Tension is gradually building up in Ekiti State as the Governor, Ayodele Fayose, and Fulani herdsmen tango over implementation of the newly enacted anti-grazing law in the state.
Since the anti-grazing bill was signed into law a couple of months ago, the stage seemed set for a long drawn out battle between the herdsmen and Ekiti State authorities over the grazing rights of cows.
Since its implementation, Governor Fayose has personally supervised the arrest and confiscation of a cow among many he had pursued on Afao-Ekiti Road axis of Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State capital for breaking the law. Fayose was on his way to Ikole-Ekiti to commission the newly constructed dual carriage and street lights in Ikole-Ekiti when he sighted some cows grazing on one of the restricted areas of the state. The sight of this, perhaps infuriated him and he immediately ordered his convoy’s to halt, alighted from his vehicle and went for the straying cows while many excited youths and people around joined in the hot pursuit of the cows. Eventually, the youths got hold of one of the cows and brought it to the governor, who sent it to the ‘cell’ for detention, while the two herdsmen grazing the cows immediately ran into the bush on sighting the governor.
Incensed at the refusal of the Fulani-Herdsmen to respect and obey the anti-grazing law, the governor immediately set in motion the machinery for the establishment of the Ekiti Grazing Enforcement Marshalls (EGEM), which was eventually inaugurated last week and has since commenced work. The establishment of the marshalls did not go down well with the Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), who have taken issue with the state government on this. Anti- grazing law The anti-grazing law titled, “Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing in Ekiti, 2016,” which forbids grazing or movement of cows at night, provides that grazing activities must be from 7am to 6pm on a daily basis and it also prohibits the use of firearms and any weapons whatsoever during grazing and offenders shall be charged with terrorism. The law also provides that any farm products destroyed by the activities of any herdsman shall be estimated by an agricultural officers and the expenses shall be covered by the culprit.
Anyone found violating the law, upon conviction, shall be liable to six months in prison without an option of a fine. The genesis: Trouble started when Governor Fayose, while reacting to the alleged killing of two men by unidentified herdsmen in Oke-Ako community in Ikole Local Government Area of the state in May this year, vowed to end the menace through a law criminalizing grazing in the state. The Governor who was moved to tears, was enraged at the havoc wreaked by the suspected herdsmen in the community. It was that incident that led to the passing of the Ekiti State Anti-grazing Bill by the House of Assembly and was subsequently signed into law by the Governor. The legal adviser to the herdsmen, Mr. Umar Imam, had argued that herdsmen who carried light weapons like cutlasses, knives, catapults and arrows within the time stipulated by the new law cannot be charged with terrorism.
Imam had also alleged that the Law contradicts the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011, contending that: “The law of the federation on terrorism is very clear and no one can be charged for terrorism for carrying lesser arms like cutlasses, catapults and knives during the grazing period as contained in the Ekiti new law.” Also, the Seriki of the association in Ekiti, Alhaji Ahmadu Mahmoud, appealed to the governor to amend the new law, to allow his members to carry lesser arms to ward off attacks during grazing. During his monthly ‘Meet Your Governor’ chat on the state Radio and Television station, on Saturday, October 15, Governor Fayose vowed to not only arrest the cows but also slaughter any arrested cow and “share it to many Ekiti people who cannot afford meat for their meals at home.”
Fayose, Herdsmen, Afenifere in war of words: Worried at the dangers the anti-grazing law and its enforcers, Grazing Marshalls, pose to their trade, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, stated that the move was “in furtherance of Governor Fayose’s threat to banish their members (Fulani herdsmen) from Ekiti State.” MACBAN accused Fayose of unleashing the Marshals “against our members whose herds of cattle had gone to a stream at Agon Bridge on Federal Polytechnic road between 2:00 – 2:30 pm to quench their thirst on Friday 21st October 2016”, claiming that the vigilante group shot five cows and carted away the meat. Macabre incident Stressing that its members are bona fide citizens of the country, the group, in a statement issued on Saturday by its spokesman, Baba Othman Ngelzarma, sought the intervention of the Federal Government “before this macabre incident develops into an unquenchable inferno involving our members and Ekiti State government”.
Fayose reacts: Furious at the herdsmen’s threat, Governor Fayose fired back, challenging Ekiti people to be on alert against any attack by herdsmen. He said: “I am therefore using this opportunity to put Ekiti people, especially residents of border towns in the state on red alert. Ekiti people must be prepared to defend their land against these Philistines, whose attributes and characters are extremism, violence, bloodshed and destruction.” He also reiterated his resolve on the grazing law saying “for the avoidance of doubt, the Prohibition of Cattle and other Ruminants Grazing in Ekiti State Bill, 2016 that was signed into law on August 29, 2016 remains in force.”
His words: “The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria should rather tell its members to comply with this law by seeking from the government designated land for grazing ranch, which the government is always willing to give. “Why didn’t Miyetti Allah that is now calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to warn me, the custodian of the mandate of Ekiti people warn its members when they were killing Nigerians and destroying farmlands? Are their cows more important than human lives? “To us in Ekiti, lives of 5,000 cows cannot be equated with those of human beings that are being killed daily by herdsmen across the country. Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria should know that cattle farmers are not different from other farmers. If they want to rear cows in Ekiti, they should do so in accordance with the laws of the state.
After all, law prohibiting sale and consumption of alcohol was made in Kano State and the law is being enforced while Sharia Law made in some states in the north is also being enforced.” Afenifere Renewal Group reacts The Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), viewed MACBAN’s outburst as a terror treat and an assault on Yoruba people even as it demanded an apology. In a statement by its publicity secretary, Kunle Famoriyo, the ARG took strong exception to the group’s comment, saying, “such open threats against the people and government that accommodated your business interest is terrorism.”