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How Ondo applies Land Use Act, Cattle Tax Law to manage herders

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Fulani herdsmen grazing along Akure/Ilesha Expressway yesterday evening despite an extant order by the governor


• More states resort to legislative measures
Killings, maiming and clashes between farmers and armed herders have forced a number of states to adopt legislative measures against open grazing.

And animal production specialists have said such legislation is necessary to check marauding herders from wreaking more havoc on farmers and communities.

It will be recalled that Benue and Oyo states, in 2017 and 2019, were forced to enact laws banning open grazing of cattle and other animals in commercial quantity.

Despite its implementation in Oyo and Benue, herders still ignore the law, encroach on farmlands and destroy crops. This poses dangers not only to human life, but also to food security.

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UNDER the Benue State Anti-Open Grazing Law 2017, it is a criminal offence for anyone to openly graze cattle and animals, and those who engage in livestock or desire to ranch their cattle are expected to apply and obtain land from the Benue State government at designated locations. Since its enactment, the law has come under fierce criticism from herders.

Before the enactment of the law, no fewer than 40 clashes were recorded between farmers and the herders between 2013 and 2016 in 14 local government areas of the state.

ALSO, Oyo State Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation Law 2019 says herdsmen who engage in open rearing or grazing of livestock are guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years or a fine of N500,000 or both. Subsequent offenders shall, upon conviction, be liable to 10-year imprisonment or a fine of N2 million or both.

Originated from the Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Right Honourable Adebo Ogundoyin and co-sponsored by his deputy, Honourable Abiodun Fadeyi, they argued that “Open grazing of cattle has become outdated, dangerous and environmentally hazardous in the 21st Century world.”

Deputy Speaker Fadeyi earlier explained to The Guardian that reports of violent attacks by herdsmen had become a daily occurrence, and the state could not fold its hands while herdsmen continue to wreak havocs on innocent farmers.

The essence of the law, he said, “is to regulate open rearing or open grazing, as the case may be, so that we can have a uniformed rearing of cattle, goats, sheep and what have you, being mindful of encroachments into farmlands and clashes between herders and farmers, with loss of lives.”

Despite the law, clashes, killings and associated crimes such as kidnapping have intensified in Oyo State with more influx of armed herders and bandits.

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MEANWHILE, in Ondo State, sequel to the seven-day eviction order to herdsmen to vacate the state forest reserves, fresh facts emerged on how Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, applied relevant portions of two laws to pronounce such ultimatum.

The Guardian learnt that the laws are the Land Use Act of 1978 and the Trade Cattle Tax Law of Ondo, although the later was promulgated in 1969, prior to the creation of the state, a 2006 amended version still suffices.

The state Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Gboyega Adefarati, disclosed that registration of farmers and their businesses was not new, adding that over 50,000 of such have been registered in the last four years. 

While an official of the State Ministry of Justice, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said both laws had given enormous powers to the State Executive Council (SEC) as well as the Governor on Land matters, especially reserved forests. 

“Two of such laws, which fully back the pronouncement of the Ondo State Government on herdsmen activities within the state, are (1) The Land Use Act; and (2) The Trade Cattle Tax Law of Ondo State, promulgated as far back as 1969.

“Section 315(5) of the constitution specifically states that nothing in the constitution shall invalidate enactments listed under items “a” to “d” thereof, one of which is the Land Use Act. In other words, nothing in the constitution, including the fundamental rights provisions therein, can invalidate the provisions of the Land Use Act. 

“Section 1 of the said Land Use Act categorically states that ‘… all land comprised in the territory of State in the Federation are hereby vested in the Governor of that state and such land shall be administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”

He noted that Section 12 (1) of the same Act also states that: “It shall be lawful for the governor to grant a licence to any person to enter upon any land…,” while subsection 5 clearly states that “The governor may cancel any such licence if the licensee fails to comply with any of the conditions of the licence.

“The word “license” here simply means permit. Basically therefore, it is within the powers of a state governor to grant a licence, or permit, or right to anyone to enter any land within the state, and to cancel or withdraw such permit or licence if the holder violates any condition attendant to same.”

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According to him, “It goes without saying, therefore, that the governor can impose conditions for anyone to enter, and/or be licensed to enter any land within the state. 

“The Ondo State governor, therefore, has the power to order herdsmen, or any other persons carrying on any other business on lands within the territory of the state, to apply for permit or license to do so, under the above clear provisions of the Land Use Act.”

Without any equivocation, he added that the eviction order to the herdsmen in the forest reserves “cannot, in any way, be interpreted as a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of movement. 

THE Trade Cattle Tax Law of Ondo State, as earlier stated, was promulgated as far back as 1969, with a commencement date of 3rd July, 1969. The law is contained in Chapter (Cap.) 153, Vol. 4, Laws of Ondo State of Nigeria, 2006. It has eighteen (18) sections.

The Justice Ministry official also stressed that Section 2 of the law talks about “movement permit, which is defined as: ‘a movement permit issued in the state under the Control Trade Cattle Regulations or a permit relating to the movement of trade cattle issued by any authority having power to issue the same under any law in force in any other part of Nigeria.” 

Shedding more light on the technicalities, he explained that the expression, “any law in force in any other part of Nigeria” in this context of course, includes the Land Use Act, as earlier established. 

“In the same vein, ‘Trade Cattle’ is defined in Section 2 of the law as “any of the type of animals specified in the First Schedule hereto which are in the possession of or under the control of any person within the state for the purposes of the trade or business of that person or any other person as a dealer in such animals.”

The official, however, noted that it “does not include any animal which is possessed by or under the control of any person for any domestic purpose or animals proceeding to grazing grounds or which are for use only as pack animals.”

Among the animals listed in the First Schedule to the Law are cow, bull, sheep and goat. So, the law applies to those who carry on the business of herding such animals, other than as domestic animals.

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“Section 5 of the law again recognizes the legitimacy of issuing trade cattle movement permit “along recognizable trade cattle route,” while Section 4 thereof provides for the establishment of “a cattle control post or inspection station, as the case may be, for the purposes of the law.” 

He quoted Section 6 of the law to further state that: “Trade cattle tax shall be payable at the prescribed rates at the appropriate control post or inspection station described in Section 5.”

While Section 9 of the law makes it a criminal offence punishable, upon summary conviction, with a fine of fifty thousand naira or to imprisonment for three years or to both such fine and imprisonment, for any person who, being the owner or agent of the owner or one in charge of trade cattle, fails to pay any trade cattle tax or take such trade cattle to the appropriate control post or inspection station in accordance with the law. 

“Instructively, Section 16 of the law gives the State Executive Council the power to make regulations for the purpose of enforcing the law.”
Shedding more light on the issue, Adefarati said over 70 per cent of the government reserved forests had been encroached upon when the Akeredolu administration came on board in 2017.

The Commissioner for Agriculture disclosed that: “The previous administration of Olusegun Mimiko arrested many and punished them. A lot of farmers irrespective of their states of origin served various terms in jail, some paid heavy fines and many left their crops wastefully unharvested.

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“After a diligent research and report on Ondo State Government Forest Reserves in 2018, we came up with a symbiotic policy of taungya system. With stiff adherence to all regulations that protect animals and trees, farmers are registered to farm on Ondo State Government Reserves. 

“With this, if you desire land to farm, you have to apply to Ondo State Ministry of Agriculture and the government, after considering your application, shall grant the considered hectares of land in which you are regulated to do your legal and legitimate farming.”

Without mincing words, he said: “In retrospect, we have registered over 50,000 farmers who engage in different forms of agricultural activities in Ondo State Government Forest Reserves. With this, we regulate their activities and reduce criminality as we interface daily with farmers.

“Farming is farming, be it crop production or animal husbandry. If any Nigerian, irrespective of his/her state of origin, desires land for farming in Government Forest Reserves, he/she must apply to Ondo State Ministry of Agriculture and pay the normal fee for the required hectares of land. 

“It is illegal for herdsmen to encroach Ondo State Government Forest Reserves without permission and graze on the farms, many of which will be destroyed,” he said.

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