Thoughts on open grazing

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By Omojowo Ajosanmi

The majority of citizens can testify to the long-running  battle between farmers and herders.

The clash has allegedly claimed the lives of more than 19,000 people with hundreds of thousands displaced. It would be interesting to know the remote cause of the clash.

The herders who largely depend on grass to feed their cattle have been accused  countless times of grazing on peoples’ farm.This has led to a seemingly endless rift between both parties.

Oftentimes, when the farmers challenge the herders, it usually results  in bloody clashes. But,it is imperative to curb or better still, stop the killings.

Several scholars, including Justice Adewale Thompson’s judgment in 1969, have proffered solutions  to   the frequent and avoidable clashes between farmers and herders.

In a judgment suit No. AB/26/66 delivered in 1969, Hon. Justice Adewale reportedly said:

“I do not accept the contention of defendants that custom exists which imposes an obligation on the owner of the farm to fence his farm while the owner of cattle allows his cattle to wander like pests and cause damage. Such a custom, if it exists, is unreasonable and I hold that it is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and therefore unenforceable.It is highly unreasonable to impose the burden of fencing a farm on the farmer without the corresponding obligation on the cattle owner to fence in his cattle.

“Hence, I ban open grazing for it is inimical to peace and tranquility and the cattle owners must fence or ranch their animals for peace to reign in these communities.

In 2017, a bill on anti-open grazing was passed into law in Benue State. The law puts in check the bloody engagements between  farmers and herders, though some have faulted the restrictions on open grazing in the state citing a section of the constitution which talks about rights to movement, but the  right to movement doesn’t give anyone the right to terminate other peoples’ lives.

In connection with the judgment of  Justice Thompson and the Land Use Act of 1978, Ondo State Government placed ban on open grazing. The Rotimi Akeredolu-led administration blamed  the incessant clashes between farmers and  herdsmen on the inability of the latter to build ranches for their cattle.

On May 11, 2021,  17 southern governors came to Asaba, the Delta State capital, to dialogue on open grazing. They, however, reached a consensus, and banned open grazing across the south.

A governor, as the number one citizen of the state, should provide  security for  lives and properties.

Therefore, the governors should be lauded for coming up with solutions to end bloody duels between farmers and herdsmen.

Countries like Argentina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Spain and, even the United States of America are examples of countries that have put an end to open grazing and resorted  to the using  ranches. Thus, if we  truly want to put an end to the incessant and avoidable clashes between farmers and herders, anti-open grazing law should be embraced  by all.

Fortunately,it has been proved that  herders produce more cattle when they are in one place(ranch) compared with when they resort to open grazing. Instead of grazing openly, why can’t they resort to building ranches in their respective states which would fetch them more profits?

Ajosanmi is a 200-Level student of Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko (AAUA).

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