Amidst heated debate, Senate advances bill to ban open grazing

Sharon EboesomiJune 5, 20246 min

Senator Zam stressed that a practical answer would be a legislation outlawing open grazing throughout the federation. After heated debate, Senate passes Bill to ban open grazing, create ranches for second reading

The Senate has passed for second reading, a bill seeking to ban open grazing and create ranches for herders.

This was sequel to the consideration of a bill titled, “A Bill for an act to Establish National Animal Husbandary and Ranches Commission for the Regulation, Management, Preservation and Control of Ranches throughout Nigeria; and for connected purpose, 2024,” during Wednesday’s plenary.

The bill sponsored by Senator Titus Zam (APC, Benue North-West) seeks to address the prolonged conflict between farmers and herders, as well as establish ranches for herders in their states of origin where they can raise their cattle, as against the current practice of moving cows about and destroying farms.

Leading the debate on the bill, Senator Zam stressed on the urgency of the proposed legislation, claiming that it will address the conflict around open grazing which seems to have defied solution, but has worsened in recent times and assumed a war-like dimension.

A more practical answer, in his opinion, would be a legislation outlawing the practice of open grazing throughout the federation. 

The lawmaker bemoaned the effects of the conflicts, which had caused the nation to face a food crisis, lose economic opportunities, and destroy lives and property. 

In his words, the crisis has cost Nigeria $3.5 million, or 47% of its internal revenue, and resulted in the displacement of over 5 million people. 

He 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, this conflict has reportedly cost the country an average of 3.5 million dollars or 47% of its internally generated revenue (Assessment Capacities Project Thematic Report ACAP 2017). 

“The effect of herders-farmers conflict and its implication on food security in Nigeria is already staring us in the face as the cost of food items is almost beyond the reach of the common man.

“Whereas, other countries with huge farmers and herders populations including Mauritania, Mali, Burkinafaso and Niger have passed pastoral laws and codes which have helped to mitigate the incidence of clashes between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders, this situation is unfortunately treated with kid-gloves in Nigeria. 

“You will observe that the converging dynamics of demography, technology and urbanization have collectively complicated the hitherto simple and fraternal relationship between our local farmers and nomadic pastoralists. 

“There is an unprecedented increase in the number of farmers who need more portions of land to farm and herders with larger herds of cattle who also need more space for grazing; whereas the land is fixed!

“The absence of a regulatory framework or legislation on pastoralism and livestock mobility generally has created a chaotic scenario of survival of the fittest between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders in Nigeria; my dear colleagues, this is not acceptable in 21st century civilized world,” he submitted.

READ ALSO: Herdsmen Attack: Senate set to conduct National Summit to tackle insecurity 

The proposed legislation however, sparked a contentious debate, despite the fact that the majority of senators, including the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, backed the bill.

Akpabio noted that as long as the bill moves forward, the Senate can amend the Land Use Act, in particular, to make it easier to obtain land. 

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA, Abia South), who supported the bill, claimed that Nigeria’s food shortages were due to the threat to farmers. 

Another contributor was Danjuma Goje (PDP, Gombe Central) who addressed the idea that ranches should only be built in states with pastoralist communities, pointing out that certain regions might not have enough water, even if he supported the bill.

We should be managmous enough, not to confine them. That will not solve the problem. These people are Nigerians and don’t benefit anything, they don’t benefit from school, hospitals, nothing ” he urged.

Senator Adamu Aliero, (PDP, Kebbi Central), raised a point of order, citing the 1999 Constitution that every citizen has the right to move without any hindrance.

On his part, Senator Sumaila Kawu, voted against the bill stating that it will only compound the crisis, urging his colleagues to come up with something more comprehensive that will protect the interest of all parties.

He said “there are so many reasons why herders go against farmers that we should look at and it is contrary against Constitution.” 

The Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau however, recommended that the bill be stepped down for wide consultation and proper framing.

When asked by Akpabio if he supports the stepping down of the bill, Senator Kawu objected.

The bill was thereafter, put to a voice vote and majority of lawmakers voted that it should be read for the second time.

It was subsequently read for the second time and referred to the Committees on agriculture, trade and investment, judiciary and legal matters, to report back in one month.

 

STAR CHECK: Citizens, particularly constituents of Sen. Zam, can track his legislative contributions and activities by clicking this link

Sharon Eboesomi

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