Anti-Open Grazing Bill: Edo’s unique approach
By John Ewah
For political, ethnic and other passionate considerations, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has been under pressure lately to honour the Delta Accord and fast track the process for the legislation of a law totally banning open grazing in Edo State like some of his counterparts have done already.
While it may be compelling on the Governor to do same for the purpose of political correctness and get applauds or encomiums from teeming members of the public, especially on the social media, who have chosen to paint the Governor’s assumed disposition towards the proposed law with diverse forms of political colourations, it is also pertinent to consider the socio-economic implications of an outright ban without alternatives. A slight shift in perspective may help bring us into proper focus.
Should we downplay sentiments and emotions and get more practical and pragmatic in approaching the anti-open grazing issue, we may yet evolve a more practical plan that would not only put a stop to open grazing but at the same time, guarantee a socio-economic leeway for Edos.
Only a people-oriented governance approach will restrain a government from rushing to enact a law without considering the economic implications, enforceability and other social implications such laws would have on the people. For a government kills its people when it takes away their means of livelihood.
About 75,000 cattle are consumed in Benin city alone, annually. What happens then to cattle meat dealers, wholesalers and retailers who are mainly Edos? As a matter of fact, majority of cattle owners in Edo State are Edo indigenes who employ Fulanis for the husbandry of these cattle.
Some people have suggested an outright boycott of beef. But how many of them have really stopped eating meat from cattle? In this country, talk is cheap. We have to be realistic and practical in our approach to issues. The domino effect of an outright ban without alternatives would leave many Edo indigenes stranded.
These considerations constituted the background for the recent Edo State Stakeholders’ Summit on the proposed anti-open grazing law, which allowed the people a say in the making of the said law.
The summit saw representatives from various segments of the state; civil society organisations, traditional institutions, local communities, religious bodies, butchers’ association, cattle rearers association and other relevant bodies, who gave their various opinions on the proposed law, and were also afforded a period of two weeks to come up with mutually-beneficial suggestions that address the grey areas of concerns in terms of enforceability, food security, socio-economic considerations and other germane issues that formed the centre of discourse during the meeting.
That open grazing must give way to a modern approach to animal husbandry is inevitable as the global community is no longer in synchrony with the nomadic approach that has continued to create rifts between host communities and herders.
It is also pertinent to state that the cattle business provides sustenance for a large number of people in the state who are mostly Edos, and as such, while enacting a law prohibiting open grazing, alternative ways that sustain the cattle business should be proffered in the same law.
The governor has so far shown strong commitments towards the anti-open grazing cause by joining his southern colleagues to publicly denounce its practice for a modern approach. The good people of Edo State must now rally behind him in charting a new direction in this regard that would be beneficial to all Edo citizens.
*_Ewah is resident in Benin-City_*