The menace of cattle grazing at public places and residential areas in state capitals, major towns has remained a constant source of national concern. In many Nigerian cities, cattle are seen occupying highways and disrupting orderliness in human activities. This assumed a new dimension recently when authorities at the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, raised an alarm over the malaise. According to the FCTA, it is improper to graze cattle or other livestock in the city centre and environs, because it constitutes public nuisance and hazard to road users.
The Permanent Secretary, FCTA, Engineer John Chukwu, who raised the concern, warned herdsmen grazing livestock in and around the Federal Capital City to desist forthwith or face the full wrath of the law. He emphasised that the practice has adverse effects on the environment and must not be allowed to continue, especially in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria and the window through which the world sees the country.
He said that all hands must be on deck to ensure the adequate maintenance of the Abuja environment in accordance with the change mantra of the Federal Government. He therefore directed Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, to ensure full compliance since the city does not have designated areas for grazing in the Abuja master plan. Like Abuja, the nation’s capital and its satellite towns, it is the same scenario in our state capitals, major cities and towns nationwide where it is not uncommon to see herdsmen grazing along the streets and major roads as if it is the norm.
In some cities, it is a common sight to see even domestic animals straying into or occupying highways as a result of lack of domestic control or enabling law for keeping livestock at home. Sometime ago, during an era of a PDP-led administration in Edo State, visiting journalists for the first time at the State House on Dennis Osadebey Way in Benin City, the state capital, were shocked to see cow dung litter the premises of the seat of government, a state monument and symbol of pride.
This is one out of many accounts of how herdsmen have turned significant and symbolic monuments, government institutions, major highways and trunk ‘A’ roads among others, across the country, into grazing fields for their livestock.
It is notable that environmental laws prohibit grazing of livestock. One of the consequences of grazing at non-grazing places includes incessant communal clashes between farmers/herdsmen arising from destruction of farmlands and crops by the livestock. Often, the crisis snowballs into religious and ethnic conflict leading to countless loss of lives and property in places such as Plateau, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Benue, Nasarawa and other states of the country.
We maintain that it is improper to turn every place to grazing fields, particularly in Abuja, the FCT. There is a need to invoke applicable laws to restrict such public nuisance in the capital city. Where there are no such laws, the National Assembly that makes laws for the FCT should take legislative action with a view to restoring environmental sanity in the FCT. Similarly, various state agencies and the FCTA as rightly pointed out by the permanent secretary should rise to the challenge by dusting the extant laws and apply them accordingly.
We further urge the National Assembly to revisit quickly the Grazing Bill, which it dumped in the last session. The time to make a grazing route law is now, as it will help in tackling this recurrent crisis involving herdsmen, farmers and government authorities.