Benue Open Grazing Prohibition Law: There Is Nothing Like International Grazing Routes

By Josephine Akioyamen

International Grazing Routes is a red herring of an argument now being made by representatives of MACBAN. It has no moment. No logic and it is not grounded in reality. My reasons for this are as set out below:

Nigeria has never entered into any agreement with any foreign nation to establish International grazing routes. Even if it has there is nothing within our corpus of law to show that it ever domesticated such an agreement. There was nothing about it that was ever formalized. In my search of the archive, the only term that kept cropping up is traditional grazing routes which meant nothing more than communities consisting of sedentary farmer tacitly allowing herdsmen to pass through their communities on their way to markets or for forage.

What was formalized was the Grazing Reserve Law N.N (Northern Nigeria) Law No. 4 of 1965 which turned about 6.4 million hectares of land into Grazing Reserves and routes stretching from Sokoto to Lokoja. In Benue and Nasarawa the reserve, measured about 17,000 square kilometres in size, and lies along the routes to Dedere on the North-West; Rufai and Azara on the North-East; Tunga on the East; Keana on the West; and Makurdi and Gbajima on the South-West. The euphemism ‘right of way for the general public’ was used for the routes. At any event, these routes were meant to enable Nigerian herders to retain access to the grazing reserves and not as international grazing routes for foreigners.

The law was inherited by Benue when it was excised out of the Benue-Plateau State in 1976. It was rechristened in 2004 into the Grazing Reserve Law Cap 72 Laws of Benue.However, these routes and grazing reserves were extinguished by the Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law, 2017.

The Federal on its own never passed any law in which grazing reserves or routes was the subject matter. If it had there wouldn’t have been a rash of efforts at the National Assembly to push such a law through.

If it had tried;

a)It would have been absurd and impractical to open its borders up without any modicum of control to foreigner herders in the name of International grazing.

b) It would have been against Nigeria’s national interest to give an undue advantage to foreigners in something in which it has competitive advantage by opening up  access to the lush green grass in the middle belt and the South and;

c) It would have engendered an enormous national security risk.

At any event, the Federal Government no longer retains the right under our constitution to expropriate land unless it does so with the co-operation and active participation of the state governments or there are minerals on the land see the Land Use Act. Even if succeeds in expropriating the land it must be for an overriding public purpose. It cannot be for private purposes. The Land Use Act which is part of our constitution made sure of that.

So these guys should quit talking about International Grazing Routes that are non-existent already and do that which is right by ranching their cattle.

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