1 March 2018

West Africa: Govt Seeks Review of Ecowas Law On Free Grazing

Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo yesterday said there was need to review the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol that allows unrestricted movement of animals for grazing across all countries in the sub-region, stating that Nigeria's interest to protect lives and property of her citizen "must come first."Speaking at the Northern States Stakeholders Security Summit with the theme, National building: Security challenges and the need for inclusive approach in Kaduna, he stated that the review of the law has become imperative in the face of the clashes between farmers and herdsmen in parts of the federation.

Represented by Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, the Vice President noted that the desertification sweeping across the sub-region had forced herdsmen to migrate from their countries of origin to Nigeria in search of greener pastures, thereby making the nation more vulnerable.His words: "From the Sahel down, the desertification is encroaching and herdsmen are moving from their countries down to Nigeria to seek pasture. We must find something to do about that.

The ECOWAS law that allows free grazing across the West Africa sub-region has to be reviewed. Our interest must come first as a nation."Before we have a serious problem in our hand, the President is addressing this every day. He is meeting with everybody concerned, including farmers, herdsmen and community leaders."Asked if the position had been tabled before the ECOWAS Commission, Osinbajo said: " I am advocating for that, and that is what government will have to do very soon, to review this law that has been there for many years, that allows herdsmen to freely graze across West Africa. " We have to protect our country, we have to protect and secure our countrymen. It is very important.

However, Ojudu reiterated the President Muhammadu Buhari's commitment to ending the incessant clashes, maintaining that ranching would check the menace and increase the nutritional value of animals.The presidential aide noted: "Nigeria's population is growing and the herds are growing as well. Therefore, we have to find a solution.

"Much of the land where they graze in the past have become farmland to provide food for us, so we have to look at alternative ways of rearing our herds. The idea of taking herds from Sokoto, walking with them all the way to Bayelsa, has to be reviewed. It is not good for the animals neither is it good for the herdsmen and peace and stability of Nigeria.

"And that is why the Federal Government is advocating ranching. When you ranch, you don't have to take the animals all over the place. You are even likely to get better performance from the herds and even their nutritional value would increase as well as the farmers' income. "

Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has cautioned governors against arming security outfits in their states.Speaking also at the event, he noted that there were so many illegal arms in the land, saying the development was posing serious security challenge to the country.He, however, assured Nigerians of the force's readiness to contain the prevailing insecurity in the land.

The IG directed the 36 state police commissioners and that of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to mop up all illegal arms within 21 days, saying

person found with prohibited firearms at the expiration of the ultimatum shall be arrested and prosecuted.

Besides, Idris advised governors to establish grazing ranches for herdsmen men before enacting grazing laws as a preventive measure.He said: "It is when grazing ranches are established that herders can be arrested and punished for rearing and grazing in the open. Doing so, I am of the opinion that it will make the law acceptable by all parties."It will do us good if we avoid the hasty formulation and implementation of such laws across the country in the interest of peace and unity."

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