migratory nature of the herdsmen is to reach areas with abundant grass and water for the cattle. The herdsmen also move to avoid tax collectors, harmful insects and hostile weather and social environment. A major benefit of the movement for the herdsmen is to maximize the availability of food resources for the cattle and reduce excessive grazing. Before moving to new areas, the herdsmen send a reconnaissance team to study the area for availability of resources such as grass and water. Conflict with farmers.
Historically, Fulani pastoralists have grazed in lands around the arid Sahel regions of West Africa, partly because of the environmental conditions that limit the amount of land for agricultural purposes, leading to less intense competition for land between farmers and herders. However, after recurrent droughts in the arid Sahel regions, Fulani pastoralists have gradually moved southwards to the Guinea savanna and the tropical forest areas, resulting in competition for grazing routes with farmers. Farmers have also moved north with the increase in population.
Fulani pastoralists started migrating into northern Nigeria from the Senegambia region around the thirteenth or fourteenth century. After the Uthman dan Fodio jihad, the Fulani became integrated into the Hausa culture of Northern Nigeria. Thereafter, during the dry season when the tsetse fly population is reduced, Fulani pastoralists began to drive their cattle into the Middle Belt zone dominated by non-Hausa groups, returning to the north at the onset of the rainy season. While managing the herd and driving cattle, grazing on farmlands sometimes occurs, leading to destruction of crops and becoming a source of conflict.
Nigeria’s implementation of the land use act of 1978 allowed the state or federal government the right to assign and lease land and gave indigenes the right to apply and be given a certificate of occupancy to claim ownership of their ancestral lands.[ This placed the pastoral Fulani in a difficult position because most did not apply for lands of occupancy of their grazing routes, and recurring transhumance movement led to encroachment on the properties of others. The Nigeria government designated some areas as grazing routes but this has not reduced clashes. From 1996 to 2006 about 121 people lost their lives in Bauchi and Gombe states as a result of conflicts between pastoralists and farmers. Thousands of people have been killed since 2016 in clashes between farmers and semi-nomadic herders across the country.
It is in this light we view the aptness and timeliness of the Anti Grazing Law in Benue state as a reflection of true Federalism. We can now go further to buttress this assertion with empirical evidence of researched work by renowned scholars in that regard.
NIPSS has said the herdsmen and farmers clashes cannot be called in law as a CONFLICT, but TRESPASS. This position was made known by Hon. Dr Samuel Omotoso, Chairman House Committee on Information. EKHA as aGuest Speaker. His scholarly position struck a note amongst advocates of true federalism in the face of lingering herdsmen farmer’s violent clashes across the country. A distillation of this researched work delivered as a speech suffixes here for public consumption and engagement in the debate.
Prognosis of Factors Sustaining The Sedentary Farmers and Nomadic Herders’ Conflict, Towards a Strategic Response
The fast pace of change and National Developments in Countries around the World necessitated the establishment of National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies in 1979 for Qualitative input into the National Policy. It serves as a high level centre for Reflection, Research and Dialogue. The National institute has once again demonstrated leadership by choosing the prevailing threat to national security between the farmers and the herdsmen for the first brainstorming session in 2018.
The issue of the herdsmen has been sporadic, widespread and recurrent in Nigeria. It has also become intractable, from Abia to Adamawa, Benue to Enugu, Niger to Plateau, Taraba to Ondo and Ekiti to Zamfara. It has been tales of woes, weeping and gnashing of teeth.
A pastoral Fulani family is the traditional herding unit. This unit divides task by gender, allowing the men to manage the herds by finding grazing sites, they build tents and camps and provide security through knives, bows and guns. The women are laid back to milking of cows, weaving and marketing of mats and sourcing for food.
Cattle is the dominant composition of the Fulani herd in Nigeria and are largely females of about 60-70% and males of about 30-40%. The Males are largely reduced through selling for consumption purposes.
These livestock provide a bulk of the beef consumption in Nigeria and hence a veritable source of animal protein for the nourishment of the population.
These are settled farmers who practice agriculture in one place in which fields are not rotated. They farm the same place continuously in contrast to shifting cultivation.
Sedentary farming started in Anger man land, northern Sweden, during the Iron Age and medieval period based on pollen analytical investigations (Jan-Erik Wallin, Umea University, Sweden) and it is still commonly practiced in Nigeria and several parts of Africa.
One thing common among the sedentary farmers is poverty. It is the rate limiting factor to ownership of several plots of land for shifting cultivation and thus increases their hunger, anger, desperation and vulnerability to been killed by the herdsmen.
These are livestock farmers that move frequently from place to place without a fixed pattern and are principally of the Fulani extraction in Nigeria.
There are two types of nomadic farmers
1. Pure nomadic- which engages in random movement of cattle.
2. Semi Nomadic – which engages in planned transhumance movements between one grazing ground to the other in a seasonal cycle, from highlands to lowlands and vice- versa to their camps or homes?
Occur because of the following factors; search for abundant grass and water, to avoid tax, harmful insects and hostile weather, for social relocation, to increase sales and to maximal profit etc.
Conflict As A Wrong Diagnosis
Is there any conflict? There is actually no conflict between the farmers and the herdsmen. There is also no clash. For conflict to exist, the following must be satisfied.
• Recognized opposing interests between parties in a zero-sum situation.
• A belief by both sides that the other is acting or will act against them.
• This belief is justified by actions taken.
• A process that developed from their past interactions.
Conflict is therefore an interactive process manifesting in incompatibility and disagreement or dissonance between two groups or within social entities- see Rahkim et al.
Conflict is also an activity which takes place when conscious humans wish to carry out mutually inconsistent acts, concerning their wants, needs or obligations –Micheal Nicholson et al.
Looking at the above, the problem between the farmers and the herders does not satisfy or qualify to be referred to as a conflict. There is no conflict anywhere and it is because of this wrong diagnosis leading to wrong management with poor prognosis that made the problem intractable till today.
The closer we are to correctly diagnosing this problem, the closer we are to the solution.
What we have between the farmers and the herdsmen is trespass and reverse aggression.
Trespass by the herdsmen against the farmers and reverse aggression between the two groups.
The trespass is an unforced trespass which is settled in Law as follows;
Trespass is an area of criminal law divided into 3 categories:
• Trespass to person
• Trespass to chattels
• Trespass to land
• Trespass to Person
Let’s look at the following 6 aspects of trespass to person
1. Threats 2. Assault 3. Battery 4. injury 5. Mayhem 6. False imprisonment/ kidnapping
The three Major ones are: assault/battery/false imprisonment.
Do the farmers suffer all these from the herdsmen? The answer is Yes.
Trespass to chattels
2. Personal property
Do the farmers suffer these two from the herdsmen? The answer is Yes!
Trespass to Land
1. Interference with possession
2. Unauthorized entry upon the soil of another.
The farmers own the land, the sub-soil and airspace; this is explained by the legal maxim, quicquid plantator solo, solo cedit.
Do the farmers suffer trespass to land from the herdsmen? The answer is Yes.
Having established trespass against the farmers by the herdsmen, let us quickly review reverse-aggression between the two of them and determine if it is applicable in this instance.
Aggression is a feeling of anger resulting in hostile or violent behavior leading to readiness to attack.
It is the action of attacking in retaliation or without provocation. It is a state of belligerence and bellicosity.
Aggression and reverse aggression between the farmers and the herdsmen led to mutual hostility and reverse-violent attacks, sometimes with or without provocation, thus satisfying the above.
In essence, without trespass against the farmers by the herdsmen, there won’t be reverse aggression; therefore the farmers are actually the victims having suffered ab-initio from the aggravating factor of trespass on their lands, resulting in reverse-aggression.
The foundation of this problem is not fair on the farmers when we call it a conflict, since the farmers have not moved from where they are farming legally, rather it is the herdsmen who came to meet them where they are and hence it is correct to refer and deal with this problem as trespass rather than as a conflict.
Trespass is purely legal and once legal it can only be resolved legally, backed with serious political will from all levels of governments and relevant Stakeholders.
The Sustaining Factor/Problem Statement
Climate Change/Random Movement:
Traditionally, the herdsmen grazed around the Arid and Sahel regions partly due to the environmental conditions that limit the amount of land available for agriculture and therefore the herdsmen has no competitors for land.
Over time the random movement started due to recurrent droughts in the Arid and Sahel regions, leading to unfavourable environmental development in the Sahel and Chad Basin regions.
This Climate change reduced the Lake Chad Basin leading to Southern Migration of the herders to the Guinea Savannah and Rain Forest in search of pastures.
This led to Trespass against the Farmers and reverse- aggression between the duo.
Fulani herdsmen migrated from Senegambia to Nigeria in the 13th to 14th century and became ingrained into the Hausa culture of Northern Nigeria by the Uthman dan Fodio movement.
With the reduction of tsetse fly in the dry season, the herdsmen move their cattle into the middle belt, south west and south east and south-south.
These are areas dominated by non-Hausas and differ in language and culture, thus leading to trespass on lands owned legally or ancestrally by farmers.
After the implementation of the land use act, some of these lands encroached by the herders are owned by others.
Their ownership is officially and legally conferred by the Certificate of Occupancy issued by State Governments. Others have ancestral ownerships of family lands recognized under the law.
The idea of cattle colony is thus illegal; it violates the land use act and should be discarded forthwith.
Consequently, any unauthorized entry or grazing by herds amounts to trespass under the law and should be so seen as established above. (Okello, Anna Majekodunmi, Ayodele 2014 Pastoralism; Abass Mohammed, Jan 2012 European Scientific Journal).
Aggravating Factor – The Fuel/Annual Grazing Factor:
Aggravating this problem is a fuel called the annual grazing cycle.
Describing the annual cycle of the Fulani, Iro 1994 stated that the herding season begins with southward movement of the herd, along rivers and stream valleys from October to December, marking the end of the raining season and beginning of dry season.
January to February is the harmattan season that is characterized by longer grazing hours, herd splitting and more frequent visits to water source with more southward movement.
The months of March and April are usually the toughest for the herdsmen and his cattle; it is the hottest period in the grazing calendar leading to preference for grazing in the evenings and nights and further southwards movements (Riesman 1977) as cited in Iro 1994.
All through the dry season, there is a fierce competition and trespass on the source(s) of water of the locals by the herds, leading to contamination, spread of communicable diseases and deaths of children and adults from diarrhea and other diseases. (My personal experience on COBES programme at Afon, Kwara State, 1995).
May-June signify the end of the dry season and the appearance of vegetation which mark the beginning of northern movement of cattle.
July to Sept mark the peak period of rainy season characterized by cattle breeding, more milk production, shorter grazing hours, this also coincide with arable crop production thus increasing the prevalence of trespasses on farms by the herdsmen. During these migrations illegally refer to as grazing routes, encroachments into farmlands and destruction of crops do happen.
A typical herd consisting of several family units move in a column of up to 5 meters wide and 2 kilometers long, and by the time it passes any given point, everything that stands at that point is destroyed (Frickle 1979 and Vengroff, 1980 as cited in Iro, 1994).
There is nothing like grazing routes, it is an illegal term amounting to trespass under the law.
The Profit/Greed Factor:
Herding as done in Nigeria today does not encourage inputs of recurrent expenditure in cow business.
The profit margin on each cow approaches 100% due to zero cost of feeding which is obtained most times from illegal grazing on lands and crops belonging to others. This encourages nomadism and resistant to change by the herdsmen.
Unlike poultry or fish farming where the farmers incur separate cost on feeds which are deducted from the gross earning after sales, cow business is the only private business in Nigeria where the profit margin approaches 100% due to near zero budgets on recurrent like feeds and feeding.
1. Awareness and compliance by herdsman with designated stock routes- (see Solagberu Adisa and Oluwasegun Adekunle, 2010)
2. Inter tribal and cultural rivalry/ mutual suspicion/ poor tolerance
4. Population explosion
5. War like Boko-Haram in NE
6. Global warming
Prognosis of these Factors
It is very difficult with the level of chaos in the land to make an accurate forecast of the likely outcome of these factors raised above.
The situation is gloomy, especially if there is no serious legal and political will to join the develop nations by putting an end to open grazing.
There are two prognoses (outcomes) possible from the present situation and both depends on the Federal Government taking the lead, ably supported by the States, the LGs and other relevant Stakeholders, the prognosis is divided into:
1. Positive Prognosis
2. Negative Prognosis
Positive outcomes are achievable through Legal and Political will by recognizing without sentiments and prejudice that livestock farming is a private business like poultry or fish farming.
Each state must enact laws proscribing open grazing and establishing sedentary livestock farming or ranching through a coalition of the willing.
Other assistances like subsidy or soft loans may be provided by the Federal Government but in truth, this ceaseless roaming must stop and must stop immediately.
It is unfair of our leaders, to have allowed our citizens, the herdsmen to roam in the bush without education and socialization while also being exposed daily to serious dangers.
They go through a lot of unprecedented hazards and it is a disservice to their rights under the law, to life and duty of care expected of the Federal Government as guarantee under the constitution.
The House of Assembly is established under section 90 of the 1999 constitution to make laws. Each State should be free to make anti-grazing laws to protect their people, if they so desired.
This law is the solution but must be titrated against Chapter 4 of the Constitution to protect both farmers and herdsmen, as we did in Ekiti State.
The Police Service is under compulsion and has obligations under the constitution to obey and implement any law passed in the overriding public interest by any State House of Assembly.
Should any law infringes on the right of others, the court is the only place to seek redress not resisting or resulting to self-help which is a great offence under the law.
Anti-grazing laws will lead to ranching of livestock and allow agriculture to thrive.
Ranching as a Positive Prognosis
• Reduction in communicable Diseases, TB, Diarrhea, Leptospirosis, Leishmaniasis, etc (Animals in shed).
• Use of advance technology, cross breeding, new gadgets for milking
• Applicable in high population areas.
• Zero grazing- zero aggression-zero killings/ reduce hazards/increase life expectancy
• Environmental conservation and sustainability
• Poverty Reduction through increase yield and engagements of nomads in other economic activities; teaching, tailoring, artisans etc/ reduce crime since all herders will have traceable addresses.
• Education and socialization of nomads.
Industrialization and Economic Diversification as a Positive Prognosis
• Leather Industry – new chain of businesses like leather industries, shoe industries, furniture making and cow feeds production will all trend under a ranching system with economic boom and prosperity.
• As at today, Nigeria has zero competing power in the over 75Billion dollar global leather industry by consuming the few available cow skins as ponmo (Olufemi Aluko,OAU).
• India beef exports rose 31% in 2013-2014 to South Asian and Middle East and became the largest exporter of beef in the world last year. Others countries include Brazil, Australia, USA etc. the beef exporting countries are still unable to meet the consumption rate of Uruguay(the largest consumer in the world per capital in 2016), Argentina, Hong Kong, USA etc.
• Likewise, massive milk production will earn us foreign exchange like other milk exporting countries of New Zealand, France, Russia, Germany, Brazil, China, India and USA.
Therefore ranching will make cow business a worthwhile business for Nigerians to key into, with massive investments by investors and increase earnings from exports/foreign exchanges with less dependence on oil. This will be a great boost on the diversification policy of the federal government to agriculture and creation of several employment opportunities.
Negative Prognosis: Threat To National Security.
These are what you get when you fail to Ranch but allow Animals to move around.
In 2016 at least a total of 2,500 deaths were recorded with about 62,000 people homeless and displaced into IDPs with its attendant public health implications, while the nation lost about 13.7B within the economy.
These killings continue in 2017 with about 649 deaths recorded across 14 states.
To worsen the situation, the nation was awakened with killings and bloodletting early in Jan 2018 with a total of 168 deaths recorded in 5 states.
This situation is chaotic and monumental. It must stop forthwith by total display of sincerity of purpose by relevant authorities, rather than playing to the gallery as we have done for years.
Refer the recent grazing of cows on the runway of the Akure Airport on Saturday, 17th of February, 2018. The police spoke in the Punch Newspaper of Saturday 24th February 2018, through the Commissioner of Police Airport Command.
He confirmed that the herdsmen were wrong in grazing on the runway, but claimed they are handicapped and unable to arrest them because there is no Anti-grazing Law in existence in Ondo State.
This means that this law is desirable and it is what the law enforcement agencies need to restore sanity.
The narrow escape in Akure was the 3rd time such will happen in Nigeria. A similar incident occurred in November 2016, when a fully loaded plane belonging to Air-Peace had to abort landing at the Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, Imo State when the pilot discovered that the runway had been invaded with cows.
Before the Owerri episode, on 6th July, 2005 an international flight, Air-France with 196 on board collided and killed 7 cows, at the runway of the Portharcourt International Airport.
Also in the month of June 2005, police arrested a cow in Lagos that attacked and killed a bus driver who stopped to urinate by the roadside.
In the preceding month of May 2005 in Lagos, 25 people were killed when a truck carrying traders to market swerved to avoid a cow and ploughed into a crowded cross country bus- (Sapa-AFP).
Any of these people killed or exposed to monumental danger could be you or me.
Imagine a scenario where Our President is flying and he is unable to land because of cows.
Imagine another scenario of Presidents of other countries colliding with cows while landing in Nigeria.
Imagine anyone of us unable to land in Jos during this programme due to cows grazing on the runway.
God forbid anything untoward happening to us on our flights, will you be happy when the Police comes out to say that we cannot get justice because there is no anti-grazing law in Jos?
Can any of us afford to die because of cows own by someone in a private business?
Therefore this problem is a great threat to National Security and cohesion if not thoroughly deal with once and for all.
Defeat of National Policy on Diversification/ loss in GDP/ Reduce Foreign exchange earnings/ recession as a Negative Prognosis.
Refer the 1 billion dollars to boost agriculture, approved by the Council of State last week Thurday as announced by the Governor of Ogun State.
This is a huge joke and a waste in the face of these crises. It is like living in self denial and not until these issues of trespass leading to killings of farmers and the illegal grazing on their crops are properly addressed and stopped any investment in agriculture amounts to blinking in the dark.
Other Negative Prognoses
• Threat to democracy
• Food Shortage, Malnutrition / Famine
• Loss of resource sustainability/ Loss of investors
• Social dislocation / Human displacement/ IDPs
• Loss of lives Unemployment/Under development
• Reduce Life Expectancy
• Political Instability/Tribal Rivalry/ Tribal Killings/Genocide/Civil War/Disintegration of Nigeria.
In conclusion, distinguished readers, fellow citizens, the choice is ours to make or unmake our dear country, by choosing survival with posterity or by choosing blood and disintegration of Nigeria. The time to act is now!
In similar vein to the above position on the federating states and federal powers on the use of land, lets revisit this judgment. There had been a historic court ruling Fifty years ago as stated below, yet the politics of ethno religious sentiments that ever holds this country down on development global index would not respects the rule of law to prevail. Hence, half a century down the line, the country is trapped in the vortex of a civil war over anachronistic culture and modernity. Read full text of the judgmentHon.Justice Adewale Thompson’s 1969 Judgment on Open Cattle Grazing – Suit no AB/26/66.*Hon.Justice Adewale Thompson: 17th April,1969.Suit no AB/26/66 at Abeokuta Division of the High Court.
“I do not accept the contention of Defendants that a custom exists which imposes an obligation on the owner of farm to fence his farm whilst the owner of cattle allows his cattle to wander like pests and cause damage. Such a custom if it exists is unreasonable and I hold that it is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and therefore unenforceable…in that it is highly unreasonable to impose the burden of fencing a farm on the farmer without the corresponding obligation on the cattle owner to fence in his cattle.” Sequence to that I banned open grazing for it is inimical to peace and tranquility and the cattle owners must fence or ranch their animals for peace to reign in these communities.” any open grazing is a violation of the law”.