A coalition of youths and market women numbering over 300 on Tuesday stormed the Plateau State House of Assembly in Jos where they presented an anti-open grazing bill for adoption by the legislators.
As early as 8am, the group, under the aegis of Plateau Youths G-17 Peace and Progress Forum, dressed in black and white to mark what they described “an end to repeated attacks on communities in the state by Fulani herdsmen”, besieged the Assembly complex singing solidarity songs.
The convener of PY G-17 PPF, Dachung Bagos, while presenting a copy of the anti-open grazing bill to the Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Peter Azi, alongside other principal officers of the House, said, “The determination to end murder and bloodshed by Fulani herdsmen is a battle of no retreat, no surrender.”
Bagos added, “We are a peaceful people concerned about Plateau issues, some of which have shortened our sense of progress. We are seeking what will bring solution to the killings in the hinterland by Fulani herdsmen.
“In the last one year, more than 100 people have been killed; schools, clinics, churches and farmlands destroyed by the herders. We want a ban on open grazing on the Plateau and sanction for those who will go against the law.”
The group also kicked against the proposed government involvement in the construction of cattle ranches.
Bagos said, “Cow rearing is a private business and ranches should be acquired by private individuals, not government acquiring five hectares of land in each local government to give to herders.
“It is unfair to use taxpayers’ money to run private business. We expect this bill to be passed so that an average Plateau man will have a reprieve from the trauma of brutal killings by herders.”
Bagos said the presentation of the bill by the group was constitutional, having carefully studied the Anti-Open Grazing Laws of Ekiti, Benue and Taraba states.
He said, “It is in the light of these attacks that in a bid to put an end to the massacre and occupation of ‘conquered’ territories, hitherto occupied by sons of Plateau, which led the Plateau Youths G-17 Peace and Progress Forum, a non-religious, non-political pressure group with members drawn from the 17 local government areas that make up the state, to painstakingly take the burden to prepare a bill which, if passed into law, will see to the end of these senseless killings that have plagued the state in recent times.”
Bagos said the anti-open grazing bill was profitable for Plateau State which, if passed into law, would ensure the security of both farmers and herdsmen in the 17 LGAs.
“We are against grazing, especially open grazing; we advise government to save the lives of our beloved brothers, sisters and parents who have been victims of attacks by Fulani herdsmen.
“We will vehemently resist any attempt made by government to acquire hectares of land in any part of Plateau State for the purpose of open grazing when our brothers, children and parents are being killed, while hospitals and schools have been shut down due to forceful takeover of the ancestral farmlands of our parents for grazing,” he said.
In his response, the Speaker, Azi, assured the group that as the representatives of the people, the legislature would carefully study the proposed bill and send it to the appropriate committee for deliberation.
The Speaker said the state Assembly would look into the bill seeking the ban of open grazing in the state with a view to “passing the bill that will stand the test of time.”
But in its swift response, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, dismissed the bill, vowing to resist any attempt to pass it into law.
A statement by the Plateau State Chairman of MACBAN, Nura Muhammad Abdullahi, urged the Plateau State House of Assembly to “shun any agitations for the ban of the open grazing in the state.”
He said, “We are against any plan for cattle ranching by the government as being proposed by the G17, which is telling us to buy our land to cater for our cattle. We hope our positions are best understood.
“As peaceful and law-abiding citizens, we will continue to not only support the peaceful process, harp on the need to live in peace with one another; but we are seriously working to ensure that all live in peace. We, therefore, urge and caution our people not to shiver with the ill-conceived bill agitating for the ban of open grazing.
“We are also convinced that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the supreme law of the land, which guarantees freedom of movement and the right of citizens to live in any part of the country of their choice and embark on any legal business of their choice without any hindrance, restriction or molestation.”