Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose on Thursday released nine cows ‘arrested’ and ‘detained’ in some parts of the state for contravening the Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing Law back to their owners.
The cows were seized by the operatives of Ekiti Grazing Enforcement Marshals (EGEM) recently inaugurated to crack down on grazing outside hours allowed by law and in unauthorised places.
This was consequent upon a stakeholders’ meeting held by Fayose with the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Ekiti and Southwest, traditional rulers and Fulani Community where the governor also signed a peace pact with the body.
MACBAN after signing the agreement promised that its members will abide by the new law regulating grazing in Ekiti State and coexist peacefully with farmers and residents.
As part of the measures to curb friction between the two sides, cattle breeders operating in Ekiti State are to register with the traditional rulers of their host communities. The governor also agreed to the proposal that members of the MACBAN be part of the patrol teams.
The free registration must, however, be done within the next 14 days after which the registered names would be forwarded to the state government for data keeping.
The event, which took place at the Government House grounds, had farmers, traditional rulers, state government officials and MACBAN leaders and members from across the South-West region in attendance.
But Fayose reiterated that the only hours allowed by law for grazing in the state remain 7.00 am to 6.00 pm insisting that any cow seen outside the 6.00 pm will be arrested alongside with the superintending herdsman and the owner face a jail term of six months without any option of fine.
The governor explained that traditional rulers have been empowered to enforce the grazing law in their domains and apportion lands to herdsmen to do their businesses under a controlled situation.
Fayose said: “I have decided to release these cows to strengthen our union. So, I expect you to comply with the law because after now if you contravene the law, we will take appropriate sanctions against you.
“You can’t because you are rearing cows be destroying our farmlands. Our people rely on these farms to survive and the moment you are destroying them, then they will not be interested in going into farming and hunger will affect all of us.
”You are all my brothers and there is no reason to trouble you. Many of you have been here for long and your families are here too. Ali Garba from Malumfashi , Kaduna State was part of my first term administration and currently an Igbo man is a councillor in Ward 10 of Ado Local Government. What we are doing today is to ensure a peaceful relationship between you, your host communities and the state government.
“Those killed in Oke Ako are gone and can’t be alive again and we should not allow a repeat of such terrible incident. Ekiti people buy cattle from you and you are making profits.
“We are not asking for much, just for you to obey our law.The law is not targeted at those who obey the law.You have to register with traditional ruler of your host community.
”It is you who will inform the monarch of new faces coming to join you or pretending to be herdsmen. Going armed will not be tolerated. No form of weapon is allowed in Ekiti State for cattle rearing.
“A company will be monitoring your activities from the air. They have done air surveillance of Ijero Forest Reserve and we saw some buildings deep down the forest. We must all be security conscious,” he noted.
Fayose threatened to deal with whoever harasses the cattle rearers while doing their legitimate businesses, urging the leaders of Miyetti Allah to always report directly to him any case of intimidation and oppression against their members.
Speaking earlier, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Owoseni Ajayi said the law was drafted to curb the excesses of some cattle farmers.
In his remarks, the Southwest leader of MACBAN, Alhaji Mohammed Kabir, who said he was born and bred in Abeokuta, Ogun State, said his group had gone round states in the region to sensitise members on the need for peaceful co-existence.
He added that the effort resulted in the few recorded cases of herdsmen/farmers clashes in the region compared to the South-East and the Middle Belt.
Speaking on behalf of traditional rulers in the state, the Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti, Oba Adebayo Adewole, said the governor spoke the minds of Ekiti people.
The monarch said: ”What we want is what our governor has said and that is peaceful coexistence. Farming is our profession and what the governor told you is what the people are telling him.
“We are peace-loving here and not murderers. We want the peace to continue to reign and we are satisfied with how your leaders have spoken.”