The Senate yesterday stepped down three bills on the controversial issue of grazing in the country.
They are: “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of Grazing Areas Management Agency and Other Related Matters 2016”, sponsored by Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso (APC, Kano Central); “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of National Ranches Commission for the Regulation, Management, Preservation and Control of Ranches and Connected Purposes 2016”, sponsored by Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC, Benue North-East); and “A Bill for an Act to Control the Keeping and Movement of Cattle in Nigeria and Other Related Matters 2016”, sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North).
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the Senate lacked the constitutional authority to legislate on the issues.
In as much as I would have loved that we find a lasting solution to the issue of animal grazing in Nigeria in the national assembly, I’m also of the opinion that the state governors do have a huge part to play in resolving the crisis that follows destruction of farmlands by Fulani herdsmen and their livestock.
As I have always opined that the Grazing Bill is dead on arrival basically because it does not address the fundamental questions raised by the victims of the herdsmen versus farmers carnage.
The Grazing Bill seeks to allocate portions of lands all over the federation to herdsmen for grazing. Any critical thinking person should know that this move will but only further the escalation of the feud between herdsmen and host communities. Using constitutional powers to allocate lands to nomads in host communities cannot count as a just method to solving the crisis.
Creating a grazing route in 36 states of the federation is like favoring settlers with the ownership rights to lands over the indigents of a particular area and considering how deeply divided the Nigerian people are along tribal and ethnic lines, the bill simply seeks to institutionalize the existing tension between herdsmen and farmer which in turn tends to be more dangerous than what we presently witness.
For instance, allocating grazing lands to a Fulani man in a Yoruba land like Ekiti is not a move that will sit well with the original indigents unless of course it is a business transaction of which in this case, is not.
Apart from the land-grabbing outlook of the allocation of lands for grazing, we are simply seeking to elaborate an already over-bloated government. In a time of recession, when the government is expected to reduce the size of it’s operations in order to save cost, we are looking to pass a bill that seeks to establish a Grazing Route Agency which intends to have a secretariat in all 36 state of the federation and thereby incurring running costs in operation and staff remuneration.
In a corruption-ridden country like ours, we cannot afford to use tax-payers money to create avenues for corrupt practices. As the struggle to cleanse ministries, parastatals and agencies of corruption, it’s not advisable to encourage corrupt practices by creating unneeded and inconsequential government agencies.
What To Do:
It is a laudable move for the government to put into consideration the plight of the herdsmen but that should not come at the detriment of people with other sources of livelihood. Therefore, the Grazing method of animal husbandry should be replaced with immediate effect by Ranching.
Ranching is the practice of raising herds of animals on large tracts of land. A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat, diary, skin or wool.
One of the major reasons why Ranching should be adopted over Nomadic Grazing is the elimination of the movement of animals from one part of the country to another thereby infringing on the rights of other citizens. Apart from averting crisis, research has also shown that animals that are ranched tend to be healthier than those that are being moved around.
In furtherance, ranching is a good source of revenue generation for state governments. Providing ranches in the 19 Northern States of Nigeria will go a long way in ensuring that cattle owners do not have to leave the state in search of vegetation for their animals thereby helping the government to keep tabs on revenue opportunities. For instance, if there are ranches in a state like Sokoto, the Sokoto Government can lease out such ranches to willing herders in exchange for money. Proper sensitization of herdsmen by the government can be carried out to give better understanding about the benefits that come with ranching.
SECURITY: Herdsmen over time, have always had dangerous encounters with cattle rustlers. Cattle rustling is the act of stealing cattle, which is made easy because of the nomadic nature of Fulani Herdsmen. Despite bitter encounters, the government have not been able to find a solution to cattle rustling and that is basically because it is almost impossible to provide security for an entity which happens to be on the move constantly. Animals that are ranched up in one location can be adequately provided with necessary security. The risk of being attacked and robbed in open fields will be greatly minimized because animals can be efficiently tracked and appropriately secured.
HEALTHCARE: As part of the benefits herdsmen will enjoy, ranches also enable animals to be tracked and properly given the needed medical attention. Government can set up veterinary facilities to ensure quality of animal production. This feature will be impossible if animals are being moved from one place to another in a nomadic method. In ranches, when animals need medical attention, all the farmer needs to do is to contact the closest veterinary facility to get help and because the veterinary personnel readily knows the location of the animals, response is swift and precise. Also, laboratories for animal medical researches can be set up to have a proper study of livestock in terms of behavioral patterns in comparison to weather, nutrition, climate and so many other factors. Such researches help in projections and provisions of certain inventions that may yet be beneficial to both farmers, animals and consumers of animal products such as leather, beef, dairy and other by products.
If government can generate funds from herdsmen by providing them with ranches, the outcome benefits of such collaboration is not quantifiable. From security, to healthcare, to improvement in livestock production, the benefits trump whatever benefits derived from the nomadic method of animal husbandry.
Since the Senate has stepped down the Grazing Bill and made it known publicly that finding a lasting solution to the issue of grazing is the sole responsibilities of State Governors, it is time the governors especially northern governors came together in a forum with sole purpose of mapping out plans to ensure the clashes between herdsmen and farmers come to a perpetual halt.
I have, in this piece made their job 50% easier. All the need to do is; do a little more research, fine-tune it and then implement.