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AGRICULTURE

Conflicting Narratives On Grazing Bill In Edo

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State claims it sent a bill seeking the enactment of a law prohibiting open grazing in the state. But the State House of Assembly dominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) says no bill was sent to them by the opposition party, PATRICK OCHOGA writes

Since the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, banned night grazing in the state, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been locked in a battle over the best way to tackle the security in the state.

Much like most states, Edo State has also suffered its share of herdsmen attacks, resulting in loss of lives. Last week alone, suspected herdsmen shot dead five persons in Esan South and Ovia North East local government areas, including an undergraduate of Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma. Beside, 12 people were said to have been hospitalized at the Benin Central and other private hospital as a result of attacks by the herdsmen.

But describing the ban on night grazing as un implementable and cosmetic, the opposition PDP said it has proposed a bill which will appropriately address the challenge of herdsmen and farmers clashes.

Much like, the law passed in  Ekiti, Taraba and Benue States, the Edo PDP is seeking for the enactment of a law to ban open grazing.

According to opposition party, the proposed bill when passed into law would put an end to the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the state, protect lives, prevent the destruction of farmland occasioned by open grazing.

The state chairman of PDP Dan Orbih, at a recent press conference criticised the state government’s decision to only ban night grazing and accused the governor of declaring the state as herdsmen colony.

At the press conference Orbih declared “In the last few weeks, we have been seeking the position of Edo State Government (EDSG) as it concerns herdsmen and farmers clashes across the state. EDSG has consistently and stubbornly refused to answer the very important question. In the face of the dangers faced by our farmers, EDSG announced a ban on night grazing, a policy many stakeholders condemned as un implementable and cosmetic.”

Orbih added that after several meetings with stakeholders, it became imperative for  them to make their position clear, unequivocal and unambiguous on the issue.

“Edo PDP has prepared and presented a bill on the prohibition of open grazing to the Edo State House of Assembly for consideration and passage into law”, he said.

Interestingly, the State House of Assembly is dominated by the APC, a situation which would probably make it difficult for such a bill to pass.

In a house of 24 lawmakers, PDP three lawmakers, while the APC has 21 lawmakers.

In a bid to sustain the party’s call on the campaign to get the House of Assembly to immediately consider the bill sent to it, Orbih last weekend at a public lecture organised by the Gate Keepers, a non-political organisation, told the gathering that besides winning elections in the state, PDP is serious about the responsibility of social and political education of the citizens.

He also donated the sum of N200,000 to the widow of late Omoregie Efosa, who was allegedly killed by the herdsmen in his farm at Oben in Orhiomwon Local Government Area of the state last year.

Orbih added “So, the good thing here is that as a political party, we will stand on the side of the people; we are not just criticising for the sake of criticism, we will applaud the policy of the government when we believe they are in the best interest of the people”.

The party maintained that it is time for the state Assembly to do the right thing and urged the state governor to call to order his APC dominated house to do the needful.

“With the attack in Ugboha, it is clear that the ban on night grazing as advocated by Governor Obaseki is grossly inadequate and of no effect. The PDP bill is detailed and all encompassing. It takes care of the herdsmen, the cattle as well as the farmers and ordinary citizens of our state. The bill can be referred to as the people’s bill as it is the position all Edo people are advocating”.

Obviously referring to Obaseki’s order to the police to apprehend the killer herdsmen, PDP added, “This your order to the police is curious. I am sure you are aware that the IGP disobeyed a presidential order on the herdsmen. How do you intend to enforce this order to the police which you lack the power to give effect to?”

But besides concerns that the bill may be dead on arrival in the face of PDP minority status in the Assembly, whether or not the PDP actually presented a bill to the legislature as it claims has become an issue.

The leadership of the House last week stated that there is no such bill anywhere within the precinct of Anthony Enahoro complex of the Assembly, adding that what the House received was a ‘mere letter’.

Responding to the claim by the PDP chairman that the bill is before the state House of Assembly, the Speaker, Alhaji Kabiru Adjoto, explained that what was received by the House was a mere letter which they received from post office which was about open grazing. He said it was not a bill.

The speaker noted “There is a procedure for everything. The PDP knows the address of the Edo State House of Assembly, they know how to present a private member bill or sponsor a bill. But they cannot go to a post office and post a letter saying it is a bill, we don´t even know the person that sent it.

“They used PDP letter head but nobody signed it, who are the sponsors of the bill if it were a bill they sent to us? Those who are sponsoring it should put their name. PDP is a political party, it is not the name of a person. If actually they intended to send a bill it means they have not followed the procedures, they simply went to the post office and sent the letter to all members using the address of the state House of Assembly.

“We have PDP lawmakers in the House and if actually they are confused as to how to send a bill they should have used those ones as sponsors. There is supposed to be the names of the sponsors if it is a bill they actually sent and send to the House of Assembly not the post office.  What they sent was a mere letter; we need to know who is sponsoring the bill. They should follow the proper channel in sending it to the House and as the representatives of the people, once the proper channel is followed we will treat the bill. But as it is now, in the eyes of the law they have not done anything.

“A bill is not something you send through the post office, the process of law making is not ‘mama akara’ business. They have PDP lawmakers in the House so if they are sincere about what they claimed they did they should have consulted those ones and even pass the bill through any of them”, he stated.

On the menace of herdsmen in the state, Speaker Adjoto asserted that “We have advised our constituents to be vigilante but not to take the laws into their hands. The real Fulani herdsmen does not carry AK47. But we have criminal elements now carrying AK45 and we have told our people if we see such people get them arrested before they kill”.

On his part, the state chairman of APC, Barr. Anselm Ojezua, described the proposed PDP’s bill as a political pamphlet that has no solutions to the menace of herdsmen and urged the lawmakers not to hesitate to throw it away.

He said the issues at hand were more complicated than the proposal made by the PDP in the purported bill.

“Have you read the proposed bill? I saw it myself and it is a political pamphlet that does not find any solution to the issue of herdsmen menace. Our people should not waste time in throwing out the document. It is not a serious document. The problem is deeper than what they have proposed,” Ojezua said.

Meanwhile, Obaseki has since paid a condolence visit to the families of the three persons killed by the bandits in Ugboha, Esan South East Local Government Area. Obaseki who strongly condemned the actions of the assailants, promised that the state will spare no resources in fishing them out for prosecution. He reiterated his earlier directive to security agencies to apprehend the bandit within seven days.

The visit to the families of the victims of the attacks was followed by a security town hall meeting in Ubiaja, where the governor unveiled new measures that the state government has adopted to tackle the attacks on innocent Edo people.

The measures according to him, include the overhaul of Operation Thunderstorm, the special taskforce dedicated to fighting violent crimes in the state.

He said 36 patrol vans have been approved for the effectively security patrol of the 18 local government areas of the state. Each local council will receive two patrol vehicles.

Obaseki however assuaged the security concerns of the elders, women and Hausa community in the senatorial district.

He said “We will apprehend the people who committed this heinous crime and we shall prosecute them and bring them to justice. We are also deploying economic development initiatives to combat this crisis. With these initiatives that I have for this state and Esan land, I cannot allow this atrocious acts to persist.”



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