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Bill to ban open grazing, create ranches scales second reading after heated debate at Senate

Nigerian Senate passes 25 bills, 115 resolutions in one year

A Bill for an Act seeking to ban open grazing and create ranches for herders scaled second reading at the Senate after heated debate on Wednesday.

The legislation entitled, “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”, was sponsored by Titus Zam, the Senator representing Benue North-west.

The legislation seeks to address the prolonged conflict between farmers and herders, advocating for a nationwide ban on open grazing and the establishment of ranches.

The bill specifically proposes that ranches should be established in pastorialists states without forcing it in other states that do not have pastoroalist communities.

Read also: Open grazing: Benue issues 14-day ultimatum to herders

While majority of Lamakers supported the Bill, several lawmakers including Godswill Akpabio, the Senate President argued against the proposed provision that ranches should only be established in the herders’ state of origin which stirred a heated debate.

Zam, leading the debate on the Bill, emphasized the urgency of the Bill to address the age long conflict which seems to have defied solution, but has worsened in recent times and assumed a war-like dimension.

He emphasized that a more concrete solution would be a legislation that bans open grazing across the federation.

The lawmaker decried the impact of the conflict which has resulted in the destruction of lives and properties, economic losses, and the food crisis the country is grappling with.

According to him, over 5 million people have been displaced, and the crisis has caused Nigeria $3.5 million or 47 percent of its Internally Generated Revenue.

He warned that if the conflict is not addressed soon, the consequences will be more severe than the civil war.

“It is old-fashioned, hazardous and must be stopped”, Zam stressed.

Contributing to the debate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senator representing Abia south argued in Favour of the Bill, noting that farmers are under threat, and the reason Nigeria is facing food insecurity.

He also recommended that the laws that put lands under the control of states should be reviewed.

Akpabio agreed that the upper chamber may tinker with the Constitution, specifically on Land Use Act, to allow for easy access to lands, if the Bill progresses.

Also contributing, Mohammed Goje, the lawmaker representing Gombe Central, while he supported the Bill, however tackled the proposal that ranches should only be established in states with pastorialists communities noting that some states may not have enough water.

“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.

Read also:Senate steps down N98.5bn FCT supplementary budget

The Senate President also agreed that the proposed Bill is a national law that should be binding on all states.

Adamu Aliero, the Senator representing kebbi Central, raised a point of order, citing a section of the 1999 Constitution that  provides that every citizen has the right to move without any hindrance.

Kawu Abdulrahman, however voted against the Bill stating that it will only compound the crisis.”Lets come up with something more comprehensive that protects the interest of all parties. There are so many reasons why herders go against farmers that we should look at. It is contrary to the Constitution and we will fight it to the end”, he said.

Jibrin Barau, the Deputy Senate President recommended that the Bill be stepped down for wide consultation and proper framing, but the sponsor of the Bill declined to step it down.

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

The Bill was read for the second time and refered to Senate Committees on Agriculture , trade and investment, judiciary and legal matters, and report back in one month.