Bill to outlaw open grazing in Nigeria divides Senators - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Bill to outlaw open grazing in Nigeria divides Senators

Senators from the Northern part of Nigeria and their counterparts from other geo-political zones of the country were sharply divided on Wednesday, when a bill for an act to Establish National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission for the Regulation, Management, Preservation and Control of Ranches throughout Nigeria; and for connected purposes 2024 (SB. 466) came up for debate.

After a heated debate, the Senate  passed the bill seeking to outlaw open grazing in Nigeria and replaced it with ranches in states of origin of pastoralists for second reading, just as it was referred to the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Judiciary and Legal Matters to be reverted in four weeks.

Division among the Senators on the bill was against the backdrop of   infractions on relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution, protocols of the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS ) as regards free movements of persons and their property from State to State and country to country .

The bill sponsored by Senator Titus Zam, APC, Benue North-West seeks to address the prolonged conflict between farmers and herders, as well as establish ranches for herders in their states of origin where they can raise their cattle, as against the current practice of moving cows about and destroying farms.

In his lead debate on the  general principles of the bill, Zam who canvassed the need for the proposed Commission to manage, regulate, and preserve ranches across the country,  said: "The proposed National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission is for management, preservation, and control of ranches throughout Nigeria.

Senator Zam who  stressed on the urgency of the bill, claiming that it will address the conflict which seems to have defied solution, but has worsened in recent times and assumed a war-like dimension, said that a more practical answer, in his opinion, would be a legislation outlawing open grazing throughout the federation. 

The Senator who  bemoaned the effects of the fight, which had caused the nation to face food crisis, lose economic opportunities, and destroy lives and property, said, "the crisis has cost Nigeria $3.5 million, or 47% of its internal revenue, and resulted in the displacement of over 5 million people. 

 “Reports have it that, since 2016 more than 4000 lives have been lost as a result of farmers – herders conflicts. Also over 5 million people have been displaced particularly in the Middle Belt Region and other parts of Northern Nigeria. 

“With dwindling productivity in crops production and herds, this conflict has reportedly cost the country an average of 3.5 million dollars or 47% of its internally generated revenue (Assessment Capacities Project Thematic Report ACAP 2017). 

“The effect of herders-farmers conflict and its implication on food security in Nigeria is already staring us in the face as the cost of food items is almost beyond the reach of the common man.

“Whereas, other countries with huge farmers and herders populations including Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have passed pastoral laws and codes which have helped to mitigate the incidence of clashes between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders, this situation is unfortunately treated with kid-gloves in Nigeria. 

“You will observe that the converging dynamics of demography, technology and urbanization have collectively complicated the hitherto simple and fraternal relationship between our local farmers and nomadic pastoralists. 

“There is an unprecedented increase in the number of farmers who need more portions of land to farm and herders with larger herds of cattle who also need more space for grazing; whereas the land is fixed!

“The absence of a regulatory framework or legislation on pastoralism and livestock mobility generally has created a chaotic scenario of SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST, between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders in Nigeria; my dear colleagues, this is not acceptable in 21st century civilized world."

The proposed legislation however, sparked a contentious debate, despite the fact that the majority of senators, including the President of the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, backed the bill.

According  to Akpabio,  as long as the Bill moves forward, the Senate can amend the Land Use Act, in particular, to make it easier to obtain land. 

On his part, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, APGA, Abia South), who supported the bill, claimed that Nigeria's food shortages were due to threat to farmers. 

In his contribution, Senator Danjuma Goje, APC,  Gombe Central who addressed the idea that ranches should only be built in states with pastoralist communities, pointed  out that certain regions might not have enough water, even if he supported the bill.

He said, "We should be managmous enough, not to confine them. That will not solve the problem. These people are Nigerians and don’t benefit anything, they don’t benefit from school, hospitals, nothing."

On his part, Senator Adamu Aliero, PDP, Kebbi Central,  raised a point of order, citing the 1999 Constitution that every citizen has the right to move without any hindrance.

On his part, Senator Sumaila Kawu, NNPP, Kano South voted against the Bill stating that it will only compound the crisis, urging his colleagues to come up with something more comprehensive that will protect the interest of all parties.

He said, “There are so many reasons why herders go against farmers that we should look at and it is contrary against Constitution.” 

In his contribution, Senator Hussein Babangida Uba, APC,  Jigawa North-West, called for extra caution in passing the bill, given its trail of controversies in the past.

Others Senators who supported the bill were  Garba Musa Maidoki ( PDP Kebbi South), and   Abba Moro ( PDP Benue South ).

In his contribution,  the Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, APC, Kano North however, recommended that the Bill be stepped down for wide consultation and proper framing.

When asked by Akpabio if he supports the stepping down of the bill, Senator Kawu objected.

The Bill was thereafter, put to a voice vote and majority of lawmakers voted that it should be read for the second time.

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