Open Grazing: 3 herders jailed in Benue
The Anti-Open Grazing Law in Benue has recorded a huge success as a Makurdi Magistrates’ Court on Friday sentenced three herders, Iliya Garba, Hassan Abdullahi, and Lanshak Lonfalk, to one year imprison each, for violating the law enacted in 2017.
The convicts were charged with criminal conspiracy and open nomadic livestock rearing and grazing.
The offences are punishable under Sections 97 of the Penal Code and 19 (2) of the Open Grazing Prohibition Ranches Establishment Law of Benue, 2017.
The prosecutor, Insp. Michael Iorundu, told the court that the joint patrol team of `Operation Zenda,’ led by Sgt. Edward Shinyi, arrested the herders on Feb. 18.
He said that they were brought to the State Criminal and Investigation Department, Makurdi.
“The team reported that the three herders, and others now at large, were openly grazing their cattle along Yeluwata Road in Guma Local Government Area of Benue.
“When the case came up for mention, the herders pleaded guilty to the charge against them, saying that they were not aware that open grazing had been prohibited in Benue,’’ he said.
The Magistrate, Mrs Lillian Tsumba said that the herders were first offenders who were also illiterates and not even aware that open grazing has been prohibited in Benue.
Tsumba said that a law such as open grazing prohibition required massive exposure and education of persons at the grassroots.
She, however, said law is law and must be obeyed in spite of ignorance.
The magistrate sentenced the herders to a year imprison each, with N500,000 option of fine each. Gov.
Some months back Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue, had warned that any herdsman, who decided to breach the anti-open grazing law would have to face the wrath of the law.
Ortom gave this warning in Makurdi while addressing members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Muslim community, who were protesting the threats issued by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association against the new law.
The governor said that the security agencies were ever ready to arrest anybody or group of persons that decided to resist the implementation of the law.
According to the governor, the law will be enforced fully in November after the grace period of transition which is to end in October.
Ortom said that any herdsman, who was not comfortable with the law was free to leave the state and settle where open grazing of animals was not prohibited.
He further warned that anybody rearing livestock must put them in ranches, adding that the law was meant to protect both the farmers and animals.
The governor explained that ranching was not only meant for cattle but all livestocks in order to prevent them from wandering into farmlands.