- Delta Assembly Concludes Public Hearing On Bill
- Miyetti Allah requests total 750,000 sq metres land for ranching in Delta
- Whoever wants land for cattle ranch should buy – Delta govt
- Oyovbaire denies involvement in abandoned 2017 ant-grazing bill
As the Delta State House of Assembly concludes its public hearing on the State anti-open grazing bill, christened ‘Delta State Livestock Breeding, Rearing and Marketing Regulation’ Bill, suspected herdsmen have been reported to have invaded farms in some parts of the State abducting, at least, 11 persons in the process.
The New Diplomat learnt earlier in the week, the herdsmen allegedly invaded farmlands in Obiarukwu, Ukwuani Local Government Area of the State where they allowed their cattle to destroy crops and in the process, abducted at least 11 farmers who confronted them for invading their farmlands.
Although, the State Police Command could not confirmed the incident, the executive chairman of the Local Government Council, Mr. Possible Ajede, confirmed that security agents and community leaders in the area were already on top of the situation.
According to the Council chairman, eight persons earlier taken into hostage by the Fulani herders were rescued following a rapid and aggressive chase by a combined team of police and local vigilante, adding that three others were still being held.
“It is painful that you are going to your farm only to meet armed herdsmen with their cattle eating your entire investment.
“As at the time we came on board in March, this year, we invited the leaders of the Fulani herdsmen for a meeting, and after that meeting, they appeared to be on holiday.
“But we heard recently of the hostage and the menace of the herdsmen. So we mobilize our security operatives into the bush. When they saw the operatives, they abandoned the hostages and took to their heels,” the chairman said, adding that “we will continue to urge our people to remain calm no matter the provocation as we continue to explore tactical ways to resolve the issues within the ambit of the law.”
It would be recalled also that about three weeks ago, a group of Fulani herders invaded some farmlands in Okpara Inland in Ethiope East Local Government Area of the State. The farmers who were mainly women, led a peaceful protest to the Local Government Headquarters, Isiokolo where they blocked the major road linking Okpara and other towns in the area.
The protesters who were waving leaves and placards of different inscriptions laid siege at gate of the Council Secretariat and the entrance to the palace of the Agbon monarch, HRM Ogurime rime, Ukori I, to demonstrate their grievances.
Speaking during the protest, the women had complained that, “We have suffered humiliation in the hands of the Fulani herdsmen. They rape and force us to drink herbicides which we use on clearing our farmlands. We have complained several times to our leaders but they are not responding because they might have collected money from the herdsmen.”
The Council chairman, Hon. Victor Ofobrukueta, appealed to the protesters for calm, saying that government felt their pains and was doing everything within its power to address the situation.
According to him, their complaints and demands will be conveyed to the state government for possible solution and steps to avert reoccurrence of such incident in their farmlands.
Ofobrukueta assured the protesting women from Okpara community of government’s effort towards the protection of lives and properties in the area, as he promised to meet with stakeholders on the steps to be taken, just as he reiterated government’s readiness to put in place a joint surveillance and security team to end this brutality being suffered by their people in the hands of the suspected Fulani herdsmen.
He expressed confidence in the current moves by the State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa towards putting in place a law to regulate cattle grazing by herders in the State, adding that the problems of herders/farmers clash in the State would soon be a thing of the past.
When The New Diplomat contacted the Delta State Police Command PPRO, Bright Edafe, a CSP, he confirmed the incident, stating that a joint meeting of the police, representatives of the Council chairman and community leaders took place in Isiokolo where they deliberated on how to douse tension in the area.
However, the latest onslaught by suspected herders in Obiarukwu in Ukwuani Local Government Area, came on the heels of the public hearing on the State anti-open grazing bill, the ‘Delta State Livestock Breeding, Rearing and Marketing Regulation’ Bill, which took place on July 26, 2021.
The New Diplomat learnt that, while the Bill provided for a 5,000 sq. metres per Local Government for grazing and breeding of cattle in the State, Miyetti Allah who represented the herders in the State, had in a memorandum submitted to the House Committee organizing the public hearing, requested for 30,000 sq. metres of land (approx. 750,000 sq. metres) in the state for the business of cattle ranching.
The memorandum which was presented by Miyetti Allah Association the chairman, Alh. Musa Shuwa, stated that the 5,000 square metres of land provided for in the bill was not enough.
Shuwa disclosed that at present, the association maintains livestock (cattle) markets in seven towns in the state, adding that the smallest of its markets is situated on a parcel of land measuring about 4,500 square metres while the biggest is about 7,000 square metres.
He explained that a minimum of 30,000 square metres of land in each of the 25 local government areas (750,000 sq. metres) in the entire state, will be required to build an abattoir, veterinary clinic, livestock market, administrative office and security post as contained in a section of the bill.
But in a swift reaction to the request of the Miyetti Allah Association’s memorandum to the Public Hearing Committee, the Delta State government averred that the State has no land of its own to allocate to cattle herders for the grazing of their animals, stressing that lands are owned by individuals in the State.
Speaking on behalf of the State government, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, stated that the position of the government has been made clear, pointing out that although Miyetti Allah was interacting with the lawmakers in that public hearing, whoever wants to go into animal husbandry or ranching should go and buy land and start his business.
He said: “Well, they are talking to the lawmakers but the fact is that we have made it very clear that anybody who wants to do ranching should buy land and then start his ranch.
“If I want to do poultry business, I get a place, pay for it and start my poultry farm. For those who are doing piggery, they get a place and start the piggery. If you want to do cattle business, get your ranch but if the Federal Government wants to assist people to get a ranch, no problem just as they are doing FADAMA for some cultivations.
“If the Federal Government also wants to have ranching-assisted programme, there is nothing wrong with it.
“The business of animal husbandry and animal rearing is also the business of our people, whether they are Fulani or not. But for anybody to think that the government has that kind of land to give is not true. The local government in our system does not own land. The lands belong to individuals and families.
“If the only land I have is just 1,000 square metres, will the local government ask me to donate it? And perhaps, that is the only land I have to either build or farm. Will the local government tell me, this land we are taking it from you, for me to be doing what thereafter? That is why people need to be reasonable in making this kind of demand.”
Meanwhile, the House of Assembly has concluded the Public Hearing on the Bill. The exercise which was organized by a Joint Committee on Special Bill and Agriculture and Natural Resources, was chaired by Hon. Pat Ajudua.
While addressing the Committee, Ajudua said that the public hearing was to garner the inputs of the public, particularly major stakeholders in the making of the proposed law, assuring that the committee was made up of carefully selected, brilliant, selfless, and hard-working lawmakers that would ensure a smooth job is done on the bill.
It would be recalled that this is not the first time, the government would attempt to enact a piece of legislation to regulate open grazing by herders in the State. The New Diplomat could recall that in 2017, the House of Assembly received a private bill for a law to checkmate the incessant attacks of herdsmen on farmers in different parts of the State.
The bill which was sponsored then by the member representing Ughelli South Constituency, Hon. Reuben Izeze, got through the public hearing stage but later disappeared from the lawmaking radar shortly before the leadership of the House when Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oberovwori emerged as the Speaker.
Reports were then rife that the governor of the State, Ifeanyi Okowa, who was then preparing for his second term in office, prevailed on the House to abort the progress of the bill following an alleged advice from a top member of the State Advisory Committee which claimed that an anti-grazing law in the State might jeopardize the chances of the governor in the 2019 governorship race.
When The New Diplomat got in touch with the chairman of the State Advisory Committee, Prof. Sam Oyovbaire on the allegation that he advised the governor to prevail on the House to abort the first attempt at enacting an anti-grazing law in the State, the retired professor of political science, debunked such allegation, stating that was no party to it.
He said: “There is no way I could ever have been opposed to, or proferred personally contrary advice to the Governor about open cattle grazing in the State, same for the Advisory Council.
“Council, after thorough deliberations produced two Memoranda, respectively which were forwarded to H.E, the Governor with the advice to ban open cattle grazing in the State. The Governor also came to the Council for an interactive session with Members specifically on the issue of the Fulani herders/farmers’ crisis.
“I signed the Memo from Council transmitting its decision/advice to ban open cattle grazing. It would not have made an iota of sense for me to have signed such documents of advice and then engage in any personal discourses to urge the Governor not to ban open cattle grazing. I had Never Never done such a thing.”
Oyovbaire however expressed his support for the current bill seeking to enact a law to regulate grazing activities in the State.
“My personal profile as well as the record of the State Advisory and Peace Building Council can adequately testify to full support for the ban of Fulani herders open cattle grazing in the State with attendant havoc and bestiality to our communities and rural livelihood of the majority of our fellow Deltans”, he said.
The New Diplomat’s check also revealed that shortly after the 2017 anti-grazing bill was killed in the House of Assembly, the State witnessed massive attacks on indigenes from different parts of the State. Eleven persons were brutally murdered by herdsmen in an overnight raid in Agadama-Ughweru Community, in Ughelli North Local Government around early part of 2020.
Other parts of the State where the herders visited mayhem on defenseless Deltans include Abraka in Ethiope East Local Government Area, Iselle Azagba in Aniocha North and around Kwale, in Ndokwa West Local Government Area.