Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom Thursday, January 20th, 2022, gave assent to an amendment to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law of the State 2017 to provide stiffer penalties to offenders.
By the amendment, the owner of an impounded cow, pig, sheep or goat as well as bird or poultry will now pay fines ranging from N50,000, N10,000, N5,000 and N1,000 respectively per cow, pig, sheep or goat and bird or poultry for violating the ranching law.
The amendment also provides that when the impounded animals are not claimed by the owner within 24 hours, an additional fine of N20,000 per cow per day, N1,000 per pig per day, N500 per sheep or goat per day and N100 per bird or poultry per day shall be paid compulsorily by the violator whose animals may have strayed.
According to the amendments, other expenses as may be determined by the Quarantine Department shall be considered provided the prescribed fines are subject to periodic upward review as deemed appropriate.
Section (8) of the law provides that “any person who employs, hires or involves a child to commit an offence under the ranching law shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to 14 years imprisonment or N5 million fine or both.”
According to section (5) as amended, “any person found moving livestock on foot within or across urban centres, rural settlements or any part of the state or owner of those livestock or manager of a ranch from where the livestock emanates, commits an offence and is liable to:
“For the fist offender, a fine of N500,000 and subsequent offender, a fine of N1,000,000 and for the owner of the livestock or manager of the ranch, a fine of N500,000 or one year imprisonment.”
Governor Ortom while giving his assent said it was discovered that there was a lacuna in the law which he noted came as a “child of necessity, following killings, maiming and destruction of villages by militia herdsmen which had also led to the displacement of over 1.5 million persons.”
Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Titus Uba, who presented the amendments for the Governor’s assent said it will make the law stronger and more effective.