Oluwole Josiah

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria(MACBAN), Ondo State chapter, has denied its involvement in the process of putting together the Anti-Open Grazing Bill recently passed by the Ondo State House of Assembly.

It said it was not carried along in the process of enacting the bill.

But the House of Assembly has described the statement by the association as a blatant lie, saying that the association was duly consulted and their inputs received before the bill was passed.

Speaking to our reporter on the phone, the Chairman of the association, Garuba Bello, said he was not aware that the bill, which prohibits his members from grazing in undesignated areas and bans child herders, had been passed into law.

“I was not invited and nobody told me to come, otherwise I would have been able to talk about what we think about,” he said.

“I am not aware of the bill and we are waiting, if they call us we will come and talk.”

Asked how he and his people hope to prepare themselves for the restrictions they would face when the bill is signed into law, Mr Bello said he could not talk about it, since he was not aware of the passage of the bill and had not made any inputs in the bill.

But the Spokesman of the House of Assembly, Olugbenga Omole, said the Miyetti Allah Chairman was not telling the truth.

“They were invited during the public hearing and they made submissions, so how is he not saying they were not invited?” queried Mr Omole.

“If he said we did not invite him when we were passing the bill, that is different, we did not need to invite him, he is not a lawmaker, the bill was passed at plenary and he had no business there.”

The lawmaker also noted that the bill had been submitted to the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, for his signature.

According to him, MACBAN Chairman may not have understood the question posed to him by this newspaper, and perhaps he might be thinking that he should have been invited to be part of the passage.

“I am suspecting that he misunderstood your question because he was at the public hearing where he and his group made submissions which was taken into account in the preparation of the bill,” Mr Omole further said.

The bill was passed by the House on the 1st of July 2021.

While passing the bill, the Speaker, Bamidele Oleyelogun, said the bill was in the interest of the citizens of the state.

The bill provides that the Ondo State government would acquire lands and designate areas for ranching across the state.

The government by its provision, establish a Livestock and Ranch Administration and Control Committee, which would coordinate the activities of ranchers in the state.

The bill as proposed by the state government, espouses the establishment of designated ranches that could be procured either by the state or local government or privately acquired by the livestock farmers in different local governments of the state.

The law when passed will put an end to open grazing, night grazing and under-aged herders in the state.

“No person shall cause any livestock belonging to him or under his control to graze on  any land in which the governor has not designated for such purposes and in which he has not fully obtained the required permit,” Part VI(1) of the bill, states.

The bill also prohibits cattle rustling and any such act done by arms is punishable by life imprisonment.

The governor is provided with the power to designate land by an order to be known as “general ranch” in each local government in respect of which livestock may be permitted to graze.

The bill also provides that intending ranchers would procure a ranching permit from the Ondo State Livestock and Ranch Administration and Control Committee, based on the approval of the governor.

This will follow a written agreement between the community or family heads, who are owners of the land, and such ranching permits are also subject to revocation.

While ranching permits are renewable annually, the land owners are prohibited from selling the land while the period covered by the permit subsists.

Under the proposed law, all commercial livestock farmers in the state must register their businesses with the Ministry of Agriculture in the state after which they would be given identification numbers that would be boldly inscribed on each of their livestocks.

“Any livestock found not duly registered in the above stated manner shall be considered to be a wild or wandering animal and therefore liable to arrest by law enforcement agencies, confiscated by the government and put up for sale at a public auction,” the bill further states.

Violators of the law risk three years’ imprisonment and fines not exceeding N100,000, even as livestock owners would be required to pay in full damage done by their livestock to farms after due evaluation by the livestock and ranch administration agency.

The 17 southern governors at a meeting in Asaba, Delta State, agreed to ban open grazing of cattle across states in the region and also called for the restructuring of the country to address issues threatening national unity.

Some of the states like Oyo and Ogun had earlier proposed bills, banning open grazing their states.

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