AKHA: NEED FOR ANTI-OPEN GRAZING BILL (1)

By Franklyn Isong

These pictures are a few reasons, I am in full support of Anti-Open Grazing of Cattles in Akwa Ibom State.

About 4:43pm today, Sunday, February 21, 2021, yours truly and other motorists along airport Road (Oron Road by Water Board, at Ifa Atai) had to wait for 30 minutes for these cows to cross the highway before we could drive through.

Cattle rearing is a business. Apart from other security reasons, the owners of cattles in Akwa Ibom State should be documented and made to put their cattles in ranches so that they can pay prescribed taxes to both local and state governments to boost the internally generated revenue of the State.

In 2016/7, the member representing Essien Udim State constituency, Mr. Nse Ntuen, and others had sponsored a Bill to make provision for Ranches for cattle/other animals. The Bill had also sought to outlaw open grazing of cattles and other animals in any part of Akwa Ibom State. I was an advocate of the Bill because I knew its benefits for the state. But that very important Bill did not see the light of the day due to bad politics and selfish interests of our politicians.

The state lawmakers killed the Bill after its first reading. There was no second reading and there was no public hearing conducted to hear what the public had to say about the Bill.

I have said this on other platforms including radio programmes which I featured as analyst, that a friend who was a former Commissioner of Police in the State had told me categorically while in Akwa Ibom State Police Command that majority of cows and cattles in Akwa Ibom State are owned by top politicians and government officials in the State. He further asserted that the security report at his disposal at that time, indicated that these Akwa Ibom indigenes who own these cattles normally employ the herdsmen to come and take care of their cattles.

The former security chief in the state warned that until the State government begins to treat cattle rearing as private businesses and make enabling laws to check the lawlessness of the herdsmen, they will continue to operate unchecked in the State.

Agreed, Akwa Ibom State might not be one of the crises-ridden States occasioned by the farmers/herders conflicts when compared with some States of the federation. But the State had experienced a few conflicts in some communities of Mkpat Enin, Ibiono Ibom, Etinan, Essien Udim, Uruan and Uyo local government areas caused by activities of herdsmen as a result of open grazing of cattles on farmlands in those mentioned areas.

Back to today’s scene, imagine the Governor’s convoy running into these cattles on the highway and the Governor is made to wait for 30 minutes or more for the cattles to clear from the highway before his convoy could drive through. How embarrassing this would have been for the State. This is sad.

We should not wait until any ugly scene forces the State to think in the direction of Anti-Open Grazing Law. The time to act is now because, even the northern and southern governors have thrown their weights behind Anti-Open Grazing.

What are we waiting for in Akwa Ibom State? I am yet to hear Governor Udom Emmanuel’s view on this burning but topical issue.

I should not be misconstrued. I am completely against the Ruga Settlement Policy of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, as it were. But, I am in full support of Anti-Open grazing law and I am in support of ranching owned and controlled by the State and local governments.

Ranching reserves will among others, curb criminality amongst criminal elements within the herdsmen and ensure proper regulation of herdsmen activities in Akwa Ibom State.

This piece should again serve as a wake up call for Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly (AKHA) and the Udom Emmanuel’s administration to enact a Law prohibiting open grazing of cattles in the State.

~Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator and conscience of the society.

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