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MUST THERE BE A GRAZING LAW?

Over the years there have been incessant clashes between the Cattle herders and farmers over the illegal and forceful takeover of land from the latter by the former.  The well documented stories of the situation in Jos between the indigenous Christian Beroms and the settler Muslim Fulani is a clear example of such occurrences in Nigeria. The farmers have been made to give up their most prized possession to the headers who roam the states with their cattle encroaching on farmlands and destroying crops. Most recently there were reported cases of invasion of the Nimbo community in Enugu State and the Agatu community in Benue State by the Herdsmen who went on a killing spree when the people from these communities made a faint attempt at protecting their farmlands. A few other states in the North and Southeast have experienced similar incursions at one time or the other.

Following the recent inhumane incidents that occurred in these states, there have been a lot of questions begging to be answered. The lack of bravery by the authorities whose duty it is to tackle these issues even after public outcries were directed at them is also a cause for worry.

It is on this premise that a “Bill for An Act to Provide for the Establishment, Preservation and Control of National Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes and the Creation of National Grazing Reserve Commission and for Purposes Connected Therewith” was presented in an attempt to mitigate the problems. This bill is presently before the Nigerian National Assembly and has successfully scaled through second reading in both the Senate and the House of Representatives,. Its sponsor is Senator Zainab Kure, wife of a two-time Governor of Niger State.  The Bill’s concluding Explanatory Memorandum says that the Bill seeks to provide for, among other things, the establishment of the National Grazing Reserve Commission of Nigeria, for the preservation and control of national grazing reserves and stock routes in the country.

Senators have thrown their weight behind the creation of a National Grazing Reserve Commission in a bid to address the recurring clashes between Fulani nomads and farmers in the country. Leading the debate on the general principles of the bill, Sen. Zaynab Kure argued that the existing laws governing grazing reserves in Nigeria had over the years been rendered obsolete and ineffective. She stated that the laws were incompatible with the general scheme of the Land Use Act currently in force. She also averred that all along, the Federal Government through the National Livestock Project Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has been at the forefront of implementing these obsolete laws, obviously with multiple problems. It is worthy of note that was no dissenting voice to the bill during the Debate.

A critical look at the Bill spews danger and needful to say that it is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode if eventually passed into Law. There are a lot of controversies, inconsistencies and half-truths on the need for this Bill to be passed into law. Its key provisions and high points include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) To establish a National Grazing Reserve Commission (NGRC), a body corporate.

(2) The NGRC may acquire, hold, lease or dispose of any property, moveable or immoveable for the purpose of carrying out its function.

(3) To raise funds by way of grants, loans, borrowing, subsidies and donations.

(4) The commission shall have a governing Council to be headed by a Chairman who is to be appointed by the president and equally confirmed by the Senate, three representatives of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources; a representative of the Federal Ministry of Health; a representative of the National Commission for Nomadic Education; three other persons with cognate experience representing variety of interests; and a Secretary.

(5) The Commission may from time to time and subject to the written approval of the minister, borrow by overdraft or loan such sums of money as it may require for the performance of its functions under this Act.

(6) Service in the Commission shall be an approved service for the purpose of Pension Reform Act, and accordingly, staff and employees of the Commission shall be entitled to pension, gratuities and other retirement benefits as prescribed under the Act.

(7) The following lands may, subject to the provisions of this Act be constituted as National Grazing Reserve and Stock Routes:

(a) land at the disposal of the Federal Government;

(b) any land in respect of which it appears to the Commission that Grazing on such land should be practiced and any land acquired by the commission through purchase, assignment gift or otherwise howsoever;

(c) any land in respect of which it appears to the Commission that primary, secondary or tertiary routes be established.

(8) State Governments shall be given notice first before land acquisition and gazetting.

(9) The Commission shall pay the requisite compensation to the affected persons whose lands are acquired, for the purpose of establishing the National Grazing Reserve and stock routes.

(10) There shall be no improvements, encroachment, bush burning, hunting, use of chemicals and felling of trees by anyone inside lands acquired and demarcated as National Grazing Reserves or Stock Routes

(11) Contravention of any of the provisions in (10) above shall be punishable by a fine of N50, 000 or 5 years imprisonment or both.

(12) No suit shall be commenced against the Commission before the expiration of a period of one month after written notice of intention to commence the suit shall have been served upon the Commission by the intending plaintiff.

(13) No Court of law shall carry out execution of its judgment or attachment of court process issued against the Commission in any action or suit without obtaining the prior consent of the Attorney General of the Federation.

Evidently we align ourselves with the uproar against this Bill which is rapidly ghosting past to becoming a Law without much debate. The reasons for the uproar are not far-fetched. They are rooted in the proposed sections of the Bill which are obnoxious and a calculated attempt to cause chaos in the nation. From the get-go, this proposed bill seeks to take care of the interest of a particular ethnic group as opposed to the over 250 ethnic groups existing in the nation. It is, therefore, inconsiderate and insensitive towards other Nigerians. It posits that the only way to have a peaceful coexistence as Nigerians is to please a particular ethnic group at the expense of the entire nation. A report in the SUNNEWS of 6th August 2012 says,

“It is also a source of problems in Idoma land in Benue State and some parts of Southern Nigeria, where cattle herders, without any compunctions or remorse, run their cattle over critical farmland, destroying crops. It is this penchant of Fulani cattle herdsman for illegally appropriating farmland wherever they choose that this bill is seeking to legalize with the proposed Grazing Rights Commission.”

Furthermore in response to her assertion that the existing grazing laws were incompatible with the general scheme of the Land Use Act currently in use, nothing in the proposed law seeks to correct that. It is worthy of note that there is an existing Grazing Reserve Law of Northern Nigeria 1965 which was enacted by the then Northern Nigeria Legislative Assembly. Nothing stops that law from being amended especially as it was made for the Northern states that are in the business of cattle rearing.

More so the Bill proposes to establish a National Grazing Reserve Commission (NGRC) for the country. The NGRC will be charged with the responsibility of using funds received from the Federal Government to forcefully acquire farmlands from Nigerians in all the 36 States of the country, develop same at Government expense through the provision of bore holes, water reservoirs, etc.; for the exclusive use of nomadic cattle herders (or pastoralists), whom everyone knows, are of only one ethnic stock – Fulanis – out of over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. It is not clear from the provisions of the bill if people from other ethnic groups who eventually venture into cattle rearing business in their different states will be allowed access into the grazing reserves.

In line with the attendant problems the Bill will bring, a perusal of its section 17 is somewhat further evidence of its bizarre nature. This particular section relies heavily on the already contentious Land Use Act 1978 which the NASS has already slated for removal from the Constitution so that its provisions can be debated and amended. Patience is a virtue they say so it is best we wait for its amendment and then see if acquisition of land for grazing reserves and stock routes would still be possible and attainable rather than capitalize on its inadequacies to enthrone indigenous imperialism.

On the whole, passing the grazing bill into Law will be another unnecessary and obnoxious document added to the number of laws already in existence. There is already a Grazing Reserve Law of Northern Nigeria 1965 already in place and at best it can be amended to accommodate the concerns on the issue of grazing in so far as it doesn’t infringe on a person’s rights and it is considerate of all irrespective of  ethnic divide. A Cattle herder can buy land from any state for his cattle to graze on it. It is his constitutional right to own immoveable property in any part of the country however such must be acquired the right way taking into consideration the proprietary right of another.

Where a bill seeks to duly satisfy a particular section of persons in a nation rather than the whole and also give them an edge over others, such bill should be vigorously rejected in order to preserve the nation’s unity and sanity.
Nach langem stillschweigen gestand er, von gaspar de quesada angestiftet worden zu sein, den generalkapitän ghostwriter uni zu ermorden ghostwriter hausarbeit.