NBA rejects Gov .Ortom’s bill on livestock rearing in Benue State

NBA rejects Ortom’s dubious bill on livestock rearing in Benue State
3/24/17 Dr Garshagu MV Atovigba


NBA rejects Ortom’s dubious bill on livestock rearing in Benue State
3/24/17 Dr Garshagu MV Atovigba

The Makurdi branch of Nigeria Bar association NBA has condemned and rejected the mischievous bill sent to Benue State House o f Assembly by Gov. Samuel Ortom. Rather than stop herdsmen from grazing in Benue and killing farmers, the said bill seeks to promote herdsmen’s activities. The NBA has issued to the state house of assembly its memorandum on the bill, which is posted below for full perusal.





1.0 Introduction

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is the umbrella professional body of lawyers in Nigeria, which aims at promoting and protecting the principles of the rule of law and respect for enhancement of fundamental rights, human rights and people’s rights; promoting and supporting law reform, among others.

NBA, Makurdi Branch is duty bound to liaise with and make inputs into laws being contemplated or considered by the State House of Assembly.

We submit this Memorandum as our modest contribution to the advancement of peaceful and lawful co-existence as well as development of the State, believing that the State Assembly will take advantage of the resourcefulness of the legal profession in delivering on their mandate as legislators and in addressing the yearnings and aspirations
of the Benue electorates and generations unborn.

The Memorandum presents a cursory line of antecedents in the State necessitating the enactment of a law on this subject matter, takes a critical look at the Bill, pointing out its shortcomings, and proffers
remedial provisions in the collective best interest of the people.

2.0 Antecedents in Benue State Necessitating the Enactment of a Law on Grazing in Benue State

Legislations at times are made to cure existing mischief as in the instant case. The issue of open grazing has been responsible for violent conflicts resulting in loss of lives and property in the
State. The escalation of violence started sometime in 2009 in Nassarawa State in villages including Antsa, Dooga-Ayande, Tse-Tyikwa on the West of Kadarko, Giza Development Area of Nasarawa State and at
some communities in Benue State in form of Tiv – Fulani crisis that are the natural fall out of interaction between farmers and cattle breeders. It must be noted that the herdsmen never actually co-habited with the people of Benue State but merely pastured through Benue lands in their North to South movement and vice versa.

The attacks have grown in intensity and sophistication in Benue State with herdsmen employing guerrilla warfare techniques similar to what they have been doing in Jos, Kaduna and other places. The attackers
come in droves numbering between 200 and 700. They use sophisticated auto regulated weapons including bullet proof vests and head gears. At the initial stage, the attacks were done by the herdsmen using the AK 47 rifles which they usually carry around in the name of securing their lives and cattle.

As the onslaught intensified, it is reliably gathered that the Alago mercenaries from Nasarawa State joined and have been assisting the herdsmen. Now, there are reports of mercenaries from other Northern States of Nigeria and even people from other African Countries likeMali, Niger, Burkina Faso, etc, partnering with the invaders. The conspiracy which gives the invaders access to Benue State through the Local Governments of Obi, Keana, Doma and Awe in Nasarawa State has
been largely responsible for the success of the invaders thus far.

The attacks have led to the death of hundreds of people and destruction of their homes, property and farms. The invaders have maimed defenceless people and raped women; they have destroyed people’s farms and occupied their lands and homes. The following Local Governments are currently affected by the attacks; to wit: Guma, Makurdi, Gwer-West, Gwer-East, Katsina-Ala, Kwande, Logo, Agatu, Buruku, Tarka, and Gboko.

The number of deaths and displaced persons is rising daily as the attacks on villages have continued on a yearly basis. The attackers are suspected terrorists working with some suspected criminal herders who roam around the State freely with their herds of cattle, giving the heavily armed attackers access to villages in the State while also destroying farms, property and the livelihood of thousands of villagers in the State.

These attackers are heavily armed with auto regulated firearms and have been found in some instances not to be Nigerians but hired mercenaries moving around with the criminal herdsmen in the State, many of them gaining access into the country through porous border points.

These attacks are the unfolding of a well scripted stage by stage agenda of ethnic cleansing and annexation of the Benue Valley by herdsmen who are facing climate change impacts across West Africa.

The Government of Benue State whose primary and constitutional responsibility is to ensure the security and welfare of the people has decided to address this problem through legislation. The Bill before the Benue State House of Assembly must be seen against the background of the foregoing mischief as an effort to cure the said mischief and not to pamper and downplay the essence of the Law.

3. The Bill

3.1 General View

NBA Makurdi Branch states unequivocally that the Bill for a Law to make Provisions for the Establishment of Livestock (Promotion, Development and Regulatory) Agency, 2016 and for Purposes Connected therewith is a product of extremely poor draftsmanship, dubious in intent, deceptive in contents and pacifist in relation to the mischief it is alleged to set out to cure. When, in law, we say that legislation is made to cure a mischief, it means that a particular law is made to solve an existing problem and it is, therefore, especially directed at outlawing a particular conduct that is prevalent in a society against which there is no proper legislation. It is in the light of the foregoing that we are of the opinion that the Executive Bill under consideration has grossly failed to meet the demands for the curbing of the menace of the killing and maiming of farmers in Benue State by the herdsmen, destruction of crops and farmlands and terrorizing Benue people out of their domains and forceful occupation of their lands. It is our fervent belief that the entire Bill should be jettisoned.

The title of the Bill, for instance, reads, “A Bill to make provisions for the Establishment of Livestock (Promotion, Development and Regulatory) Agency, 2016 and for Purposes Connected Therewith.” It is
obvious from the title that we are being sold a dummy. The real intention is to “promote” the development of livestock and not to prohibit any grazing or protect any interest of the farmers. This is obvious when you compare it to the title of the law recently passed by
the Ekiti State House of Assembly, which law went for the menace called herdsmen. The Ekiti Law is titled: “Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing in Ekiti.” It is ocular from the two titles that the Law in Ekiti State sets out to tackle the menace of the herdsmen while the Benue Bill sets out to do a different thing entirely; that is, to establish an Agency, a Board and a Development Fund to promote and protect the interests of herdsmen. Throughout the 28 sections of the proposed Law there is no mention of the word ‘Farmer’ or “Farm.” It is ultimately a decoy, a
subterfuge and a vain piece of legislation, and, at best, only aimed at fulfilling political righteousness and creating jobs to be used as political patronage and a drainpipe on the meager and lean Resource of
the state. The Bill is Deceptive

3.2 The Title of the Bill A law usually has principles or objectives for which it is established. The Title of a law is like a sign-post that leads the reader to the main body of the law. It tells in summary what the law
is all about. “A Bill to make provisions for the Establishment of Livestock (Promotion, Development and Regulatory) Agency, 2016 and for Purposes Connected Therewith” is a Bill to promote and develop the interest of livestock and the breeders of such livestock. But what is appalling about this whole Bill which is clear from its title is that it is going to create Grazing Reserves for the pastoralists by designating farmlands confiscated from poor farmers as Ranches.
It is an insult to our collective sensibilities that after all that the rearing of livestock has caused us in the State, our representatives will be making a law to ‘promote’ and provide a conducive and enabling environment for the herders to take our land for grazing.

It needs to be emphasised that Benue State is an agrarian State, the ‘Food Basket of the Nation’. Our major farm produce are yams and cassava followed by cereals. The inability of our government to see
the need to establish an agency for the ‘promotion’ and regulation of these farm produce, but instead sponsoring a law to promote livestock and establish an agency to regulate livestock farming smacks of
conspiracy and a scheme to take over our land to give out for livestock farming.

3.3 Section 2 of the Bill

This is the definition section of the Bill. Three definitions in the section are particularly curious. These are: “General Ranch”, “Ranching” and “Reserve”.
(a) “General Ranch” means a Public Ranch.
(b) “Ranching” means movement of livestock from one grazing area to another.
(c) “Reserve” means a piece of land exclusively designated reserve for grazing of livestock in any part of Benue State”.

A combined reading of the three definitions above means that the Government is going to reserve certain areas within Benue State as Grazing Areas (Grazing Reserves) at the expense of Government and the
people of Benue State and the reserved grazing areas will be called Public Ranches. The Government will then allow movement of livestock from one grazing reserve (area) to another.

3.4 Section 4

By section 4(i) and (vii) of the Bill, the Agency is to prescribe mechanisms or measures for the acquisition of (farm) lands for the establishment of ranches and establish those ranches in fact. It means that nobody is going to spend money in acquiring land for ranching;
the lands will be forcefully taken from farmers and ranches created by Government.

3.5 Section 5

By the provision of section 5 of the Bill, Government will then grant permits to settlers, residents and other stock owners to graze their cattle on the Public Ranches. There is no provision for private ranches. Section 5 (iv) prohibits that.

3.6 Section 8

Section 8 (h) makes it mandatory for Local Governments that share boundaries with other States to establish transit ranches from which cows from other States will be camped for 14 days. It means there are going to be ranches established by Ogbadibo, Ukum, Vandeikya, Makurdi, Guma, Katsina-Ala, and Kwande Local Government Areas, apart from the Public Ranches that the State Government will establish for herdsmen! The state will be saturated with cattle!

Section 8 (f) makes it mandatory for all schools in Benue State to teach Agricultural Science and all students to take the subject. Why would any reasonable person compel all schools in the State to teach Agricultural Science and also compel ALL students to register “WAEC/SSCE/NECO”? Must everyone be a science student?

Section 8 (g) makes it compulsory for all schools to have integrated farms. Why must all schools (Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary) have integrated school farms run on a commercial basis? Is every school to
have a cattle ranch and farm? Has Government finished providing desks and chairs?

3.7 Sections 3, 4, 7, 8 and 14 Section 3 establishes the Agency, while section 4 provides for its objectives. The functions of the Agency are stated in section 8 of the
Bill. By section 14 of the Bill, Benue State government shall fund the Agency vide budgetary allocations.
Firstly, the Government should be thinking of a Produce Board that will promote the interest of farmers; and not an Agency that will protect the interests of herdsmen.

Secondly, even if the Agency were to be needed, the role that the Agency is established to play is the same role that the Ministry of Agriculture can play very effectively. A look at section 7 of the Bill shows that the mandate of the Agency is exactly the mandate of the Livestock Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, duplicated and given to the Agency.

3.8 Section 9

Section 9 (1) and (2) imposes a fine of N300,00 as option for 3 year jail term for nomadic grazing. This is a slap on the wrist of a herdsman. We suggest imprisonment without an option of fine.

3.9 Section 11

Section 11(1) allows the release of stray livestock to its owner upon show of good cause. What on earth can be a good cause to be shown by a person who lets loose his cattle on rampage, that he can show and have his impounded cattle released?

3.10 Sections 13 and 14

Section 13 of the Law establishes what is going to be known as the Livestock Development Fund which is to be funded from a takeoff grant and annual budgetary allocation appropriated by the Benue State House
of Assembly [S. 14]. By Section 13 (c) and (d) of the Bill, such funds shall be used to assist herdsmen or anybody wishing to embark on livestock agriculture.

3.11 Sections 14(ii) and 24(1) are dubious, providing for clandestine ways of obtaining or accepting gifts, money or property on such terms as the person making the gift may determine.

3.12 Section 23

Section 23 establishes Local Government Committees on Ranching and while there is no provision for the representative of ‘Farmers’ on the Committee, Section 23 (iv) provides for the “representative of herdsmen.” We are convinced that the Government has only baptised Grazing Reserves by calling them “Public Ranches” in the Bill. The intendment and intention of the legislature is only to cede farmlands to herdsmen
to occupy and pay a token fee to the government. If the Governor who has been saying to the media that there is no land for grazing of cattle in Benue State is the one that presented this Bill to the House of Assembly, we make bold to ask through this medium whether he is going to bring land from heaven, like Oduduwa, to create Public Ranches and Transit Ranches in all the Local Governments that share
boundaries with Nasarawa, Taraba, Cameroon, Cross River, Kogi and Enugu States.

3.13 Sections 18 and 20

Section 18 of the Bill establishes a motley crowd of 15 members of the Board who are to be paid salaries, allowances and out of pocket expenses.

Section 20 Provides for appointment of an Executive Secretary of the Board and other employees. The question is, with the struggle to pay salaries to the existing civil servants and the complaint that there is no money to meet the wage-bill demands, why create an Agency that will compete with the existing civil servants, for the meager resources, when civil servants in the Ministry of Agriculture can conveniently perform the functions of the Agency?

4. The Way Forward

With due respect, we passionately request the Benue State House of Assembly to go back and work on a fresh Bill along the following parameters:

4.1 Outlaw open Grazing

The intention of the Law should be made clear from the Title and introductory sections, including its objectives that it is aimed at prohibiting the gratuitous movement of cattle and other livestock within the borders of Benue State. See, for instance, the Bill
earlier submitted to the House by His Excellency, titled “A Bill for a Law to Prohibit Open Grazing of Livestock and Provide for the Establishment of Ranches and the Benue State Livestock and Ranches Administration and Control Committee and Livestock Special Marshals Corps and for other Matters Connected Thereto, 2016.” .

2 Provide stiff penalties for defaulters

The Law, to protect the farmers, should provide stiff penalties, like confiscation of animals (without release) and imprisonment without an option of fine for defaulters. We must bear in mind that a cow costs
as much as ₦300,000 in the open market. A herdsman can, therefore, sell one cow and pay a fine to continue his grazing. We should alsobear in mind that MACBAN (Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder Association of
Nigeria) has a slush fund that can be used to pay fines and allow the marauding herdsmen to go free and continue with their carnage.

4.3 Make Provision for Private and Commercial Ranching (Not Public Ranches) If a provision is made for Private and Commercial ranches as against
Public Ranches, the persons whose lands are to be used for Private or Commercial ranches will have the right to lease or refuse to lease their lands to ranchers. The owners of the land will get full value for their lands instead of the proposed method under the Government Bill where the Government would confiscate their farmlands and give it to the herdsmen for a token. The ranches must be well fenced to
prevent the escape of the cattle into surrounding farmlands.

4.4 Provide for licensing or permit for ranches
Apart from leasing the parcels of land to be used for Ranches, the Ranchers must obtain a permit, renewable at a yearly interval for the operation of the ranch. The permit fees will bring IGR to the
Government while the lease of the Land will bring wealth to the owners of the land. There should be provisions for revocation of any Licence or Permit without liability on the part of government or owner of
land. Such revocation may be necessary for State Security, interest of peace, expiration of the lease, breach of any term of the leasehold, or overriding public interest as the Governor may determine.

4.5 Safeguard against wrongful confiscation of farmlands by unscrupulous land official
The Government should not take the people’s lands and give to the Ranchers. The owners of the lands must negotiate their prices with the ranchers. The Government can come in when it is time to grant a right of occupancy and licensing fees for the Ranch. There should be a provision, as usual, for nonsubletting or assignment of the right
over the ranch to another Rancher without the consent of the Governor.

4.6 Provide for impounding of stray animals
The Law should provide for strict liability of stray animals. Once an animal is found roaming outside the ranch, it must be impounded and sent to Ikyogen Cattle Ranch as a Government cow. Auctioning of
livestock provided for in the Government Bill will give room for shoddy deals by officials who will collect peanuts from the herdsmen and return their cows to them.

4.7 Provide for the Court with jurisdiction to try offences under the Law We suggest that the Area and Magistrate’s Courts should be conferred with jurisdiction to summarily try cases under the Law and
assess damages for compensation and award same to the victims. They should have power to impound cattle and sentence defaulters to imprisonment without an option of fine.

4.8 Prohibit the use of firearms by ranchers

A rancher who has his ranch well fenced and secured will not need to fear cattle rustlers, more so that there will be a prohibition from gratuitous movement of cattle and rustlers will have no chance of moving rustled cattle without being impounded. There should therefore, be a ban on possession of firearms with a provision that anyone found with firearms shall be charged under Terrorism Act and Firearms Act.

4.9 provide for transportation of livestock to ranches, markets and slaughter houses

The law should strictly provide that cattle should be moved by trailer, rail carriage or pick-up, to and from the Ranches, to the market, slaughterhouse or any other ranch. On no account should cattle be moved across the State from street to street or by herding themalong the road. No cattle should be moved at night under any circumstances.

Permits must be obtained by payment of fees for movement of cattle from one place to another taxable per cow.

4.10 Vest the administrative control of livestock related matters in the Department of Livestock of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

We have already highlighted the folly of duplication of roles by creating an Agency simply because there is a new Law. The Ministry of Agriculture’s Livestock Department should be given the responsibility to administer the provisions of this Law.

4.11 Enforcement of the Law

The enforcement of the Law shall be vested in a Special Marshal or Task Force; not the Police.

4.12. Provisions for Indigenous Grazers

The Law will be completely undesirable if its object is only to pave way for herdsmen from outside Benue State to operate their herding business in the State. The Law shall, therefore, provide for indigenous herders.

4.13 Prohibition of Unlawful and Ilegal use of Ranches

The Bill must forbid the use of Ranches as breeding, recruitment, or training ground for terrorists and other similar activities.

5. Other Provisions

The Law should make the following provisions:

5.1 Protection of Staff of the Ministry

No act or thing done or omission made by the Ministry or staff or other person acting under the direction of the Ministry, shall, if done or made bona fide for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Bill, subject the Ministry or person to personal action,
liability o claim whatsoever.

5.2 Procedure for Acquisition of Ranches

(1) The Grazer shall, in writing, approach the Owner of the Land which he requires as Ranch whereupon he intends to site his Ranch in accordance with the provisions of this Bill;

(2) Upon being approached by the Grazer, the Owner of the Land may grant his consent in writing for One-year lease of the land and on such terms and conditions as the parties may agree upon;

(3) The Grazer shall forward a written application for Grazing Licence to Ministry alongside the consent of the Owner of the Land;

(4) The Ministry shall undertake or cause to be undertaken by professionals a geophysical survey and analysis of the Land applied for by the Grazer;

(5) A copy each of the report of the geophysical survey and analysis shall be forwarded to the Ministry, the Owner of the Land, and the Community within which the land is situated for their various and separate considerations and they shall make their views known at a joint meeting convened for that purpose by the Ministry within 90 days;

(6) If, upon due consideration, the report of the geophysical survey and analysis is found suitable and in accordance with this Bill, the Owner of the Land, and the Community within which the land is situated, shall recommend to the Ministry to issue Grazing Licence to
the Grazer.

5.3 Ministry to liaise with Government

(1) The Ministry shall, upon the receipt of the recommendations of the Benue State House of Assembly, the owner of the Land and the Community
within which the Land is situated, forward a considered opinion thereon to the Benue State Executive Council, who may, if satisfied that the best interest of the State will be served, approve the
issuance of a Grazing Licence to the Grazer;

(2) Upon approval by the Benue State Executive Council the Ministry shall, within thirty (30) days, issue a Grazing Licence to the Grazer alongside regulations for fencing and other activities in accordance
with this Bill.

5.4 Grazer to pay for Leasehold

Whenever any Land has been approved for licensing as Ranch, the Grazer shall pay for lease of the Land necessary to the owner of the Land and
Community whose interest in the Land has been affected.

5.5 Ministry to Publish Terms of Licence in Official Gazette

(1) Having issued the Grazing Licence to the Grazer, the Ministry shall give notice of the Licence and cause it to be published in the official Gazette of the Benue State Government, specifying as clearly as possible the situation and limits of the land, the privileges
conceded in respect of the Land and any special conditions intended to govern the Ranch;

(2) The Ministry shall cause the particulars of the land upon which Grazing Licence is issued to be made known in the community in which the Land is situated by causing a notice thereof to be read and interpreted in the local language of the community and also cause a notice in writing to the communities or persons residing on or claiming interest in such Land.

5.6 Status and Revocation of Lease or Licence

(1) The Lease or Licence granted under this Bill is a privilege and shall not create any right, title, interest or estate in or to the land the ownership of which vests in the Governor;

(2) The Lease may be revoked by the Ministry at any time and approved by the Governor without the payment of compensation to the Grazer for: State Security; In the interest of peace; Expiration of the Lease; Breach of any term or condition of the Leasehold; or Overriding public interest as the Governor may determine.

5.7 Eligibility to Enter on Ranch

The Ministry shall, from time to time, determine the eligibility of persons to be allowed to enter the Ranches.

5.8 Ranches to have Fence

Every Ranch shall have a fence made up of posts and wires.

5.9 Offences

(1) A person who herds, or grazes livestock outside the established ranches commits an offence;

(2) A person who herds or grazes livestock upon the land of another without having first obtained the consent of the owner of the land commits an offence;

(3) The owner of livestock which is herded or grazed upon the land of another shall be liable to damages done by such livestock while being unlawfully herded or grazed on the Land;

(4) A person owning or having charge of any livestock who herds, grazes, pastures, keeps, maintains or drives the same upon, over or across any land lying within an area that has been identified and
declared by the Ministry as unsuitable for such uses in the State following the geophysical survey and analysis carried out in accordance with this Bill commits an offence.

5.10 Miscellaneous

(1) Unauthorised Entry into Ranch
No person other than a Government officer on duty shall enter unto any Ranch, unless he is authorised to do so by this Bill or Regulations thereunder.

(2) Prohibition of Dealing in Land Marked as Ranch
No person shall alienate any right affecting Land in a Ranch, which has been established in accordance with this Bill, by sale, transfer, mortgage, etc without the consent or the Ministry first sought and obtained.

(3) Handing over of Stray Livestock
Except as otherwise provided in this Bill, or pursuant to a cooperative agreement established pursuant to this Bill, a person, his employer or agent, other than an authorised agent of the Ministry, shall not take up or retain any stray or livestock, but hand over same
to the Ministry, without unreasonable delay.

(4) Liability of Owner of Trespassing Livestock, Landowner or Occupier
(1) If any livestock breaks into any Land other than a Ranch, the Owner or Manager of the livestock shall be liable to the owner of the land for all damages caused by the trespass.
(2) If the owner or occupier of any Land other than a Ranch which has been trespassed upon by livestock, kills maims, or materially injuries the livestock so trespassing, he shall be liable to the owner of the livestock for the value of the livestock.

5. Conclusion

NBA Makurdi Branch humbly opines that the Bill to make provisions for the Establishment of Livestock (Promotion, Development and Regulatory) Agency, 2016 and for Purposes Connected Therewith is dubious, pacifist of the herdsmen and useless piece of legislation to Benue State as the Food Basket of the Nation, as it seeks to take our farmlands and hand
over to the Government to administer it to the interests of the herdsmen. It should be rejected in its totality.
We invite the Benue State House of Assembly to act in the best interest of the Benue people by initiating, processing and enacting a law prohibiting open grazing in Benue State. His Excellency, the Governor of Benue State and the State Assembly must not forget that the people of Benue State and God are watching them, and posterity will not cease to reward them appropriately.

The NBA Makurdi Branch is willing to partner with the Executive and Legislature in drafting and working on a Bill that will serve the best interest of the people of Benue State. We most sincerely reiterate our
unflinching support to the Governor Samuel Ortom-led Government and determination now, more than over before, to partner with the Government for meaningful development of the state, the entrenchment
of law and order and for protection of lives and property.

Chairman, NBA Makurdi Branch[contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Website” type=”url” /][contact-field label=”Message” type=”textarea” /][/contact-form]

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