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HERDERS, LAWMAKERS AND THE REST OF US: Grazing into troubled grass!

By Emman Ovuakporie  & Johnbosco Agbakwuru

The Eighth Assembly is on the verge of grazing into troubled grass via the introduction of three bills for consideration.

The bills centre mainly on how to create ranches and grazing routes   across the six geo- political zones of Nigeria for herdsmen, but  may may turn the National Assembly into a theatre of war as it may split the House into camps.

The first bill, tagged, ‘A Bill For  An Act To Create A Department Of Cattle Ranches Under the Federal Ministry Of Agriculture Or Any Such Ministry Overseeing The Production And Rearing Of livestock Including Cattle And For Other Matters Related Thereto, 2015; and sponsored by Hon. Dickson Tarkighir, borders on the creation of a department to supervise cattle rustling.

The second bill, sponsored by Hon. Steve Karimi Sunday, Kogi, PDP, on   November  16 , 2015, is   entitled, National Grazing Routes And Reserve   (ESTABLISHMENT) BILL 2015.

The third, sponsored by the House of Representatives Majority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and tagged, National Gazing Reserve (ESTABLISHMENT) BILL 2016  (Executive), was introduced on April 13, 2016.

The common denominator among the three bills is creating a safe haven for herdsmen to ply their trade of animal husbandry across Nigeria.

But recent events point to the possibility of more troubles as herdsmen may capture lands from  landlords across Nigeria.

The Agatu genocide is a pointer to that fact including many atrocities perpetrated by herders who carry arms as they move from one location to the other.

Some lawmakers from the South are preparing to tear the bills to shreds.

A lawmaker from the South-East, Hon Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, described the bills as a time-bomb capable of dividing Nigeria.

He said: “Honestly, these bills will do us no good because you can’t give these herders a leeway into other territories”.

“What I think we should do is to allow the second and third tiers of government to handle this issue without involving the national government.

“The Fulani herdsmen are rich. They should build ranches just the way our President Muhammadu Buhari did in his hometown.

“The South-East people are known for trading and they are scattered across the entire country. Do we now make laws to give them trading routes”.

Another lawmaker from the South-South, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said: “This is just madness of the highest order.

“The bills, after harmonisation, may sail through because the North has the numerical power to make it fly.

“But one thing is certain. We will all regret it.

“We’ll not make available such land in the name of grazing to anybody”.

The spokesman for the House, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas, APC, Adamawa, on Thursday, had told journalists that the three bills “are with us and, within a short time,  we’ll harmonise them and link the   Senate for concurrence”.

“We stepped them down last week to enable us properly look into them”, Namdas added.

The Senate had denied that such a bill was with the Red Chamber.


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