Cattle routes exist only in minds of their promoters – Ortom’s media aide
Mr Tahav Agerzua is the Special Adviser to the Benue State Governor on Media and ICT. In this interview with our correspondent in Makurdi, Agerzua spoke on the recent arguments generated in the public sphere over the anti-open grazing law in Benue State,
There has been a series of arguments in the public sphere since the implementation of the anti-open grazing law in Benue State. How would you respond to one of such arguments raised by the Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), that the law is in conflict with international cattle routes?
It would have been nice for the MACBAN to define what they mean by international cattle routes so that we may know whether we have tampered with them. As things stand, we do not know them, let alone think about conflicting with them.
How would you also react to the argument that the Benue grazing law contravenes the Nigerian constitution, and that the ban now extinguishes both national and international cattle routes passing through the state?
Those preoccupied with what they call international cattle routes ought to tell Nigerians where they are, otherwise they seem to exist only in the imagination of those who talk about them, and probably those who use them. We are yet to come across sections of the Nigerian constitution which have delineated such routes.
What we know is that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, gives state Houses of Assembly the powers to make laws for the good governance of the state, and the anti-open grazing law was made in line with such powers.
Does the Benue State Government have enough land to accommodate ranching if all the herders in the state submit to the law?
I think we need to know from herdsmen whether they applied for land to establish ranches and they were not given. If they have not applied, the question is irrelevant as cattle do not graze in the air.
What strategy is the government employing to avoid further conflicts between herders who are leaving and farmers within the coastal or boundary areas of the state?
The security agencies and community volunteer guards have been mobilised to handle security breaches and challenges.
Some leaders of the MACBAN have posited that leasing of land is not the same thing as ranching, which the law seeks to implement. How do you view this argument?
It would have been nice for the MACBAN to define what they mean by international cattle routes so that we may know whether we have tampered with them. As things stand, we do not know them, let alone think about conflicting with them
The law provides that cattle owners secure land through lease and establish ranches.
What is your take on the belief in some quarters that the law was targeted at a particular tribe (Fulani herders), perhaps, to drive them away from the state?
The international best practice in animal husbandry is ranching. This has become imperative in modern times as a result of pressure on land, arising from population explosion and increased agricultural activities. For Benue, the law was promulgated to tackle incessant clashes between farmers, which have claimed thousands of lives and property worth trillions of naira. For example, a report compiled by the Benue State Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs indicates that 10 local government areas of the state lost hundreds of lives and over N95 billion in 2014 attacks alone. The attacks destroyed schools, hospitals and clinics, churches and all significant houses and landmarks in the affected areas. It is to forestall such that the law was enacted on account of the clamour from the people of the state.
Abah, Mr Tahav Agerzua