The Anti-Open Grazing Law

Cows Grazing

Legal Informer: The Anti-Open Grazing Law

The Farmer-Herder crisis has recently been on the news, with Benue state and the status of the state’s Anti-Open Gazing Law being in the spotlight. It is the law that every citizen of Nigeria irrespective of tribe, sex or religion has a freedom of movement.

Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution as amended allows every Nigerian to reside and move freely anywhere in Nigeria without fear of rejection or discrimination. However, by Section 45 of the Constitution, there could be a legal instrument providing for the derogation to this right in interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons. By the provisions of Section 45 of the Constitution, an individual’s right of movement is not absolute. Such movement may be limited or restricted for the purpose of public safety or protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.    

In addition, by Section 1 of the Land Use Act, 1978, all lands within the geographical territory of a state in Nigeria are vested in the governor of the state. Section 12(1) of the Act empowers the governor to grant licence or permits to enter or use the land. Section 12(5) of the Act further empowers the governor to cancel any such licence if it fails to comply with the conditions of
the licence or revoke a right of occupancy for overriding public interest under Section 28 of the Act.
The farmer-herder crisis is Nigeria is a case of uneven distribution of resources with the major problem being access to land, causing herders to move from state to state for economic survival. For a harmonious existence between farmers and herders, certain states have enacted an Anti-Open Grazing Law.

The target of the Anti-Open Grazing Laws is to prevent destruction of crops and property by open rearing and grazing of livestock, prevent clashes between Nomadic livestock
herders and crop farmers, protect the environment from degradation, prevent, control, and manage the spread of diseases as well as ease the implementation of policies and enhance the production of high quality and healthy livestock for local, and international markets. For example, by the provisions of the Lagos State Anti￾Open Grazing Law, it is illegal to parade cattle on streets; cattle rearers are to get permits for cattle movement from the Ministry of Agriculture and those interested in ranching are to consult the Ministry for regulation and control. The Law does not entirely hinder the transportation of cows into the State it only restricts the rearing of cows on the streets. It is imperative at this point to mention that the Anti-Open Grazing Laws in addition to creating a harmonious existence between farmers and herders, may contribute tremendously to grazing management.

Grazing management is very essential for beef sustainability. Currently, Nigeria is at the brink of high food insecurity, it is paramount that a balance between livestock and crops is maintained.

Modernizing the livestock sector which is a major contributor to agricultural GDP, household nutrition, employment, manure, and international trade (especially leather) is seen to be one of the ways of ensuring food sustainability. The recent constitutional amendment further gives the state governments power to make strategic policies to guarantee, promote and sustain food security in the nation, this includes policies regarding both crops and animals. The State House of  Assembly by the constitutional amendment is mandated to employ strategic means, establish policies, and effectively implement these policies to ensure that food security is achieved at state level.

Food security at this time is essential to the nation, it is important that the states in exercising its powers implement laws that will achieve the nation’s food safety goals through modernization of farming and animal production, whilst maintaining peace between the farmers and herders in the country.

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