Grazing bill: An invitation to danger
The National Assembly is about to pass a Bill that is set to kill whatever is left of our so-called over-centralised federal system. The Bill if passed will be the greatest rape on our democracy and the biggest insult on our collective sensitivity as a people and as a country. “The Fulani National Grazing Reserve,” is currently before the National Assembly. The bill has successfully scaled through second reading in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. For it to become law, it is to pass through the third reading.
“The bill seeks to provide for the establishment of national grazing reserves and stock routes. It is sponsored by Senator Zainab Kure. “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 rearers.”
The issue here is very clear. Fulani herdsmen are cattle farmers. They could as well keep their cattle in ranches. They could devise whatever means like their counterparts in Argentina, Australia and the rest of the civilised world to do their animal husbandry. The men and boys roaming the streets, roads and bushes driving cattle are not the owners of these animals. They are just employees, labourers, attendants or whatever name they are called.
The owners of these cows like Generals Obasanjo, Nyako, Abdulsalami Abubakar and our President Buhari are big time farmers. They are businessmen. It is immoral to ask taxpayers to finance the operations of these businesses. Cattle owners must provide capital through bank loans or whatever means to create their grazing lands in their localities. The cows are not owned by the Federal Government.
Just as the Federal Government is not creating farm lands for cocoa and kolanut farmers in Sokoto or Katsina, or creating farm lands for Agatu yam farmers in Enugu or Maiduguri, or creating special areas for fish farming in Zungeru, it cannot for any reason ever consider creating special lands for herdsmen for grazing. Let the herdsmen run their business without encroaching on the lands of other people. Let the cattle owners buy into the Fodder technology and other modern methods of providing feeds for their animals without roaming the streets and plundering other people’s farms.
To ever dream of this perverted Bill is to step on the toes of other Nigerians and step on sore foot, and by so doing create a dangerous precedent. Nobody should play ethnic game here. This is not an issue directed against any ethnic nationality in Nigeria. The simple matter is to let those who trade in cattle fund their business like all other businesses, including farming, in Nigeria. The Bill must not see the light of the day. The sponsors want to create serious problem in the polity and their design must be nipped in the bud.
The Nigerian Bar Association, the Coalition of Civil Societies, and all those who care about the continued existence of this troubled country must rise up to strongly oppose and kill this obnoxious and self serving Bill. It beats my imagination that members of the National Assembly did not see the serious danger posed by this corrosive Bill.
In a reaction to the threats posed by this obnoxious Bill, the National Co-ordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Otunba Gani Adams says: “Without any doubt, this is a very dangerous proposal for Nigeria. We all have seen how the Fulani herdsmen kill and maim members of the community where they graze their cattle without the backing of any law. I am sure that we can only imagine what their attitudes would be if the supposed grazing reserves are forcefully taken over by government and handed over to the herdsmen.
Nigeria has enough problems on her hand right now; we should not provoke new and potentially more dangerous ones.”
• Otunba Tola Adeniyi Jagun, Oodua Adimula ll, wrote via email@example.com>