On February 21, 2017, a Bill for a law to regulate and control cattle grazing in Akwa Ibom State and other matters connected therewith passed through second reading at the floor of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
The bill which was first read on the floor of the House sometime in November 2016 is sponsored by the member representing Essien Udim State Constituency, Mr Nse Ntuen and 11 others.
According to the Lead Sponsor of the bill, Nse Ntuen, the bill when passed into law will prohibit uncontrolled grazing of cattle and other ruminants, check against destruction of food crops on farmlands caused by grazing cattle and other ruminants, abolish night grazing and provide for designated grazing areas or cattle ranches across the State.
The bill received the unanimous support of the 26 members and was committed to the joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Environment and Mineral Resources to further work on it, and to conduct public hearing on it.
Lately, I have read a couple of articles online, expressing concerns over the bill. Some argue that the bill will Islamize the state; others see it as attempt to empower the state to take community lands and donate same to Fulani herdsmen. In all, they seemingly misrepresent the intention of this bill.
Well, I understand the predicament of Akwa Ibom people to appreciate the good gesture of the state House of Assembly on this bill, especially on the heels of the assembly’s attempts to enact an obnoxious ‘witchcraft’ Property Charge Bill in the state, which has put the assembly in bad light and at loggerheads with the masses.
The purpose of this discourse is to inform the people and disabuse their minds that this bill has any evil intendment as erroneously spread in the social media.
I have applied and obtained a bill of the Cattle Grazing Bill and I have read and digested the content therein. I can tell anyone that cares to listen that the bill is one of the best things to happen in Akwa Ibom state. Especially, now that Fulani herdsmen are engaging in unlawful acts including rising against their host communities; killing, maiming and committing arson against innocent people on a daily basis. This is a very timely law that will arrest such menace in our society.
What does the Nse Ntuen Bill seeks to achieve:
Section 1 – Interpretation, states; “ “Cattle” means Cows, bulls and oxen. “Commissioner” means the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Livestock Officer” means Officer in Charge of livestock. “Local Government” means the Thirty One (31) Local Government Councils in the State. “Other Ruminants” means sheep and goats. “Owner” in relation to cattle includes any person who keeps cattle or other ruminants or who is in charge of same.
“State” means Akwa Ibom State Government.”
SECTION 2 of the Bill which is captioned – Prohibition of uncontrolled Grazing, states; “(1) No person shall cause or permit any cattle or other ruminants belonging to him or under his control to graze on any land in which the Governor has not designated as ranches. (2) The Governor SHALL (emphasis mine) by an order designate land in each Local Government in respect of which cattle or other ruminants may be permitted to graze. (3) No cattle or other ruminants shall by any means move or graze at night. (4) Cattle movement and grazing are restricted to the hours between 7.00 am and 6.00 pm.” To me, this is golden. I laud Nse Ntuen and the sixth assembly for taking this step.
Section 3 – Publication of Order, says; “The State shall publish every such order made by the Governor either by affixing a copy of it on a conspicuous part of the area of land referred to in the Order or n any other manner reasonably calculated or bring the order to the notice of any person who may be affected by it.” Excellency move by the lawmakers.
Section 4 – Impounding a Cattle or other ruminants, states; “(1) Any herdsmen found in possession of FIREARMS (emphasis mine) shall be charged with unlawful possession of firearms. (2) Any confiscated cattle shall be taken to Government cattle ranches or any other designated areas as may be directed. (3) Any property or farm products destroyed by the cattle shall be valued by the agricultural officers and made to be paid for, by the herdsmen.” What else can a good bill with genuine intention contain than what our lawmakers have well thought-out here?
Section 5 – Report of Impounding of Cattle to the Commissioner, reads; “Any Livestock Officer or Local Government Chairman that impounds cattle under this Law shall immediately report the impounding to the commissioner or any designated officer.” Kudos to our assembly, this provision is a self-check mechanism to prevent abuse.
Section 6 – Regulations, says; “The Commissioner may makes rules for the carrying out of the provisions of this Law.
Section 7 – Offence and Penalty; states; “ Any person who contravenes any Order made under Section 2 or any rule made under Section 6 commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not less than three months without any option on fine.”
Section 8 – Short Title, says; “This Law may be cited as the prohibition of Cattle or Other Ruminants Grazing in Akwa Ibom State Law, 2016.”
The Bill has just eight (8) Sections as reproduced here by me. It is very explicit and unambiguous to read and understand by anyone including exposed illiterates.
We should not throw away the baby with the bathe water. I endorse this Bill and I beseech us to applaud the sixth assembly for this great feat.
The Cattle Grazing Bill unlike the ‘witchcraft’ Property Charge Bill is a good Bill, if not, trust me, I would have said so.
• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator