Defence minister wants states to suspend grazing laws

Amidst growing concern over rising security challenges, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday met behind closed doors with the nation’s security chiefs.

Those who attended the meeting held behind closed doors inside one of the conference halls of the President’s office included the Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (retd.); National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; and the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin.

Others were the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ekwe Ibas; a representative of the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris; and Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar.

Dan-Ali, in a statement signed by his Public Relations Officer, Col. Tukur Gusau, made available to journalists at the end of the meeting, said he suggested the suspension of the implementation of anti-grazing laws in some states while negotiating safe routes for herders.

He argued that the suspension of the law “would reduce tension.”

The anti-open grazing law is currently operational in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba states.

In Ekiti State, the law, signed by Governor Ayo Fayose in 2016, prohibits open-grazing between 6 pm and 7 am.

Governor Samuel Ortom followed suit in 2017 with a law that places an absolute ban on open-grazing across Benue State.

Taraba State passed the anti-grazing law in July 2017, but it came into effect on January 24 this year, with a caveat that it would be implemented gradually after aggressive awareness campaigns across the state.

Dan-Ali, according to the statement, suggested the “need to employ other channels with the affected states to reduce tension by suspending the implementation of the anti-open grazing law while also negotiating safe routes for herders; the urgent need for the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Services to prosecute all the suspects arrested in states; and the need to hasten the establishment of a National Commission on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Nigeria.”

The minister also suggested the inauguration of a Joint Task Force Operation similar to the Operation Safe Haven in Jos, with the headquarters in Gusau to cover Zamfara and Birnin Gwari axis of Kaduna State, where kidnappings and killings had also been on the rise.

The minister explained that the council considered the killings and kidnappings in the North-West, particularly along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway even as the service chiefs reviewed the activities of bandits and other criminal elements in Anka, Maru, Kaura Namoda and Atalanta Mafara areas of Zamfara State.

Meanwhile, the police in Benue State have declared that 188 persons are currently facing prosecution over the anti-open grazing law in the state.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, who addressed Journalists on Tuesday in Makurdi, said, “Aside of the herdsmen attacks, there are noticeable crimes within the state. For instance, there are rising cases of cultism, communal clash and robbery.

“In Sankara axis, 17 armed robbery suspects were arrested. Armed robbery and abduction in this axis are attributable to Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as ‘Gana’, who has been dominating crime in the area.”

The commissioner added, “In summary, 30 suspects have been arrested in connection with cult-related cases. In one  month, 34 suspects have been arraigned for violating anti-open grazing law and if we add this to the previous ones, we have 188 suspects who have been arraigned for anti-open grazing law since January.

“Also, 61 suspects are facing trial for culpable homicide occasioned by armed insurgents associated with herdsmen,” Owoseni said.

PUNCH.

News Reporter

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