Northern senators, MACBAN reject bill restricting herders’ movement

Northern senators, MACBAN reject bill restricting herders’ movement
  • Proposed law driven by emotions – Pastoralists

  • Ranching will end our clashes with herders – Farmers

  • All Nigerians have right to live anywhere in the country – Barau


By Abdullateef Salau, Saawua Terzungwe & Vincent A. Yusuf


Northern senators and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) have rejected a bill seeking the establishment of ranching as the only viable alternative for cattle breeding in Nigeria.

The National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission establishment Bill scaled second reading on the floor of the Senate yesterday after an intense debate.

The bill aims to establish ranches for herders in their states of origin, replacing the current practice of open grazing.

If enacted, the commission would oversee the management, preservation and control of ranches nationwide.

Nigeria has struggled with herders-farmers conflicts for years, leading to losses of lives and property.

In his lead debate, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Titus Tartenger Zam (APC, Benue), said creating ranches in pastoralists’ states of origin would prevent conflicts and promote peaceful coexistence.

“The bill proposes that ranches be established in the pastoralists’ state of origin without forcing it upon other states or communities that do not have pastoralists as citizens.

“The bill proposes that interested parties in livestock business must seek and obtain approvals of their host communities to establish ranches for peaceful co-existence,” said the sponsor, Zam said.

He said banning open grazing through legislation would resolve the frequent clashes between farmers and herders.

He said the absence of a regulatory framework or legislation on pastoralism and livestock mobility had created a chaotic scenario of survival of the fittest between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders in Nigeria.

“Now is the time to bring a law to stop open grazing. It is old fashioned, hazardous, burdensome and must be discarded,” he said.

Before the bill scaled second reading, it had faced strong opposition from some northern senators, who insisted that herders should have the freedom to reside anywhere in Nigeria, as guaranteed by Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution.

Senator Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi) maintained that confining herders to their states of origin violates their constitutional rights.

“This bill proposes that the pastoralists should be confined to their states of origin. This is against the constitution because they are Nigerians and should be allowed to move freely in Nigeria,” he said.

Aliero also said ranches should be established as private businesses that do not require the involvement of the federal government by establishing a commission.

He said the only reason he would support the bill was to expunge the provision restricting the ranches to the states of origin of herders.

Senator Mohammed Goje (APC, Gombe) described the bill as discriminatory, noting that cattle rearing is more prevalent in the North.

He emphasised that legislation should benefit the entire country, not just a specific region.

Senator Suleiman Abdulrahman Kawu (NNPP, Kano) also expressed concerns about the bill infringing on herders’ rights.

“The bill will even compound the problems of the herders and the farmers. You can’t propose a law to attend to a particular group or section of the country only. This bill is not holistic, and we will fight it till the end,” Kawu said.

Senator Hussein Babangida Uba (Jigawa North-West), called for caution in passing the bill, given its trail of controversies in the past.


All Nigerians have right to live anywhere in the country– Barau

Deputy Senate President Barau Jibrin reiterated that all Nigerians have the constitutional right to live anywhere in the country.

He said asking herders to return to their states of origin was unconstitutional. He suggested the bill be revised to align with the constitution.

Barau said, “There is a snag in this bill, there is a problem because you cannot stop any Nigerian from living in any area that he so wishes. Now, to tell them to move to their state of origin, where is their state of Origin?

“Mr President, I will tell you some of these Fulanis; if you ask them where is their states of origin, they have even forgotten; they look at themselves as Nigerians. We should address the issue to reflect wherever someone is, it’s his place, and he can do his business there.”

While urging that the bill be stepped down, he said: “I advise my friend Senator Zam to stand this bill down for a consultation, for better drafting, so that it goes in consonant with our constitution.”

However, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA, Abia) supported the bill as a potential solution to the farmers-herders clashes, but recommended constitutional and Land Use Act amendments for better land management.

Abaribe noted that while some herders were peaceful and engaged in legitimate animal business, there were also criminal elements sponsored to destabilise communities.

“Farmers are under threat, and what that has led to is the food crisis that we face in Nigeria today,” he added.

Senator Sunday Karimi (APC, Kogi) proposed that each state should establish ranches to address the national problem effectively.

“I appreciate my colleague for introducing this bill. This is a national problem, and we all know this. We can’t just sit and do nothing as responsible parliamentarians.

“All states must be ready to establish cattle ranches,” Karimi said.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio called for a public hearing to include input from all stakeholders, including cattle rearers and state governments.

He assured that efforts would be made to reach a consensus on the bill, including necessary amendments to the Land Use Act.

The bill was referred to the joint Senate Committee on Agriculture, Judiciary, and Legal Matters for further review, with a report due within four weeks.


MACBAN says bill driven by emotions

In an interview with Daily Trust yesterday, the Director of Strategic Planning of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Adamu Toro, called on the Senate to reject the bill promoting ranching as the primary method for cattle breeding.

MACBAN said the bill contradicts the constitution which allows Nigerians to reside and conduct business anywhere in the country.

Toro said the bill was driven by emotions rather than practicality. He suggested that state governments focus on addressing herders-farmers conflicts.

Toro said, “If herders are required to return to their states of origin, then all individuals conducting business outside their home states should be asked to do the same. This bill is nonsensical and too emotional.

“The Nigerian Constitution guarantees free movement and the right to live anywhere. Violations should be addressed through existing laws, not by introducing unnecessary legislation.

“The National Assembly should prioritize more serious issues instead of this bill.”


Ranching will end farmer-herder clashes – AFAN

Meanwhile, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) backed the proposed ranching law, believing it would enhance the development of the livestock subsector.

AFAN’s national president, Architect Kabiru Ibrahim, in a telephone interview with Daily Trust yesterday, noted that the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) endorses ranching as the best method for animal husbandry.

He emphasized that ranching would lead to higher milk yield, efficient weight gain, and increased beef production.

Ibrahim said: “AFAN supports the bill and urges Mr. President to assent to it. Ranching will put an end to the farmer-herder clashes across the country. However, implementation should not be restricted solely to the state of origin.”

He further noted that the commission overseeing ranching should include knowledgeable stakeholders to ensure effective implementation, stressing that there is no need for premature disagreements before the bill is signed into law.

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