Bill on ranching divides Senate

Bill on ranching divides Senate

Heated debate on a bill seeking to outlaw open grazing in Nigeria and replace it with ranches in the states of origin of pastoralists divided the Senate on Wednesday but scaled second reading.

Division among senators on the bill centred around infractions on relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution, and 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 sponsor of the bill, Senator Zam Titus Tertenger (APC, Benue North-West) submitted in his lead debate that the bill, among others, proposes ranching as the only viable alternative for cattle breeding in Nigeria, advocates for the urgent need to transition from traditional livestock keeping methods to modern methods that are safer and healthier for both the herds and the herders.

He added that the ranches 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 the livestock business must seek and obtain approvals of their host communities to establish ranches for peaceful co-existence.

According to him: “Reports have it that, since 2016, more than 4000 lives have been lost as a result of farmer-herder conflicts.

“Also, over five million people have been displaced, particularly in the Middle Belt region and other parts of northern Nigeria. With dwindling productivity in crop production and herds, which has reportedly cost the country an average of $3.5 million 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 herder-farmer violent conflicts that, if allowed to linger longer, would 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 counterattacks 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 the debate on the bill, while senators Enyinnaya Abaribe ( APGA Abia South), Garba Musa Maidoki (PDP, Kebbi South), and Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South), supported the bill, others like Senators Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi Central), Suleiman Kawu (NNPP, Kano South), and 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 the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.

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

The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Jibrin Barau (APC, Kano North), said he had advised the sponsor to step down the bill for limiting the establishment of ranches to states of origin of pastoralists.

The bill, however, narrowly scaled second reading when put to voice votes by the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, after the 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 input within the next four weeks.

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