By Terver Akase
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor
On Monday, May 22 this year, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom made history when he signed the state's Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law 2017. The enactment of the law has continued to receive applause from many Nigerians who describe it as the best solution to the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the state. 

Before the enactment of the law, economic activities particularly farming were badly affected in parts of Benue State as the people lived in constant fear of attacks from gun bearing herdsmen who invaded communities, killed and destroyed property worth billions of naira. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes as a result of the crisis.
Efforts to find a permanent solution to the herders-farmers crisis were not yielding the desired results. 

This was why the passage of the anti-open grazing bill by the Benue State House of Assembly later signed by Governor Ortom was received with joy and relief by the people. The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigerian, MACBAN also described the law as the best step towards lasting peace.
The State House of Assembly passed the anti-open grazing bill following public hearings it conducted in the three senatorial zones of the state which drew participants from all walks of life including herdsmen. 

The anti-open grazing law specifically permits grazing of livestock only within ranches and prohibits the movement of animals from one destination to another in the State except by rail, trucks and other vehicles. 

It spells out punishment for offenders ranging from imprisonment to payment of fines on conviction by a law court. 

Interestingly, the law also protects livestock and ranches as it stipulates severe punishment for any person convicted for rustling cattle or any other animals kept in ranches. 

Considering the novel nature of the law, Governor Samuel Ortom and his administration decided to give people ample time to study and understand implications of the new legislation while livestock owners prepared for ranching. Implementation of the law was therefore delayed by five months which ended yesterday.

The Governor's decision to sign the law but allow five months to elapse before its implementation commences is another proof that the law has come with a human face and it is not targeted at a particular group of persons. 

It must be pointed out that apart from the security concerns that the anti-open grazing law is to address, the ranching policy of the Ortom Administration is aimed at fully exploiting agriculture value chain advantages in Benue State as it is the practice in most developed countries. 

Another economic benefit is that by confining cattle and other animals in a ranch as stipulated by the law, the problem of green pasture will be addressed with the creation of a new value chain as unemployed youths would take the advantage and be encouraged to go into the production of special grass for sale to ranch-owners.
The Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law is a tested revenue earner not only for the state but also for the country. 

It is gladdening to note that since the promulgation of the law, relative peace has returned to the communities affected by the crisis, leading to full resumption of farming and other socio-economic activities. 

To further demonstrate his commitment to the implementation of the law, Governor Ortom has already inaugurated the livestock guards and advisory committee charged with enforcement of the act across the State. 

Though Governor Ortom has received calls and threats to discourage him from implementing the law, he has remained focused on the task at hand which he considers to be the best solution to the frequent crisis between herdsmen and farmers. 

The Benue State Government has already set in motion the machinery to provide land for pilot ranches. This is to help livestock owners who may find the establishment of private ranches challenging. 

In its determination to contain other security challenges, the Ortom administration also promulgated the anti cultism, kidnapping and hostage taking law following the increasing wave of violence associated with the vices. 

The anti open grazing law is Benue people's legislation designed to guarantee lasting peace and should not be politicized; neither should some persons conspire to sabotage its implementation. 

The Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law of 2017 in Benue State has come to stay and should therefore be supported by all.

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