MEMORANDUM ON THE PROPOSED BILL FOR THE CONTROL OF NOMADIC CATTLE REARING IN DELTA STATE
SUBMITTED TO THE DELTA STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ON
15TH FEBRUARY, 2017 BY ONU IKA NIGERIA.
We have been alerted of the effort of the Delta State House of Assembly to pass a Bill which in her opinion is aimed at “CONTROLLING OF NOMADIC CATTLE REARING IN DELTA STATE,.. This Bill if passed; will repeal the CONTROL OF MOVEMENT OF ANIMALS LAW 2000.
We are surprised by the involvement of our representatives in the State Assembly namely Hon. Festus Okoh and Hon Anthony Elekeokuri in the proposed Bill. This is because at a meeting which both of them attended on May, 5, 2016, at the Palace of HRM Mbiri Kingdom; in Ika North East, we, Ika people, resolved to distance ourselves from such legislation both at the Federal and State levels. This resolution was published in the Vanguard Newspaper edition of Friday, May, 13, 2016, at page 29; Copy attached for ease of reference. We are indeed, and painfully embarrassed by the volte-face of our honourable representatives.
From available information, the Bill is co-sponsored by over twenty (20) legislators which represents more than two-third of members of the legislature. This presumes that with or without public inputs, the Bill is set to scale through and passed into law. If we may ask; What is so special about the Bill to have the overwhelming support from members? And why the haste? It is, therefore, very safe to conclude that the rescheduled/rushed public hearing is of no relevance.
However, we, Ika people, make it loud and clear that we do not support this proposed Bill; because the Bill, in all its ramifications, does not protect Deltans generally and Ika people in particular.
We are, therefore, opposed to this Bill for the following reasons:
1. From the title, the Bill is exclusively for only Nomadic Cattle rearers and excludes non-nomadic cattle rearers. The Bill forecloses the possibility of Deltans rearing Cattle, goats etc in the delineated grazing area.
2. These Nomadic Cattle rearers, we all know, are mostly nocturnal and take delight in moving their Cattle at unholy hours of the night. If and when indiscriminate grazing occurs in the night; how do we hold the rearers/rustlers accountable. The poundmaster has his working hours which do not include the nocturnal time.
3. The Bill sets to establish a grazing area in each of the twenty five (25) local government areas of Delta State. What happens in a situation where the people refuse to release, sell or lease out land for such purpose? Does it mean government or her agents will arm twist or coerce the people to cede their lands? There is no community in Ikaland willing to give out land for grazing especially against the backdrop of insufficient lands for arable farming as most of our subsistence farmers have migrated to contiguous State (Edo State) as tenant farmers.
4. The proposed Bill stipulates that in the event of a stray cattle attacking any “person or group of persons leading to crisis between the host community and the owner; the owner shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to five years imprisonment or a fine of N1,000,000:00(one million Naria ) or both”. This implies that if a person is attacked which could lead to death and the family is unable to instigate crisis, the cattle owner goes free. This section clearly shows that the sponsors of the Bill have no respect for the citizenry as no importance is attached to the victim.
5. The Bill recommends the appointment of a “poundmaster” who is a civil servant within salary grade level 06-08 whose duty include:- to take periodic statistics of strayed animals and submit same to the advisory council and dispose of any cattle found in areas outside the designated areas of grazing on behalf of the local government council. If the strayed cattle had destroyed farm produce or crops or even killed somebody before it is impounded; how can the victim be compensated? The Bill further recommends that upon payment of fees and expense to be prescribed by the council, the animal is released. These fees and expense are to be paid to government. Here again, victim from the strayed animal is inconsequential.
6. The envisaged Bill recommends that every cattle will be registered. If a cattle is not registered and it is found to destroy crops or injures or even kills somebody, how can the owner be traced? Who compensates the victim?
7. The proposed Bill is silent on the documentation of the herdsmen and their apparent possession of deadly weapons. The poundmaster is a civil servant without weapons. The peasants or farmers do not have arms. Who protects them against some armed herdsmen who have been repeatedly accused of serious crimes against our people?
8. After a detailed study of the proposed Bill, we unanimously resolved that it does not protect Deltans. The only gain discernible from the Bill is pecuniary which is to the advantage of the Government. We, therefore, vehemently oppose the Bill in all its ramifications. The Bill, to all intents and purposes, lack foresight and if it scales through, will be setting the groundwork for a repeat of history as being played out in Benue and Plateau States. Most of us will not be around (20-30yrs from now) to witness the consequences of our todays action (Bill). Posterity will certainly find us guilty.
We, therefore, humbly appeal to the legislature to listen to the voice of reasoning by reviewing the Bill based on our suggestions.
We have meticulously gone through the Ekiti State model of Grazing Bill. To a large extent, it protects the people of Ekiti State. We, therefore, strongly recommend that Delta State should adopt Ekiti State Template on Cattle Grazing if the State is desirous of enacting a law to regulate Cattle Grazing.
We appeal to our representatives to withdraw their sponsorship of the Bill as those they represent are against its passage.
Above all, we call on the Executive Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, to distance himself from this Bill as it has no value added to his people who are confident of his capacity to build a peaceful, united and progressive Delta State.
God bless Ika Nation
God bless Delta State.
Daniel S.O. Usifoh Benson Melekwe Esq
Head, Collective Leadership Assistant Secretary
Onu Ika Nigeria
Dated this 15th day of February, 2017
Source: Williams Eghebi Facebook