Buhari courts trouble in renewed push for grazing routes

…as Land Use Act gives land to governors

President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent approval of a recommendation to review 368 grazing reserves in 25 states and to determine the levels of encroachment are raising issues across Nigeria. Many are questioning the legality of the president’s position because the Land Use Act gives all pieces of land to the state governors.

Currently, there are 19 states in Northern Nigeria where the Fulani pastoralists are indigenous to. In the then Northern Region, the Northern Nigeria Legislative Assembly in 1965 enacted the only Grazing Reserve Law to provide legal grazing rights and land titles to pastoralists.

Therefore, experts wonder how the Buhari-led government arrived at the 25 states referred to in the recommendation, as the law was a regional one and not a national law.

Out of the 19 states in the North, Benue and Taraba already have the anti-open grazing law to address the farmer-herder crisis.

Similarly, the Southern governors had in April placed a ban on open grazing in the South as a result of the conflict and a plan to meet on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, for the promulgation of their anti-open grazing laws across the region.

So far, Bayelsa, Rivers, Oyo, Ekiti and Abia states have complied with the Southern Governors’ decision on open-grazing. In Ondo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos states – the Houses of Assembly have passed relevant laws awaiting their governors’ assent.

However, in Enugu, Imo, Akwa-Ibom and Delta – the law is still in works in parliament, while Cross-River, Ebonyi, Edo and Anambra states have nothing on ground that indicates the anti-open grazing is under-way.

The question now is, which position supersedes the other? The Nigerian Land Use Act of 1978 vested power over land on state governors, except the FCT where land is given to the president.

This means that states are in the position under the law to assert their rejection of the open-grazing policy of the Buhari administration due to the constitutional backing of the Land Use Act.

This also means that some states will have grazing laws that will clash with the grazing reserves the Buhari-led government intends to revive.

“Section 1 of the Land Use Act cap 202 specifically provides that subject to the degree all land in the territory of a state are vested in the Governor of the state,” notes Sam Oyigbo, a human rights lawyer.

Read Also: Ban on open grazing in Southern Nigeria gain more support

“The Federal Government does not have any right over lands in any state except the FCT, as the Land Use Act is federal legislation. Not only did the Land Use Act says so, but even the Supreme Court also confirms it in the case of Nkwocha vs governor of Anambra State,” Oyigbo states.

“The grazing routes the president wants to be re-established is contrary to the provision of Land Use Act, and this means it cannot stand,” he says further.

Also, Abiola Olorunfemi, partner, Greeley Legal Practitioners, says when it comes to the issue of land the Land Use Act takes precedence and it gives the power of the land to the governor.

“The power of the executive at the centre is limited by the Constitution and one of such limitations is in the area of land,” Olorunfemi notes.

Grazing reserves are areas set aside for the use of pastoralists and are intended to be the focus of livestock development in Africa’s most populous nation. It is similar to group ranches with clearly defined areas of range-land to provide grazing for certain herds of livestock.

The initiative of a grazing reserve in Nigeria was first hatched in the 50s after a study of the Fulani production system contained in the ‘Fulani’s Amenities Proposal.’ The proposal suggested the creation of grazing reserves, improvement of the Fulani welfare, and the transformation of herds’ management in the Northern region.

Few years after the proposal, the then Northern Nigeria Legislative Assembly in 1965 enacted the Grazing Reserve Law to provide legal grazing rights and land titles to pastoralists as a response to the increased pressure on traditional grazing lands by smallholder farmers in the region.

Under the grazing law, pastoralists are encouraged to settle within the reserves where feeds and water will be provided on a year-round basis, to enjoy access to veterinary and extension services as well as prevent or minimise incessant clashes between herders and farmers.

Today, Nigeria has 415 grazing reserves with 140 gazetted and located in – Adamawa 31, Bauchi 27, Borno 15, Yobe 17, Taraba 9, Sokoto 8, Zamfara 6, Gombe 5, FCT 4, Jigawa, Kaduna, and Oyo have two each, while Kebbi, Kwara, and Plateau have one each.

However, most of the facilities within the reserves are no longer existing owing to neglect and desertification, forcing pastoralists to migrate south in search of green fields for their herds.

The disappearance of these basic needs in the North is the major driving force for the continued southward migration, which is fuelling the farmers-herders crisis.

Due to the incessant crisis, there has been intense debate over the settlement of pastoralists across Nigeria. Rearing cattle within the confines of a ranch with all needed facilities is the global practice of animal husbandry Nigeria should adopt, according to experts.

“Ranging is a big business and its adoption in Nigeria is fundamental as it will help create jobs, create a database for livestock production and address the farmers-herders crisis,” says Ahmed Adeyemi Amisu, a lecturer at the Department of Pasture and Range Management, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

Experts note that ranching in Nigeria must be driven by the private sector with the government providing the enabling environment as in other clime.

Currently, Nigeria has an estimated 21.1 million cattle, 38 million sheep, and 69 million goats, according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. The 21.1 million cattle, valued at N3.2 trillion at N150,000 per head, need about a billion gallons of water per day and 500 million kilograms of grass and forage daily.

A 2019 PwC report on Nigeria’s dairy industry stated that local productivity of cow breeds managed by pastoralists was low at 0.5 to 1.5 litres of milk per day compared with an average milk yield of 8 litres per day by cows in Nigeria’s managed pastures.

“With pastoralists traversing the country in search of available forage and water sources, they pay little or no attention to the nutritional content and suitability of the feed and water their cows consume,” Commercial Dairy Ranchers Association of Nigeria says in a note.

“Energy gained from the in-nutritious feed consumed through grazing is mainly used for trekking and will contribute little or nothing to the animal’s economic productivity,” the association states.

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