By Ephraim Ikpe
The people of Akwa Ibom State could perhaps not have bothered about the Grazing bill or whatever name the said bill would have been given if herdsmen, in the name of rearing cattle did not turn most persons in the southern part of the country and notably Christians into an endangered species in their own country via mass killings over the years.
The Bill tagged “A Bill to Regulate and Control Cattle grazing in Akwa Ibom State…” sponsored by Rt. Hon Nse Ntuen and eleven other legislators believed to have been crafted since 2016 has raised many dust via the print, electronic and social media platforms in the last few days in the state and beyond.
Some of the clauses in the bill are; “Any herdsmen found in possession of firearms shall be charged with unlawful possession of firearms.
“Any confiscated cattle shall be taken to government cattle ranches or any other designated areas as may be directed.
“Any property or farm products destroyed by the cattle shall be valued by the agricultural officers and made to be paid for by the herdsman.
“Cattle movement and grazing are restricted to the hours of 7am and 6pm.
“The law will empower the governor of the state to designate land in each local government in respect of which cattle or other ruminants may be permitted to graze.”
The clauses portray the good intentions of the sponsors of the bill. But most commentators on the bill disagree with the sponsors when taking a close look at the last clause above. While some alleged that he(Nse Ntuen) has been heavily bribed by some powerful influence from the north to push the bill against the people of Akwa Ibom, others argue that it is for the good of the state.
The position of those against Nse Ntuen here reverberates the efforts made by the northern legislators to push the National Grazing bill months ago but failed because the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremmadu had clarified that such issue was better left for the state to legislate as such was neither in the exclusive nor con-current list of the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria.
One of those persons this Paper interacted with said it was still a ploy of the north to change tactics to penetrate everywhere by lobbying the state legislators to make laws to provide for herdsmen to peacefully settle in the southern part of the country to actualize the Islamic agenda gradually.
Some persons are still worried that if the bill is finally put in place as a law, a niche would be carved for Fulani herdsmen to have a camping ground to smuggle in AK-47 and other riffles at night, their Boko Haram brothers , and with time begin to expand by procreation and could one night strike communities those ranches would be situated, kill, maim push the indigenes away and annex those ranches and gradually disposes the owners of the land over time.
Others have argued that if there is no ranch or area reserved for grazing and the herdsmen appear as devilishly bold to maim and kill people in the eastern and southern part of the country as they do, then when the law gives them a place in Akwa Ibom it could turn a worse scenario, hence have disagreed with anything giving any land in any local government area of Akwa Ibom as grazing area.
Emmanuel Sampson who spoke to our reporter argued that cattle rearing was business and those who wish to do such business in Akwa Ibom should look for and acquired lands for such purpose instead of the government giving free lands for herdsmen to operate.
In one of the social media platforms, one Michael argued that any governor under the influence of political campaign to succeed himself can allocate land to herdsmen to secure his ticket as his Party flag bearer which preferably would be handed to him by a Muslim from the north. He queried what is in that bill’s sponsorship for Nse Ntuen and his colleagues and why they have ignored to sponsor bills that would engender mechanized and large scale farming instead of seeking to sell Akwa Ibom Christian population to eternal slavery in the hands of Fulani herdsmen. He suggests outright banning of herdsmen in the state, saying that they have no respect for agreements.
In an open letter put at the public domain to the Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, one Ebong Ekanem from Ibesit Ekoi in Oruk Anam has alleged that Nse Ntuen was at the forefront of enslaving the state to the whims of the northern fulani zealots through the obnoxious Grazing bill.
According to Mr Ekanem, “while it is not out of place for the people of Akwa Ibom to help others who are in need, it should be emphasized that the principal cause of most of the ethnic and religious wars in the middle belt states such as Plateau, Benue, Kogi etc, for which over One million lives have been lost since 1980 Maitesine Riots was the decision of the indigenous people to accommodate the Hausa/Fulani herdsmen and traders in their ancestral lands.
“These penetrating religious and ethnic bigots are in the habit of tripling their population through uncontrolled marriage, child birth and forceful migration etc which inevitably leads to colonizing any area they live within a space of 10 years.
“To perfect this plan, Mr Speaker, ISIS and some Islamic multi billionaires in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt have pulled resources to lobby relevant persons in authority in Nigeria to either pass laws in favour of the Islamization policy or vote in fundamentalists into positions of authority”.
He appealed to the Speaker to stop the unfavourable bill from becoming law.
“Mr Speaker, to save the lives of our unborn children, l most humbly call on you to stop the passage of this bill into law, as it marks the beginning of our servitude to the Hausa-Fulani Islamists in Nigeria”, he stated.
Recalling how Nigerians rejected Buhari’s Grazing Bill, another commentator said, “59 schoolboys of the Federal Government College Buni-Yadi, Yobe State in North-East Nigeria were mercilessly slaughtered by fulani warriors like rams while sleeping in their dormitory. We can’t easily forget this indelible stain.
Do we forget the regular slaughter of hundreds of people every day on a flimsy excuse of missing cows? In Uyo last month, human beings were attacked by fulani men because of a missing N25,000 generator. Today, Nse Ntuen and his colleagues want each local government in our state to provide enough land free to settle these marauders who are constant threats to peace wherever they settle”.
The bill said to have passed through second reading is described by one Ofonime on Whatsapp as even “more obnoxious, questionable, retrogressive, dangerous a Bill, than the embattled Property Charge bill” in the same Assembly.
In a quick reaction, one Archibong Peter dropped a comment in 9jaecho.com in defence of Rt. Hon. Nse Ntuen after reading Ebong Ekanem’s petition to the Speaker thus; “After going through this petition, I wish to reassure the writer that the Islamization of Akwa Ibom State as alleged is untrue, very far from fact and a figment of the imagination of the conjurers. It is baseless, lacks restraint, moral content and tantamount to a demented fabrication.
“The alleged wiring of money to the Hon. Member representing Essien Udim has no element of truth and serves no other useful purpose other than destroying the image of the person involved. In as much as I don’t know the personalities involved here, may I appeal that good sense should prevail in our public conduct to usher in peace at all times instead of smearing and denting the image of one another, with lies and unfounded allegations”.
In his stout defence of the House of Assembly, Godwin Akpan in a news feature stated that the bill still has the third reading to go through before it becomes law and that persons and groups could still avail themselves the opportunity during the public hearing to state their cases why the bill should be withdrawn.
According to Godwin Akpan, “In giving credence to the Bill, the Speaker of the House, Barr Onofiok Luke, who himself is a proponent of the Grazing Bill, having in 2003, moved a motion on the floor of the House seeking full government control of the activities of herdsmen in the state by taking proactive steps to ensure that areas were designated for grazing, said Ntuen’s Grazing Bill is a reflection of the assembly’s people-centred philosophy. He said there was need for the House to act proactively to safeguard the lives and properties of residents in the state.
He said “the House of Assembly is here to make laws that will safeguard the lives and properties of our people at all times because this is what we were elected to do.”
It is therefore not a surprise to discover that most of the AKHA members threw their support behind the bill and promised to support the smooth passage of the bill for the benefit of the people and the general development, peace and security of the state. These were the sentiments of some members of the House regarding the Grazing Bill.
For Hon. Ime Okon, representing Ibiono Ibom and Hon. Friday Iwok who speaks for Abak; “The extent to which the activities of herders have endangered the lives and properties of farmers in the country is quite alarming. It was time that laws were made to ensure that people are protected.”
For Hon. Otobong Ndem and Hon. Otobong Akpan; “It is dangerous for government to not act at a time when there are reckless killings and destructions of properties by herdsmen in the country.”
Hon. (Princess) Mfon Ekong; “Those who suffered the most at the hands of the Fulani herdsmen and their cattle were women. It is time adequate law is put in place to check the operations of the herdsmen.”
On her part, the House Deputy Speaker, Princess Felicia Bassey said; “It was important that her colleagues gave their full support to the bill so as to ensure government at the state level turns its search light fully on criminals who claim to be herdsmen.” Others also in support are: Hon. Mark Esset, Hon. Nse Essien, Hon Aniekan Uko and Hon. Uduak Odudoh and Hon. Barr. Aniefiok Dennis”.
Co-sponsors of the bill are Hon(Princess) Felicia Bassey, Rt. Hon (Sir) Udo Kierian Akpan, Rt. Hon. Barr Ime Okon, Rt. Hon. (Elder) Aniekan Uko, Rt. Hon. Udo Gabriel Toby, Hon Barr Aniefiok Denis, Hon. Engr Otobong Ndem, Hon. Mark Eset, Hon. David Lawrence, Hon. Idongesit Ituen and Hon. Dr. Usoroh Akpanusoh.
Real Property Charge Bill: Stupendous and Uncharitable
The 6th House of Assembly of Akwa Ibom State presided over by Rt. Hon Barr Onofiok Luke is populated by very responsible and agile men and a few women who were elected at the platform of their Parties to serve the people of Akwa Ibom State.
From the benefit of hindsight AKHA, popularly christened the People’s House, has not been found daunting in doing just that assignment ever since it was inaugurated by the executive governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.
The common refrain as rancour, confusion, power play and jostling to out-smart the Speaker as typical of some State Houses of Assembly in the country, is alien to AKHA for now, though in recent times there have been undercurrent steams which some key players in the Assembly have dismissed as rumour.
The Speaker is doing well by carrying members along, little wonder that he is loved by many, especially youths in the state. This same House in the last one year has churned out many Bills for the governor’s accents and Motions for the actions of the governor in favour of Akwa Ibom people.
However, in the last few days the People’s House seems to have come under cross fire in the court of public opinions akin to a battle field of mis-interpreted, mis-judged or misunderstood missions. The first was the Property Charge Bill and then came the “Bill for a Law to Regulate and Control Cattle Grazing in Akwa Ibom State…”.
The sponsors and co-sponsors of these Bills may not have sought to do so with bad intentions, but contingent upon what is on ground and practicable at this time of our economy, the public outburst on these issues have thrown up many dimensions that call for care, calm and close examination of the two Bills to assuage the tensions and angst of the people.
For instance, the Sponsor of the Real Property Charge Bill and the House of Assembly came under serious attack by the public because introducing such a bill at this time of economic recession is viewed as anti-people, evil, stupendous and uncharitable. The co-sponsors were branded haters of the people till some of them started claiming [in writing] they did not give their consent.
In a bid to wriggle out, arguments came forth from a member of the House that the charge will not affect the poor. But admittedly, the Bill in section 2 of the bill which prescribes properties to be taxed says, “The charge shall be payable on all property, except property owned by and occupied by religious body and used exclusively for public worships or religious education, cemeteries and burial grounds, registered institution and educational institute certified by the commissioner for finance, and property specifically exempted by the governor of the State by notice published in the State government official gazette”.
Following from section 2, the bill says in section 4 that “every owner of any property situated in the state shall be liable to pay, in respect of each taxable property owned by him”.
With the position of the Bill above, the poor would not be spared. Meaning the House should, on the matter of this property charge bill, tread with care to avoid incurring the wrath of the people they represent. After all, no person leads or represents anybody until people grant him such powers to do so through their votes.
The AKHA leadership observing that nine months [May 2016 to Feb 2017] was enough for any co-sponsor of the said Real Property Charge Bill to have followed the House procedure and withdraw his sponsorship instead of disparaging the House to seek for cheap popularity stated through its House Committee on Information, Rt. Hon. Barr Ime Okon that “whereas every member has the right to disagree with the content of legislation, the attempt to take advantage of perceived public condemnation of the bill and try to seek cheap popularity tantamount, with respect, to an afterthought, cowardice, utter disregard for esprit de corps and parliamentary ethics and contentions moreso when the Honourable members have not exhausted the internal mechanisms to seek redress”.
Much as it is not out of place to legislate for the benefit of creating more wealth for the State through IGR , since this is not an executive bill[even though it were], sponsors of the Real Property Charge Bill should, during the public hearing,[ if it would come up at all], listen to the voice of reason, do the needful, expunge or amend necessary clauses to ensure nothing connected to that bill will put any sort of pressure on the common people of Akwa Ibom State or out rightly withdraw the said bill completely. We also call on the public to get ready to state their cases during the public hearing why the property charge bill should not be passed into law.
It is not gainsaying the fact that this sort of bill may have worked in cosmopolitan cities with many industries and manufacturing concerns from which the taxes are drawn, but not in a civil service state with millions of low income earners and tons of hundreds of thousands of unemployed people from families who live on daily basis below internationally accepted income levels.
Meanwhile, we stoutly commend the court of public opinion for standing to speak for the masses who may not even be aware of what is going on in the House of Assembly as concerns this obnoxious bill. Many persons and groups lend their voices to this clarion call on the House of Assembly to drop the controversial bill via the print and social media. We commend them.
We also commend the contributions of Policy Alert, an NGO that bothers itself with fiscal governance, policies and legislation. We align our thinking to their position that “the bill is based on these three premises; (1) that the bill is ill-timed as most of government’s economic and job policies are yet to start producing results. The state’s economy is not in any shape to sustain this kind of policy and if at all we must, then the bill should specify a phased implementation beginning from the high income bracket. There should be a built in moratorium to protect the poor (2) that in terms of content, the Bill is anti-poor and prone to abuse, which means that we cannot accept such a legislation until it is reworked to protect the interest of the masses; and (3) that there are no inbuilt guarantees within the legislation to ensure accountability to the property owners, other citizens and stakeholders”. (C) The Waves Newspaper, Uyo.
[14:06, 3/1/2017] +234 802 659 7701: Dakkada Ambassador joins APC
It is a lie – Governor’s Aide
By Divine Sam
The Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Marketing and Brand Management, Mr. Ime Uwa has risen in strong defense of the said Dakkada Ambassador who has been accused of defecting to APC due to non-availability of funds to run the Dakkada programme saying that, contrary to some widely-held rumour, the Dakkada programme is not a breeding ground for cultists.
The governor’s aide made the rebuttal while interacting with newsmen over the weekend. He said, instead of Dakkada chieftain to join a party that is not effective even at the National level he preferred to go with PDP which, according to him is the only party with track records and that Dakkada has succeeded in curbing youth restiveness and thuggery in the state.
He stated that over 15,000 youths from across the 31 local government areas of the state have signed up to the tenets of the initiative, namely; to rise to their faith of greatness by trying their hands on some productive ventures to help both themselves and the state economy.
The SA also denied claims that the Dakkada Ambassadors are on the safe agreement with some members of the APC stalwart at the National to join the party in future , adding that it was a fabrication by the camp of the opposition party.
One of the Ambassadors from Eket L. G. A Prince Godwin Ikpong said there were so many members of the opposition who are now begging to join the Dakkada team but could not because their nature. You know most of this people they call Dakadda Ambassadors were formally members of various responsible clubs in the country and we know the lining light of the APC .
The Dakkada initiative, which was launched on September 23, 2015 and was widely applauded initially, has today has gone afar attracting men of good visions across many parts of the country. [News Story] (C) The Waves Newspaper
[14:08, 3/1/2017] +234 802 659 7701: Umana Seeks PDP Partnership to Develop Ibaka Deep Sea Port
By Divine Sam
Towards improved bilateral relations and investment partnership between Nigeria and Malaysia, the DG of Oil & Gas Free Zones Authority, Mr Umana Okon Umana met with the people to discussed way forward for the successful operation of his office and appealed for a cordial relationship between the people of the state considering the similarity in natural resources deposited in state
Mr Umana briefed the people on the potential of business support incentives his Agency offers investors at Oil and Gas Free Zones across the country, from consultancy, to Land use, Custom clearance and tax rebate which means that for the state to enjoy the benefits of the OGFZA they have to work together as a team.
The MD OGFZA hinted that Ibaka was listed as one of the new zones the agency plans to develop by providing infrastructures like access roads to enable potential investors embark on site tour, related industrial goods as well as infrastructure for investors in the free zones, adding that the Oil and Gas Authority was willing to partner with any investors by using the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model to achieve its mandate and business plan and called on the people of the state to play down on party interest for the smooth operation of the Agency and assured to render selfless service to the people of the state and country.[News Story] (C) The Waves Newspaper
[14:10, 3/1/2017] +234 802 659 7701: Former Speaker Advised to sheathe his sword against PDP state chairman
May decamp to APC if….
By Divine Sam
The former Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly
Mr. Samuel Ekon has been advised to resolve his differences with the state Party Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Obong Paul Ekpo.
The problem is the issue of who emerges the next executive chairman of Etinan L. G. A
Ikon who is currently representing Etinan Federal Constituency in the N/Assembly, is allegedly in a serious face off with the state chairman of PDP as a result of his decision to impose his nephew as the next council boss of the area.
Stakeholders of the area have asked him to let go whatever grievances he had with Obong Paul Ekpo but rather work as a team and collectively produce a Chairmanship candidate who will be the choice of the people of the area.
Mr. Ekpono Inyang the spoke person of Etinan Unity for Democracy said they have decided to call for a peaceful talk between the legislator and the PDP leadership in the state to put their house in order, regretting that it will be a very bad impression if both of them, battle against each other as a result of trying to impose a candidate.
The group advised the legislator that decamping from the party that created a platform for him be who he is today is not the way forward, advising him to settle for a choice of the person who will represent the wish of Etinan people. [News Story] (c) The Waves Newspaper