On the Spot with Eric Teniola

June 15, 2021

The dilemma over grazing laws

Ibrahim Tahir revisited on key issues

President Muhammadu Buhari has often referred to the gazette which published the grazing laws in Nigeria. In his television interview to mark his sixth anniversary in power, he made reference to the so-called gazette. The President was echoing what his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, said on April 1, 2018 when he was the Chancellor of the Kwara State University in Ilorin. On that day Professor Gambari referred to existing laws on grazing and that the major problem facing us now is the non-implementation of the grazing laws as contained in the gazette.

My understanding is that both the President and his Chief of Staff were equating the laws of Northern Nigeria on grazing as if they were laws passed by the Central government. The grazing laws which the two men referred to were passed into a decree by the then Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello (June 12, 1910- January 15, 1966), the Sardauna of Sokoto. The laws were not operative in the West, Mid-West and Eastern regions.

According to Dr. Ismaila Iro, grazing reserves in Nigeria started during the pre-colonial era. Although formally introduced by the British, grazing reserves were demarcated by the Fulani who conquered and ruled Northern Nigeria. The attempt by the British in 1940 to separate the grazing land from the farm land, however, faltered because the Europeans imposed land use controls divorced from economic and demographic dynamics in the pastoral system.

Formal grazing reserves in Nigeria started accidentally in the 1950s when Hamisu Kano, working with pastoralists on livestock vaccination, foresaw the shortages of grazing land in Northern Nigeria. Supported by the government, he initiated the grazing reserve scheme from the abandoned government resettlement schemes (Fulani Settlement Scheme).

The resettlement schemes collapsed because government had neither the financial nor the managerial ability to continue with the financially burdensome scheme; and the best alternative use of the land, government thought, was to convert it into grazing reserves that were less financially committed. Grazing reserves were hatched in 1954 after a study of the Fulani production system contained in the “Fulani Amenities Proposal”.


The proposal suggested the creation of grazing reserves, the improvement of Fulani welfare, and the transformation of the herd management system. By 1964, government had gazetted about 6.4 million hectares of the forest reserve, ninety-eight percent in the Savanna. Sokoto Province had 21 percent of the land, followed by Kabba, Bauchi, Zaria, Ilorin and Katsina, with 11-15 percent each. The Wase, Zamfara and Udubo reserves followed in succession.

In 1965, the Northern Nigerian Government incorporated the Fulani Amenities Proposal into the Grazing Reserve Law. Before the enactment of the Grazing Reserve Law of Northern Nigeria, the pastoral Fulani relied on the goodwill of the farmers, who conferred upon themselves the lordliness of occupied and unoccupied land. Because interpersonal and kinship affiliations governed the dispensation of land, the Fulani worried about being evicted from the land when their relationship with the hosts become strained.

The planners, however, applied a top-down approach that excluded the Fulani from formulating and implementing this well-intentioned programme. Accordingly, the Fulani gave less than the expected cooperation in the scheme. Professor Gambari coming from Kwara State had in mind the Kwara State grazing laws that were in existence years ago. In an article by Professor Ade Olomola, he said the grazing laws in Kwara State were in operation only in Kwara State.

Both the President and his Chief of Staff were equating the laws of Northern Nigeria on grazing as if they were laws passed by the Central government; the laws were not operative in the West, Mid-West and Eastern regions

According to him, the main focus of the settlement policy is the development of grazing reserves in the state. The objectives of the policy are (i) to provide feed and water for pastoralists on a year-round basis, (ii) to eliminate nomadism, improve cattle production and raise the living standard of pastoralists, (iii) to ensure efficient use and protection of environmental resources and (iv) to prevent or minimise incessant clashes between herders and farmers which often result in bloodshed and loss of life.

The procedures involved in the implementation of the policy include land acquisition, demarcation, surveying, gazetting of grazing reserve, development of grazing reserve and settlement of pastoralists. The following are the grazing reserves at various stages of acquisition in Kwara State: Nweri, Kinikini, Gidan Magajia, Moli, Wuru, Okuta , Olodan, Igbaja, Alapa, Babanla, Chita, Lata, Oro, Sharagi, Shao, Kaiama and Omi-Eran (LSC).

The Gidan Magajia is one of the two grazing reserves that have been gazetted in the state. It is the largest in the state and the focus of attention. Two implementation committees were set up for the purpose of development and management of the reserve as well as settlement of pastoralists. They are the policy committee at the state level and grazing reserve management committee at the local government level.

The former is charged with the responsibility of formulating and defining development policy and ensuring that the management committee is provided with the means to achieve management objectives. The latter is to advise and assist on matters affecting the settlers on a day-to-day basis as well as identifying settlers for the reserve.

The Order setting up the reserve stipulates that it should be maintained through proper grazing management and improvement activities such as water development, fodder conservation plan, range reseeding and fertilization, control of undesirable weeds and fire-tracing. Other development activities include construction of earth dams, boreholes and wells to provide watering facilities; construction of roads, office and residential quarters, establishment of livestock services centre and pasture development.

Moreover, efforts are to be made to ensure that the highest possible level of productivity is achieved without endangering the reserve.

Vanguard News Nigeria