Three herdsmen identified as Iliya Garba, Hassan Abdullahi, and Lanshak Lonfalk, who were charged with criminal conspiracy and open nomadic livestock rearing and grazing, an offence punishable under Sections 97 of the Penal Code and 19 (2) of the Open Grazing Prohibition Ranches Establishment Law of Benue, 2017, were sentenced to a year imprison each for violating the law.
The herdsmen were arrested on February 18 in a joint patrol team of `Operation Zenda,’ led by Sgt. Edward Shinyi, and were brought to the State Criminal and Investigation Department, Makurdi according to their prosecutor Insp. Michael Iorundu.
“The team reported that the three herders, and others now at large, were openly grazing their cattle along Yeluwata Road in Guma Local Government Area of Benue.
When the case came up for mention, the herders pleaded guilty to the charge against them, saying that they were not aware that open grazing had been prohibited in Benue,’’ he said.
However before sentencing them, the Magistrate, Mrs Lillian Tsumba who noted that the herders were first offenders who were also illiterates and not even aware that open grazing has been prohibited in Benue, said law is law and must be obeyed in spite ignorance. She also gave the herdsmen the option of N500,000 fine, or they go on with their prison sentence.
Mrs Lillian Tsumba further disclosed, that the open grazing prohibition law required massive exposure and education of persons at the grassroots.
The sentencing is coming few days after the Nigerian army launched an exercise which will serve as a training avenue for troops and dovetail into an operation, to combat herdsmen attacks. Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State who was present at the launch, rocked a military attire to the event.
The exercise named “Ayem-A- Kpatuma, a Tiv word meaning “Cat race”, will be conducted in Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Niger states, and is scheduled to take off on 31st March.