By Bem Abunde
In a bid to find a lasting solution to the incessant attack of Benue farmers by Fulani herdsmen, the Benue State House of Assembly has passed the bill for a law to prohibit Open Rearing and Grazing of Livestock in the state.
Apart from providing for the establishment of Ranches and Livestock administration, regulation and control, the bill also provides that anybody who engage in Cattle Rustling shall be liable on conviction for imprisonment for a term of not less than three years or One Hundred Thousand Naira per animal or both.
Cited as the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017, the bill was passed after the House considered the report of its Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources as presented by its Chairman, Mr. James Gbande, in the Committee of the Whole Chaired by the Speaker, Mr Terkimbi Ikyange.
Among other things the bill provides that “no individual or group shall after the commencement of this law, engage in open nomadic livestock herding or grazing in the state outside the permitted Ranches”.
Section 19 (2) provides that “any person or group of persons who contravenes the above provision shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to five years imprisonment or One million Naira fine or both”
The bill also provides for monetary compensation in case of any damage to a property and imprisonment of two years of the livestock owner or manager in case of injury to any person within the State.
According to the bill “where such contravention causes the death of any person within the state, the owner or manager of such livestock shall be guilty of an offence of culpable homicide punishable under the Penal Code Law.
The bill as passed by the Assembly shows that sections 3 (1), 4, 8, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 23 and 24 which relates to the establishment of Livestock Promotion, Development and Regulatory Agency as contained in the draft bill has been deleted in line with the aspiration of Benue people as expressed during the public hearing and a Town Hall meeting in respect of the bill.