Laws are made to be obeyed for the good of all and where not obeyed, there should be enforcement, but such is not about some extant laws in Bayelsa state. JOY EMMANUEL examines such laws.
Indeed, it is one thing to enact good laws that looks human in order to govern a society; yet, another problem is implementing or enforcing such laws, especially in a country like Nigeria with lots of impunity in low and high places.
Undisputably, there are several good laws in the country that are either contained in the Exclusive, Concurrent or in the Residual List. In the real sense of it, laws are made to checkmate impunity and human excesses in order to make society habitable. Unfortunately in Nigeria, investigation reveals that certain laws are obeyed by a particular set of persons while other persons appear to be above the law. In extreme cases, some existing laws are never implemented.
This is why in the views of many people, most of the extant laws in the land only exist in the books or at most allegedly obeyed by the less privileged. To the rich and mighty, it appears those laws are mere paper tiger.
Example of such laws
In Bayelsa state, for instance, there are many of such laws that only reside on papers and in the minds of the people but actually not in practice. For example, the Bayelsa State Anti-Kidnapping Law which was enacted by the state legislature and signed into law by the former governor, now Senator Seriake Dickson is an example of such laws that can clearly be said to exist only on paper. The law in very clear terms stipulates death penalty for anyone found guilty of kidnapping.
Since it was signed into law, there had been several reported cases of kidnapping whereby the culprits were nabbed in the act but none has been made to face the full weight of the law.
At most when arrested, the suspects are either kept in awaiting trial while those with god-father connections are left off the hook days after. The negative effect of not enforcing this existing laws is that the menace is gaining more grounds in the face of a supposed capital punishment spelt out for perpetrators.
This also brings to mind the negligent attitude of the state government and custodians of the law over an existing caveat that was made to ensure that all livestock are confined to particular places as it is practised in advanced climes.
Despite the signing into law of a bill tagged, ‘Livestock Breeding and Marketing Regulation Bill 2021’ which was earlier passed by the state House of Assembly, open grazing of cattles by the herdsmen is still a normal practice in the state.
The law, which was assented to by Governor Douye Diri on March 10, 2021, prohibits open grazing in the state. With the coming into effect of the law, herdsmen and cattle owners are expected to be confined to a space at the popular Bayelsa Palm Road for them to carry out their business of breeding livestocks.
Although in a bid to ensure proper enforcement, the Bayelsa State Livestock Management Committee led by Comrade Clever Inodu was set up. The team has been impounding cows that are allegedly loitering on the streets of Yenagoa, the state capital.
When the enforcement team monitored the level of compliance by the livestock owners after impounding over 30 defaulting cows in the state recently, Inodu said the committee would leave nothing to chance towards ensuring that the ban placed on open grazing of livestock in the state is fully enforced.
Inodu, who is also the chairman of the Central Zone of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), warned operators of livestock business in the state to obey the law or face the consequences. He said he received a call from the commissioner for agriculture and natural resources that some cows were still roaming the streets, after which he immediately swung into action and intercepted the cows.
“We want to make it very clear by making this as an example to the public and cattle rearers in Bayelsa state,” he said.
Although the effort of the committee in ensuring that cattle rearers in the state keep to the law is comendable, it seems the herders and their cows are above the law as they remain conspicuos in different parts of the state to the point that one wonders why the enforcement team has not deemed it fit to extend its monitoring power to the activities of herdsmen in other parts of the state. Of late, it has assumed a worrisome dimension that cows not just roam the open bushes and streets in the state capital and other places but also destroy farmlands and crops with high level of impunity.
Apart from destroying crops which serve as sources of livelihood to majority of Bayelsans, at the slightest provocation, the herders have are hostile always threaten to harm or even kill the peasant farmers who dare to challenge them for using their livestock to destroy their farmlands and crops. This potends grave danger not only to the unprotected farmers but the entire state because an injury to one, they say, is injury to all.
It is still fresh in our memory how some months ago, a father and his son where fatally attacked and injured at Otuoke bush in Ogbia local government area of the state by some unidentified herdsmen simply because they were challenged for destroying farmlands in the area. Consequently, many farmers in the state have refrained from going to their farmlands to bring food to the table for their families because they are afraid of being killed by the aggressive herders. This, no doubt, contributes to shortage and rise in the prices of foodstuffs.
Not comfortable with the quantum destruction of the farmlands and crops, women in the state especially those living in upland local government areas such as Sagbama, Ogbia, Yenagoa and Kolokuma-Opokuma have been trooping out in their numbers to protest the injustice meted to them by the normadic Fulanis and their cattles.
The farmers have become helpless as they watch their source of livelihood being destroyed because government fails on its responsibility to allow the extant laws to take its course. The plights of the suffering masses on this subject matter can only be best imagined than experienced. If the recalcitrant herders are arrested and brought to book in accordance with the extant law regulating their activities, it would put a permanent stop to the incessant deadly herder/farmer clashes which had led to deaths of many and the destruction of valuable property. It is not enough for governments at all levels to merely promulgate good laws, it is more important to ensure that such laws are implemented for the benefit of the populace who are often at the receiving end to avoid lawlessness
To that extent, the full implementation of the Bayelsa State Livestock Breeding and Marketing Regulation Law 2021 is all that the people of the state need.
Therefore given its importance and life saving nature, the anti-open grazing law should not be grouped among many Nigerian laws that had since been reduced to mere paper tiger.