Echoes From The MadHouse: Is The Benue Open Grazing Prohibition Law For Show Or Is It To Be Implemented?

By Josephine Akioyamen

I have been giddy with excitement since the Benue Open Grazing Prohibition Law which was signed into law on May 22, 2017, this year came into effect on Nov 1. It has been parties, champagne, and slapping of backs for me. It has been an effort to show the law is legal, that the state House of Assembly has the power to make it, and that there was never anything like International Grazing Routes as was being posited by the Leaders of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).

But my madness lurking at the back of my mind wouldn’t let me be. Questions cascading upon questions until realization came that it was just too early to celebrate. It was not yet Uhuru! Not until the law is implemented to the letter.

Just how is the law being implemented by the Ortom’s Administration?

  1.  What is the scorecard of the Ortom’s Administration in the preparation for the implementation of the Law in the five months cooling period between May 22 and November 1 this year?
  2.  Where it the implementation task force that was to be set up in all 23 local governments areas in the state?
  3.  What are the incentives being given to Benue Entrepreneurs or other investors to set up Commercial Ranches for use either by themselves or for receptacles (for a fee) of the Herdsmen cattle?

The Ortom administration, as you might recall, was dragged kicking and screaming to pass this law. In fact, the Government tried to replace this law with its own iteration which was perverse and pro-Fulani Herdsmen. It rationale then for replacing what is good with what is bad was because some unknowable stakeholders wanted it so. The records are there for everyone to see. It took the efforts of MAFO,(Movement Against Fulani Occupation (Of Benue)) other Benue Citizens (like me) and the resistance fo the Benue House of Assembly to this change to have made the Government bucked to the popular will of the people of Benue State. I even christened Governor Ortom a Fulani Governor then because of this. All was forgiven when he assented to the law as drafted and passed by the Benue House of Assembly. I dubbed it the best piece of legislation to come out Benue since its creation on February 3, 1976.

But is it being implemented?

Just Friday, the 10 November 2017, the Benue Police Spokesman, ASP Moses Iyamu asserted that the police had yet to make any arrest over any infringement of the Anti-Open Grazing Law recently introduced by the State Government. This is in spite of complaints of the presence of hooves on the ground in various parts of Benue. Why is this so? The reason is not far-fetched. It is because the government has done nothing of significance towards the implementation of the law. Instead, what we see at Benue is the Government’s attempt to take electoral advantage of the law, through carefully calibrated propaganda to define itself as the ‘great defender’ of the Benue People against the Fulani herdsmen even as the letters of the law have not leapt from the pages of the law books into physical reality. In fact, the Law, without implementation, has left us more vulnerable than any time in our recent history. We have been given a false of sense of hope, when in fact nothing has changed on the ground. Were we to be attacked today, it would be devastating because we are letting down our guards because of the Ortom administration malfeasance in the implementation of the law. It is even more urgent now that neighbouring states to which the Fulani are seeking refuge are considering passing similar laws as Benue. The Fulani driven to the wall might recoil and strike. Benue just has to be ready for this eventuality. It is time to forego the early celebration, roll up our sleeves, and do the hard work of implementation.

Turning the passage of the law into a wedge issue to win the upcoming election is all well and good. However, what will be better for Governor Ortom is to carry it out to the letter. We want to see the hooves off the Open ground in Benue. We want to see the incentives being given to given to Benue Entrepreneurs to become up commercial ranchers either to rear cattle on their own or for use by the Fulani herders for a fee. We want to see the setting up of the implementation task force to complement the efforts of the police in making sure that the law is obeyed.

Anything short of this, the law will begin to take on the colouration of a political gimmick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

x Close

Like us here