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Archival Records: High Court Ruling on Open Cattle Grazing (1969)



The longstanding conflict between pastoral cattle herders and farmers is not a new phenomenon.

However, many Nigerians, including state actors, are unaware of a pivotal court ruling on this issue.

In 1969, the High Court delivered a landmark judgment that addressed the disputes between farmers and cattle herders.

In the case of Suit No. AB/26/66, heard at the Abeokuta Division of the High Court on April 17, 1969, Hon. Justice Adewale Thompson ruled:

“I reject the defendants’ argument that a custom exists requiring farmers to fence their farms while cattle owners allow their cattle to roam freely and cause damage. Such a custom, if it exists, is unreasonable and repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience, and therefore unenforceable… I ban open grazing, as it is detrimental to peace and tranquility. Cattle owners must fence or ranch their animals to ensure peace in these communities.”

This ruling is settled law, as the defendants did not appeal the decision. Consequently, open grazing on someone’s property within the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a violation of federal law.

The case spanned three years, from 1966 to 1969.

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