By Christiana Ekpa
The Enugu State House of Assembly, yesterday passed the Anti Open Grazing Prohibition Bill into law.
The bill scaled through the third reading after a clause by clause consideration. The passage came in line with the September 1 deadline issued by the Southern Governors for an end to open rearing of cattle.
The State Assembly earlier in the week held a public hearing on the Bill, during which the umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen, the Miyetti Allah, had asked for a one month extension to enable them make input on the bill.
However, at plenary on Thursday, the Bill was passed into law and would now be sent to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for his assent.
The Bill was sponsored by the leader of the House, Rt Hon. Ikechukwu Ezeugwu and other lawmakers.
It seeks to “prevent the destruction of farms, farm crops, community ponds, settlements and property by open rearing and grazing of livestock.”
It will also “prevent killings, Sexual molestation and clashes between arable farmers and pastoralists, Herders and rustlers.
“Protect the environment from degradation and pollution caused by open rearing and grazing of livestock.
“Optimize the use of land resources in the face of overstretched land and increasing population.
“Prevent, control and manage the spread of animal diseases.
“Create a conducive environment for large scale crop production and reduce incidence of road accidents caused by open rearing and grazing of livestock.”
The bill provides for ranches and any form of grazing outside permitted ranches is punishable as a criminal offense and upon conviction, such a person is “liable to a term of imprisonment of not less than three years without the option of fine as well as forfeiture of the herds of cattle or livestock under his or her control to the State Government.”
The law also prohibits a minor from grazing, rearing or herding of livestock without the supervision of an adult and going against this provision attracts a fine of N300, 000 by the guardian or parent of the minor.
The law provides for the leasing of land by any intending herder from the owners for a period not exceeding three years which will be renewable after expiration.
According to a section of the law, “Permits shall be issued to a Nigerian who is authorized to conduct business under the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.