Lagos to ban open grazing, proposes 21-year jail term for illegal arms possession

Lagos State government on Monday took steps closer to banning open grazing and trespass of cattle on land in the State,by proposing 21-year-jail term for any herder found with firearms.

Before now, Southern governors, had, in a meeting held in Lagos decided to ban open grazing of cattle in all southern states and made September 1, 2021, deadline day for governors from the region to enact a law in this regard.
In a bill tittled, “Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill, 2021,” sent to the State House of Assembly by the executive, members of the House at plenary on Monday condemned incessant moving of cattle by herders openly by herders on roads in the state, adding that trespassing on people’s land would continue to threaten peaceful coexistence in the country.

Hon. Bisi Yusuff (Alimosho 1) said the Bill was long expected and needed speedy passage, adding that the damages caused by open grazing in the State and Southwest were enormous.

Yusuff said “Open grazing has reduced food supply drastically. Cattle often eat up crops of farmers who most often borrow money to farm. The act of this herders have created scarcity of food supply in the west. It is shameful that cattle move along expressway, destroy markets.

“I am totally in support of the proposed 21-year-jail term for defaulters,” he stated.

Commenting , Hon. Kehinde Joseph (Alimosho 2) described open grazing system as an aberration in 21st century, adding that the Bill would help promote peaceful co-existence between herders and crop farmers.

Joseph said that the Bill would also reduce crime, saying it would help increase farmers productivity, calling for synergy among security agecies in enforcing the law when eventually passed.

In his contribution, Lukmon Olumoh ( Ajeromi-Ifelodun 2) suggested that High Court should be in position to try defaulters of the proposedy law when passed rather than Magistrate Court as proposed, adding this would not give room for jurisdictional issue.

Hon. Wale Rauf ( Amuwo-Odofin 2), advised that the term ‘dangerous weapons’ in the Bill should be well interpreted and defined before being passed, so as to avoid unnecessary arguments in future.

Contributing, Hon. Gbolahon Yishawu (Eti-Osa 1) said “sighting of cattle on the streets and roads of Lagos was shaming and alarming,” saying that a cosmopolitan State like Lagos should not entertain open grazing.

Yishawu said that open grazing was inimical to the economic growth of the state, adding that the Bill considers the economic impacts of cattle rearing and crop farming to the economy of the state.

“Economic losses will be reduced. It is a Bill that looks at the economy of cattle rearing, and also the benefits of economy of crop farming”, said Yishawu.

Hon. Abiodun Tobun (Epe 1) said, ” I support the Bill based on conviction that open grazing brings a lot of embarrassment to Nigeria. This is a country where cattle enter classrooms, all this social malaise is totally unacceptable.”

He said the activities of the herders was becoming security threat, adding that the Bill should be strengthened to protect enforcers of the law if the cattle die in their custody.

While adding his voice, Hon Setonji David (Badagry 2) suggested that the Lagos state Neighbourhood Corps (LNSC) should be listed among the security agencies to enforce the law, saying that the police had already been overstretched.

David said,  ” In order to avoid crisis, we need to be preemptive. I witnessed one of the herders’ misbehaviour while carrying out oversight at a school in the State as cattle blocked the roads. We needed to wait for them to leave before we continue our journey. Open grazing is the crime not ownership of cattle.”

However, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa said the House was taking the path of legalising the Southern Governors’ agreement on open grazing, adding that there was need to identify genuine herders operating in the State by registering them so as to know their total number.

Obasa further said there should be financial support for those who want to go into ranching, saying that there was need for training of the pastoralists in order to prepare them ahead of the new style.

He, thereafter committed the Bill to the House Committee on Agriculture and Cooperative and directed it to report back on Thursday.

Value Added Tax Bill also scaled through second reading, with the committee on Finance tasked to report back on Thursday.

Concerning the bill on VAT, Speaker Obasa said it would lead to “increase in revenue and increase in infrastructural development. This is in line with fiscal federalism that we have been talking about.”

Obasa said the VAT law when passed, would help the state meet challenges in its various sectors. He also urged the Lagos State government to do everything legally possible to ensure the judgement of a Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, is sustained even up to the Supreme Court.

He lamented a situation where about 500 billion is generated from Lagos State while 300 billion is generated from other southwest states and paltry amounts are disbursed to them in return.

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