The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, the Igbo socio-political organisation, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra have expressed support for the bill assented to by the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, which categorises grazing with arms in the state as terrorism.
But the umbrella body for northern groups, the Arewa Consultative Forum, however, said any law which contravened the constitution of the country would be illegal, adding that any Nigerian was free to move in any part of the country.
Fayose had, while signing the ‘prohibition of cattle and other Ruminants Grazing in Ekiti 2016’ into law on Monday, said any herdsman, caught with any form of weapons while grazing his cattle in any part of the state, would be arrested and charged with terrorism.
Afenifere, which spoke through its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, on Tuesday, described Fayose’s action as courageous and worthy of emulation.
Odumakin pointed out that the bill would put an end to the incessant attacks by the Fulani herdsmen on farmers and their farms in the southern part of the country.
He said, “The bill will stop the menace of the herdsmen, who have been terrorising their host communities.
‘‘Right from ages, herdsmen are not to carry arms when they are moving about with their cattle. But when herdsmen begin to carry unlicensed AK 47 (rifles), these are clearly not herdsmen; these are terrorists. I think the law should not smile at such people.”
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo hailed Fayose for signing the bill into law, noting that the governor took a “brave” step.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on Tuesday, President of the Ohanaeze Youth Council, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said the law should be replicated in all parts of the country.
He added, “Fayose has done the right thing and he should be commended and encouraged for taking this brave step.
“Cattle rearing is a private business; those involved in the venture should not become a threat to other Nigerians.
“We in the Ohanaeze Youth Council are asking the South-East governors to do same in their states.
“The law, if implemented in the South-East, would check the violent activities of herdsmen in the zone, and same applies to other parts of the country where the herdsmen are wreaking havoc on their host communities.
“Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, should act fast; he should emulate Fayose if he really intends to protect lives and property in his state.”
MASSOB, while commending Fayose for signing the bill into law, said other governors in the southern part of the country, as well as the Middle Belt, should enact similar laws.
MASSOB spokesman, Samuel Edeson, said, “It is a very good development; we are expecting other governors in the southern part of the country, and the Middle Belt, to do same.
“Enugu State Governor, Ugwuanyi, should emulate Fayose because herdsmen attacks are becoming regular in the state.
“The people of Enugu State are under attack; they are being killed and the governor is not taking action.
“The attack happened only once in Ekiti State and Fayose responded immediately. What Fayose did is laudable; it is a very good development.”
ACF, which spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim, on Tuesday, said any law passed by Ekiti State, which contradicted the law of the Federal Government should be considered null and void.
“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees free movement of Nigerians as long as they pursue their legitimate business,” Ibrahim added.
The ACF, however, described any individual or group that illegally carried arms against the state as a criminal.
In an interview with one of our correspondents in Kaduna, the ACF spokesman stated that any Fulani herdsmen or any other group in possession of illegal firearms were considered as criminals before the law and should be treated as criminals by the state.
“This is not the question of herdsmen or Fulani or anybody. Anybody carrying arms illegally is committing a serious offence against the state. Naturally, such people should be punished by the law.”
The President, Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima, while condemning the attacks by the herdsmen, however, expressed reservation on the new law in Ekiti State.
Shettima added, “The issue of criminality perpetrated by some people should not be seen as an avenue to criminalise others.
‘‘Fayose should have looked at the issue in collaboration with the Federal Government. So, if he is passing the law to victimise other people, I don’t think it is right.”
On his part, President, Campaign for Democracy, Abdul Usman, said the protection of people’s lives from herdsmen was necessary.
He stated, “If the Nigerian state will have so much value for animals against humanity to the extent of providing grazing reserves and importing feeds for animals, the Ekiti State Governor has done well to the deserving people of the state.
“Human protection first, then animals should follow. We have seen the unrest caused by the herdsmen; it’s quite worrisome and with this new law, a lot will be addressed.”
Also, the President, Civil Liberties Organisation, Igho Akeregha, said the grazing law in Ekiti State was a two edged sword.
He said, “Herdsmen have a right to freedom of movement with their cattle anywhere in Nigeria but while enjoying that right; they cannot be killing people anywhere they go, which is a violation of the right to life.
“Since the Governor is the Chief Security Officer of the state and has a corresponding duty to secure lives and property, the anti-grazing bill signed by Governor Ayodele Fayose is therefore in order.”
DHQ plans special task force on herdsmen killings
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters is planning a special task force to deal with the menace of the frequent clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers across the country, Meanwhile, the.
According to the Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, the task force, which is expected to address the attacks by herdsmen, is code named ‘Operation Accord’.
Abubakar told one of our correspondents on the telephone on Tuesday that while the operational headquarters of the planned operation would be in one of the six states of the North-East, it would be mandated to address the scourge of herdsmen and farmers’ clashes all over the country.
The operation, he added, would give serious attention to identified flashpoints of such clashes in the country.
“So when it is operational, we will make it known to everybody but for now, the Chief of Defence Staff has come out with that idea of forming Operation Accord which is intended to curtail the herdsmen and farmers’ clashes nationwide.”