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Bill seeking to ban cattles’ open grazing divides Nigerian Senate

By Grace Samuel

A bill seeking to ban open grazing of cattles in Nigeria has divided the country’s Senate even as it passed the second reading on Wednesday.

Senators who disagreeed with the bill alleged that it is an infractions on relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution as well as protocols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on free movements of persons and their property in the sub-region.

Senator Zam Titus Tertenger (APC Benue North West) who sponsored the bill had argued that the bill among others, proposes ranching as the only viable alternative for cattle breeding in Nigeria.

He advocated for the urgent need to transit from traditional livestock keeping method to the modern methods which are safer and healthier to both the herds and the herders.

Senator Tertenger said ranches should be established in the pastoralists’ state of origin without forcing it upon other states or communities that do not have pastoralists as citizens just as according to him, interested parties in livestock business, must seek and obtain approvals of their host communities to establish ranches for the purpose of peaceful co-existence.

The Benue legislator said, “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 which has reportedly cost the country an average of $3.5 million dollars or 47% of its internally generated revenue “.

“Mr. President, Distinguished colleagues, this 10th Senate has a date with history. We must rise in one accord to sort out this problem of herders-farmers’ violent conflicts that would, if allowed to linger longer, consume even more lives and properties than the civil war of 1967-1970.

“Therefore, now is the time to put a permanent stop to the endless circle of attacks and counter attacks by our people and their external collaborators.

“Mr. President, now is the time to adopt international best practices in animal husbandry. My distinguished colleagues, now is the time to bring about a law to stop open grazing. It is old fashioned, hazardous, burdensome and must be discarded”, he stressed .

But during debate on the bill, while Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA Abia South), Garba Musa Maidoki (PDP Kebbi South), Abba Moro (PDP Benue South) , supported the bill , others like Senators Adamu Aliero (PDP Kebbi Central) , Suleiman Kawu (NNPP Kano South) , Danjuma Goje (APC Gombe Central) , kicked against the bill .

Senator Aliero in opposing the bill, raised a constitutional point of order by quoting section 41 of the 1999 Constitution, which gives all Nigerians free movement into any state with their property .

He specifically told the Senate that it was wrong for the sponsor of the bill to propose the establishment of ranches in the state of origin of pastoralists alone .

Senator Kawu, in his own opposition to the bill, said it was totally against provisions of Nigerian Constitution .

“This bill is against provisions of the constitution and, in fact, will compound the crisis of herders / farmers in Nigeria , if allowed to become law “, he said .

As a way of getting the bill stood down , the Deputy President of the Senate , Senator Jibrin Barau ( APC Kano North), said he had advised the sponsor to step it down for limiting establishment of Ranches to states of origin of Pastoralists .

The bill scaled second reading when put to voice votes by the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, after refusal of the sponsor to step it down.

It was thereafter forwarded to the Senate Committees on Agriculture , Trade and Investment, Judiciary, and Legal Matters for more legislative inputs within the next four weeks.


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