Senators Divided Over Bill To Establish National Animal Husbandry And Ranches Commission

Senate

Senators were divided on Wednesday as a bill seeking to establish a National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission scaled a second reading on the floor in Abuja.

The bill, which was sponsored by a senator from Benue State, Sen. Titus Tartenger-Zam, is another attempt aimed at ending the frequent clashes between herders and farmers across the Federation.

The long title reads, “A Bill for an Act to Establish the National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission for the Regulation, Management, Preservation, and Control of Ranches throughout Nigeria, and for Connected Purposes, 2024.”

Its key provision is the establishment of ranches for herders in their states of origin where they can raise their cattle, as opposed to the current practice of moving cows about and destroying farms in the process.

The destruction of farms by cattle and the invasion of ancestral lands by gun-wielding herders have remained a major source of the violent clashes between the two sides.

Although a voice vote by the majority senators passed the bill for second reading, the debate preceding the ruling indicated a disagreement among lawmakers, with most northern senators insisting that the Fulani herders must be allowed to reside in any part of Nigeria they so choose to do.

For instance, a former Governor of Kebbi State, Sen. Adamu Aliero, argued that the Fulani, being Nigerians, are protected under Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution to reside in any state in Nigeria.

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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 stated.

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

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

But Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe expressed the view that the bill could be a solution to the clashes between farmers and herders if properly managed.

He recommended the amendment of the constitution and the Land Use Act to simplify the management of lands within the respective states.

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.

Making his contribution, Sen. Karimi Sunday (Kogi-West) suggested that the best way to go was for every state to establish ranches.

“I appreciate my colleague for introducing this bill. This is a national problem, and we all know this.

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“We can’t just sit and do nothing as responsible parliamentarians.

Before now, the North had cattle routes, which have been taken over by property owners. Now cattle roam the whole country.

All states must be ready to establish cattle ranches,” Sunday told the Senate.

A former Governor of Gombe State, Sen. Mohammed Goje, drove the north’s position further when he observed that the bill was discriminatory by proposing to restrict the herders to a particular geographical location.

“There are many angles to this issue of farmers and herders. We have to tackle the problem holistically.

“These Fulanis are Nigerians,” he maintained.

The same view was held by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports, Sen. Suleiman Abdulrahman-Kawu, who said the bill would breach the constitutional rights of the herders.

“The bill is totally against the constitution of Nigeria. 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,” Abdulrahman-Kawu stated.

However, the President of the Senate, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, while rounding off the debate, urged all senators to be calm by letting the bill go for a public hearing.

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“We must hold a public hearing and bring all the stakeholders to have a say, including cattle rearers and the state governments,” Akpabio remarked shortly before he rammed his gavel for the second reading.

Akpabio also assured senators that everything possible would be done to reach a consensus on the proposals contained in the bill, including amending the Land Use Act where necessary.

A majority voice vote passed the bill for a second reading. It was referred to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Trade/Investment, and Legal Services to be reported back within four weeks.

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