Discuss the Open Grazing Prohibition Law in Nigeria 

Sedentary farmers and nomadic herders in Nigeria have clashed for decades over grazing fields and water. These clashes usually result in the loss of lives and livelihood and displacement. When the clashes reached a crescendo between 2015 and 2019, several state governments in the country enacted laws to regulate animal husbandry in their states. In this article, we’d be discussing the open grazing prohibition law as a strategic response aimed at addressing herder-farmer clashes in Nigeria. Read on. 

Discuss the Open Grazing Prohibition Law in Nigeria 

The open grazing prohibition law in Nigeria would be discussed below: 

  • Overview of Herder-Farmer Clashes in Nigeria

To understand open grazing prohibition laws in Nigeria better, we need to first dive into what warranted this response. Records of conflicts between farmers and nomadic herdsmen in Nigeria date decades ago. However, in the latter part of the 1990s, frequent and deadly clashes between sedentary farmers and nomadic herdsmen were recorded. These clashes continued, leading to high death tolls, destruction of agricultural produce, and human displacement. You may wonder what were the causative factors that led to the violent conflicts. From the findings of several analyses conducted to find out the reason behind these clashes, two major suggestions stand out. 

Mainstream analysts have severally opined that the reason why these clashes occur is due to the depleting grazing fields and water sources in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions of the country. As a result, nomadic herders are forced to move southward in search of grazing fields and water for their herds. This migration of the nomadic herdsmen towards the Middle Belt region where grazing fields and water abound usually ends up in a violent collision with sedentary farmers of the region. Nomadic herdsmen also migrate with their herds toward some Northwestern, Northcentral, and Southern states, resulting in equally high death tolls in their wake.  

To some other analysts, their suggestion for the reason for these attacks deviates from the mainstream analysis just discussed in the trailing paragraph. Instead, these analysts suggest that after the tactical defeat of Boko Haram by the nation’s security forces, splinter cells were forced to hide among the civilian population in remote and unguarded villages. This set of analysts proceeds to state that these terrorists carry out these attacks, which have been passed as herder-farmer conflicts. 

These incessant attacks, whether they be tagged herder-farmer conflicts or attacks by BH, what is certain is they have resulted in lots of damage. High death tolls, loss of means of sustenance, and human displacement are some of the things these attacks cause. Now with the background of the conflict established, let’s proceed to the response meted out by affected states. 

  • Enactment of Open Grazing Prohibition Law as a Response to Farmer-Herder Clashes in Nigeria 

Following the frequent and deadly clashes between sedentary crop farmers and nomadic livestock herders, authorities of affected states moved to enact laws that prohibited open grazing in their various domains. Benue and Taraba states were the initial states that passed laws prohibiting open grazing within their territories. As the clashes between herders and farmers continued, the southern governors, under the umbrella of the Southern Governors Forum, met in Asaba, Delta state, on May 11, 2021, to put heads together towards the herder-farmer clashes, among other security challenges. 

The resolution of the meeting of the Southern Governors Forum was for state governments of southern states to place a ban on open grazing by nomadic herders in the region. Thirteen southern states, including Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Ekiti, Enugu, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, and Ebonyi, went on to enact laws that placed bans on open grazing. For political reasons, however, Anambra,   Edo, Imo, and Cross River states, haven’t enacted such bills yet. Therefore, these 13 southern states plus Taraba and Benue states bring the number of states where open grazing prohibition laws have been enacted. 

  • Reception and Implications of Open Grazing Prohibition Law in Nigeria 

The reception of open grazing prohibition laws in Nigeria was not accepted by state actors at the federal level and pastoralist communities. The Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) challenged the constitutionality of the open grazing prohibition laws. The position of the AGN and MACBAN was that the open grazing prohibition law contravenes the freedom of Nigerians to reside and carry out legitimate business in any part of Nigeria. 

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on May 20, 2021, ruled that state governments could enact and implement open grazing prohibition laws within their territories. However, the implementation of the enforcement of the law has remained a challenge in Nigeria. As a result of the resistance against the law, particularly by state actors at the federal level, security agencies in the states where these laws operate didn’t enforce the laws. Aside from the non-enforcement of the laws by security agencies in states where the laws are being enforced, the other states still working out modalities for enforcement of the law, haven’t convincingly defined how erring pastoralists could be arrested and/or prosecuted.  

More so, there are concerns, especially by pastoralist communities that the open grazing prohibition laws enacted by southern states, as well as Taraba and Benue states, are discriminatory against nomadic herders.   

There is also the issue that aside from Taraba state, the legislative processes that led to the enactment of open grazing prohibition laws were not broad-based, consultative, and inclusive. This implies that the affected parties, that is, the public, farming communities, and pastoralist communities, were not involved in the legislative process as they should have been. Hence the stiff refusal to accept the provisions of open grazing prohibition laws by some segments. 

Open grazing prohibition laws across states in Nigeria have not been able to prevent the occurrences of clashes between farmers and herders due to the reasons we’ve discussed in this article. To do things right, the affected states should seek to balance opposing interests and address the fundamental causes of these clashes before major strides can be recorded. 


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