Andy Esiet, Calabar
Cross River state governor, Senator Ben Ayade has described as draconian the anti grazing law passed recently by most of the southern governors saying such law can lead to war.
But on the other hand, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state has expressed fears that if Governor Ayade does not pass the law, “he is inviting anarchy and gradually digging the mass grave of our people”.
In a briefing late last week, Ayade queried, “how would you as a nation illegitimate a legitimate trade of the people, the nomadic herdsmen. You cannot by law.. even though the Southern governors has made it very clear that all southern governors must pass the anti open grazing law, Cross River has not, I have not because I cannot ask my herdsmen brothers whether of North or Southern extraction to shut down their trade and stay confined in a place whether they have the pasture or not…So if I have a brother from Yobe state in a semi arid condition who has no grass, no money to do irrigation to sustain his pasture so I will illegitimate his business and shut him down and close him from survival, that is being insensitive, inviting the nation to anarchy.
“So what I think is a deliberate recalibration of the equation…So before I pass the Cross River law, I have to pull back and find a solution. That is why in Cross River we are coming with an ‘Open grazing Management Law’ and not a prohibition because I think morally, ethically it is unacceptable to prohibit a trade that existed before I was born. I would rather find a way to moderate and regulate it so that it meets the definition of animal husbandry…if we pass such a draconian law and on the other side they pass their own draconian law and we pass another; gradually we are getting into war. But I am a conformist, I belong to the Southern Governors’ Forum, so they say pass the law, I will pass the law but by the time my law is out you will see that the law comes with concern for both parties”.
But the PDP in statement dated December 4, 2021 and signed by its State Publicity Secretary, Prince Mike Ojisi, said for the governor to go against the anti grazing law is “a canonization of incompetence…To say that the above statement from Governor Ben Ayade is utterly insensitive, inciting, nauseating, and sickeningly unbecoming would be an understatement. The Peoples Democratic Party Cross River State condemns in strong terms such reprehensible statement from the Governor, who ordinarily should always stand and protect the interest of his people first, before trying to sound Politically Correct- just to massage the ego of the hegemonic Fulani Herdsmen”.
The PDP said, “it has become absolutely imperative to inform the Governor that no leader is more powerful than the led, for the power of the people is always greater than the people in power. Governor Ben Ayade should be advised that he is inviting anarchy and gradually digging the mass grave of our people. At a time in our Nation where every state is speaking against open grazing, Ayade has chosen to be the black sheep of the family. How can one explain the fact that a predominantly agrarian State like ours should be left at the mercies and brutality of the murderous Fulani herdsmen?
“How can one explain the fact that at a time when every state is trying to protect its citizens from the harsh consequences of open grazing which has led to loss of crops, income and livelihood, Governor Ben Ayade is ingloriously hobnobbing with the perceived perpetrators of this heinous crime? Governor Ben Ayade has chosen to audaciously betray the trust the people reposed on him. He has chosen to lie in bed with the perceived enemies of the people.
“It’s regrettable that a government that ought to reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people has chosen to fight the people that it ought to protect. The good people of Cross River State have spoken elaborately loud against open grazing typified by Fulani herdsmen. In Obudu, where the governor comes from and throughout the Northern Senatorial District of the State that shares border with Benue State- who are exposed to this menace- have in recent months taken laws into their hands by chasing away hordes of Fulani herdsmen from their various villages in a mass action by Youths. This kind of mass action which can breed resistance and anarchy, but became necessary in the face of the government’s inability or refusal to come to the aid of its citizens, underscores the fact that Governor Ben Ayade has failed our people”.
PDP in the state accordingly, called on the governor “to expeditiously sign into law the Anti-open grazing bill as Cross River State cannot afford the luxury of war and anarchy. We also wish to advise the Governor, who is obviously head-over-heels in love with the Fulani herdsmen to export to the herdsmen the king-size giant grasses that he told Cross Riverians he was going to grow and sell to herdsmen, or are the grasses another digital phantom Project of the governor?”
Meanwhile the “Cross River Anti-Grazing Bill and Matters Arising” sponsored by Mr. Elvert Ayambem, member representing Ikom II State Constituency has passed the second reading in the State House of Assembly and some provisions of the bill say, “no person shall engage in open nomadic livestock herding or grazing in the State except within the confines of a ranch approved under this law. The Cross River State Ministry of Agriculture shall ensure that a veterinary doctor is sent at least once a month to every ranch to conduct a check on the livestock for quarantine or bio-security measures.
Others include, “every owner or manager of a ranch shall ensure compliance with every veterinary check on the livestock for quarantine or bio-security measures. A person who contravenes the provisions of sub section (1) of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to confinement in a Correctional Centre for a term of five years or a fine of N10 million or both. In a case of damage to a farm, crops, property or accident, the owner or manager of the livestock shall, after evaluation of the damage, pay the prevailing value of monetary compensation of the damaged farms, crops or property to the owner of the farm,”