By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
Stakeholders in Imo State said they were seriously befuddled over the silence of Governor Rochas Okorocha on the plan to legalise cattle ranching in the state.
Provoked by the said development, Imolites in different fora spoke to South-East Voice in Owerri, saying that they would resist any attempt by the government to establish cattle ranching in Imo State.
They were among other things perturbed that the day governors of the South-East in one accord said they were not in support of cattle ranching, Governor Okorocha was said to be absent from the meeting.
Not long after that, the story of Imo State House of Assembly, on the plan to legalise cattle ranching took the centre stage of public discussion.
The Assembly was said to be looking into a bill, which if passed, would lawfully provide land for herdsmen in the name of establishing cattle ranches.
This is despite several reports by South-East Voice, where herdsmen were said to have caused maximum damages on farms of their host communities.
As a result of the said silence by Okorocha to speak against cattle ranching, the Coalition of Imo socio-cultural organisation and town unions,through its leader, Emeka Diwe, urged stakeholders in the state to oppose the establishment of cattle ranches in the state.
Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Imo State chapter, had warned against such move by the state House of Assembly in giving legal backing to ranching in the state.
According to Diwe, the Coordinator of the Coalition of Imo Socio-Cultural Organisation and Town Unions said: “We, the Coalition of Imo Socio-Cultural Organisations and Town Unions have rejected the bill for the establishment of cattle ranches in Imo State as well as a bill for the registration and issuance of Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, to land in the rural areas currently before the Imo State House of Assembly.
“Cattle rearing is a personal business of northerners and herdsmen who do not own any land or village in Imo State.”
They lamented that “Imo State House of Assembly abandoned other critical areas begging for their intervention only to dabble into the dangerous invitation of the herdsmen into Imo State through the said bill.”
The state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, was not left out in the protest against the said plan to establish cattle ranches in Imo State.
Also, the Imo State CAN, through the Secretary, Rev. Eches Divine Eches, was not happy over the said bill to establish cattle ranches in the state.
They went further to say that according to their investigation, it was a lawmaker in the House, who wanted to use the bill to attract favour to himself.
The stakeholders said: “It has come to our notice that a member of the Imo State House of Assembly sponsored a Grazing Bill and for the establishment of ranches.
“This is a very important issue to Ndi Imo. Hence, when the information came to us as a Body, CAN, we went into action by investigating the root of the matter.
“After so many calls and meetings in the last two days,(17th and 18th July 2018),we came to an understanding of the following:
“That the said bill is not an executive bill but was sponsored by a member who is trying to use the bill to gain cheap popularity. Hence, it should be disregarded.
“That we have been assured by the leadership of the House through the CPS of Mr Speaker that the leadership of the House will soon dissociate self from the said bill.
“That the Speaker having led the Southern Speakers Forum last year to reject such a bill, it will now amount to double standards if such bill happens to find its way through the back door to the House with same Speaker.
“That in line with our understanding with the leadership of the House through the CPS to Mr Speaker, a press statement disassociating the leadership of the House from the bill will be released today, the 19th of July,2018 or before the end of this week so as to douse the tension generated by the said bill.
“That Imo people are law- abiding citizens. Hence should go about their normal duties as the said Bill will not see the light of the day.
“We sincerely appreciate every one in the last two days,that showed concern in one way or the other (both those who called) so as to nip this thing in the bud.”