✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters

Benue’s open grazing, ranching law: A case for review

The Benue State Government set aside November 4 to 6, 2020, to mark the anniversary of its controversial open grazing prohibition and ranching establishment law…

The Benue State Government set aside November 4 to 6, 2020, to mark the anniversary of its controversial open grazing prohibition and ranching establishment law with the theme: “A Recipe for Security and Peaceful Coexistence”, in Makurdi, the state capital.

The government invited traditional rulers from all over the state, legal and economic experts, as well as the leadership of the Fulani cultural organisation, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), to review the implementation of the law and its impact on Benue people with a view to making an appropriate recommendation at enhancing its effectiveness.

The law followed spate of clashes between herders and farmers in which over 1,269 people were killed in 14 of the 23 local government areas of the state between 2013 and 2016.

The government responded to the escalating crises between the two groups by signing into law the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranching Bill 2017. The law prohibits any open rearing and grazing of livestock and provides for the establishment of ranches and livestock administration, regulation and control and other matters connected with it. The law is meant to prevent the destruction of crop farms, community ponds, settlements and property through open rearing and grazing of livestock.

It also envisages to put an end to the prevalent clashes between herders and farmers, as well as optimise the use of land resources in the face of overstretched land and increasing population, and also create conducive environment for  large scale crop production.

Statistics made available by the government had it that as at October 27 2020, 7,629 cattle and 210 goats were impounded and over 400 persons were arrested for offences under the law out of which 261 were convicted, 21 discharged, while 118 cases were pending.

The law prohibits movement of livestock on foot from place to place. It permits only movement on rail wagon, truck or pick up wagon. It criminalises the action of “land grabber” for purpose of residence, grazing or ranching or other purpose thereto.

And above all, the law only allows ranch operators to engage the services of registered security guards for the protection of their ranches. They are also prohibited from providing security for themselves. This dichotomises the law between indigenes and non-indigenes.

It is, therefore, not in the best interest of peace and co-existence of herdsmen and other citizens of Nigeria.

The law also requires non-indigenes to conduct environmental impact assessment report as part of requirements to acquire land for ranching; which is not required of indigenes.

The National Secretary of MACBAN, Baba Othman Ngelzarma, welcomed the review meeting, which he said would soothe frayed nerves.

Baba Ngelzarma, however, said the law could not be said to be all-inclusive when MACBAN members were denied their fundamental right to free movement and to engage in legitimate business without discrimination.

He further said the law made it impossible for any Fulani man to acquire land for ranching in Benue and conduct his legitimate business.

He explained that the ECOWAS treaty  allows free movement of livestock within the sub-region subject to fulfillment of certain conditions that Benue State laws could not truncate and that there were also national stock routes that were covered by national law that passed through Benue.

He also drew attention to the excesses of the state’s livestock guards who not only harassed, brutalised, but also imposed arbitrary fines on defaulters of the law and also went beyond the borders of Benue into Nasarawa and Taraba states to confiscate livestock in the name of Benue State’s anti-open grazing law.

Other participants at the event also pilloried the law for its alleged segregation tendencies.

They also argued that the process of granting permit and the duration of the permit encouraged only the locals to engage in livestock production and that this must be seen to be discriminatory and as an affront to the provision of the constitution which abhors discrimination.

Other provisions of the law that are said to be draconian include the prohibition of open herding or grazing in the state outside the permitted ranches. It punishes violators upon conviction with a fine of N1m or imprisonment for five years or both.

It was thus recommended that the provision that deals with the possession of fire arms: licensed or unlicensed, on or outside the ranch be amended to cover all persons, including land owners, not just livestock owners, managers or agents.

Other recommendations included the amendment of the law to reduce the bureaucratic labyrinths associated with the processing of permit to establish a ranch and which made the Commissioner for Agriculture, an appointee of the governor, to sign off the process of permit of establishing ranches in the state.

They said the permit should also last at least five years instead of the one year prescribed in the law, and that the process to acquire a ranch should also have clear timelines and the entire process should not last more than three months from the date of application.

It was also suggested that the state government should set up a special fund to be accessed for the purpose of establishing ranches in the state, and that the government should take the issue of sensitisation seriously to all citizens to be acquainted with the law.

These suggestions were brought forward as the law  is seen as being too draconian, time wasting, financially too expensive and makes investment in ranching unattractive to whoever desires to establish a ranch.


Adamu Lawal Toro wrote in from No 5 Lord Luggard Street, Asokoro, Abuja.

%d bloggers like this: