By Sulaiman Shuaib
The Benue State House of Assembly on Thursday passed the bill prohibiting Open Rearing and Grazing into law, stipulating that herdsmen who violate the law risk five-year jail term and a fine of N1million.
The house had on Tuesday received the report of its Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on the bill to prohibit Open grazing, presented by the chairman of the committee, James Gbande.
However, the bill initially known as Livestock Promotion, Development and Regulatory Agency establishment bill, was changed to a bill to prohibit Open Rearing and Grazing of Livestock and provide for the establishment of Ranches and Livestock administration, regulation and control, in line with the feelings of Benue people.
The lawmakers, who debated upon the bill on Thursday, agreed that the development would henceforth end the lingering crisis between Benue farmers and herdsmen.
“Nobody will be permitted to carry out open grazing outside the permitted ranches.
“Any person who contravenes this act shall be guilty and upon conviction be sentenced to 5 years imprisonment with a fine of 1 million.
“Where damage is done to crops, the farm will be evaluated and the manager of the livestock be compelled to pay.
“Movement of livestock on foot within the state is hereby prohibited. Any person who contravenes this shall be sentenced to one year imprisonment or pay a fine of N500,000.
“Any livestock owner or manager who carries firearms shall be treated under the penal code. All ranchers shall engage the services of security agencies.
“Any person who rustles cattle shall be sentenced to 5 years imprisonment or pay a fine of N100,000 per cow. Any livestock wandering shall be impounded by the department of livestock.
“Any livestock impounded and the owner not found shall be auctioned to the public and the proceeds be deposited into the state consolidated revenue account.
“They shall be established, a special open prohibition TAX FORCE that will enforce this laws as stipulated,” the House said.