AN Ado-Ekiti Chief Magistrate’s Court yesterday sentenced a herdsman, Ali Haruna, to two years imprisonment for grazing his cows on a farmland. The 18-year-old Haruna was sentenced by Chief Magistrate Idowu Ayenimo after he was found guilty of two-count charge of willful and unlawful damage of farm crops at Ago Aduloju settlement on the outskirts of Ado-Ekiti. Haruna was first arraigned in court on January 22, 2016 and four witnesses gave evidence against him that he was caught in the farm belonging to Abdullahi Yaho and Bello Muhammed in the midnight, grazing his herd of cows.
The cash crops destroyed by the cows in the farm included cassava, maize, okro and pepper – all valued at N3 million. The defendant, while testifying in court, revealed that the owner of the cows lived in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. The defence counsel, Chris Omokhafe, had prayed the court to be liberal in the dispensation of justice, saying that he was a first offender. The magistrate, in his judgment, said the court did not believe Haruna’s defence as it was not credible. He held that the police prosecutor, Sgt. Olasunkanmi Bankole, had proved his case beyond reasonable doubt.
Ayenimo, consequently, convicted the defendant as charged without an option of fine. The magistrate ordered that the sentence should run concurrently, explaining that the term was minimal because the offence was committed before the Grazing Law was assented to by Governor Ayo Fayose. The Ekiti State House of Assembly recently passed a bill prohibiting open grazing in unauthorised places and also criminalised bearing of arms by herdsmen. The bill was sponsored by the Executive after the killing of two persons by suspected herdsmen in Oke Ako community in Ikole Local Government Area.
The new law criminalises grazing in some places and certain time limit in the state. Signing the bill, Fayose said that the new law would check cases of incessant attacks or killings of local residents and destruction of farmlands by herdsmen and their cattle.He added that the law would also strengthen security in various communities across the state, adding that anyone that fouled the law stood the risk of being treated as terrorist.
“With the signing into law of this bill today, anyone caught grazing with arms or any weapon in Ekiti would now be charged with terrorism and be made to face the law according to certain sections of it,” he said.