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Herders-farmers’ conflicts: Bill on Ranching splits Senate

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.Scales 2nd reading

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Ignatius Okorocha, Abuja

There was rowdy session on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, following debate on a bill seeking to outlaw open grazing in Nigeria and replaced it with Ranches in states of origin of Pastoralists, divided the Senate even as it scaled second reading .

The division among Senators on the bill centred around 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 sponsor of the bill, Senator Zam Titus Tertenger ( APC Benue North West ) had in his lead debate , submitted that the bill among others,
proposes ranching as the only viable alternative for cattle breeding in Nigeria,
advocates 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.

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

According to him, ” 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 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 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 Nigeria Constitution .

” This bill is against provisions of the constitution and infact, 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 however narrowly 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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