Grazing Bill: A Law That Can Destroy Nigeria

BESIDE the sectarian character that have triggered national crises in Nigeria, the multifarious ethnic nature of the country is another major contributor to threat to national security. As a result of diverse ethnicity, contacts through trading, politics and other relationships have suffered human and material loses in the course of living in Nigeria.
Agreed that religion has caused serious damage in the polity, politics appears to be on the way to tear the country apart in the near future. Our political players have touched areas that are supposed to be sacred to a people in the course of politicking.
From the time of Independent in 1960 to date, politicians piloted the affairs of the country without considering the implications of their actions. Policies are enacted to soothe the subsisting situation and at the end, the coming generations suffer untold hardships for an issue they had no knowledge.
Such actions predated the corruption menace that is hunting the populace now and bastardised the economy. Efforts to tame the guerrilla have not posted any sign of getting relief in the nearest future, even as the corruption fighters are choosing those to prosecute.
The military incurred into politics with intention to remedy the situation but left it worse than they met it. From 1966 when the first military coup took place, Nigerians were made to believe that it is only a trained and disciplined Army that can solve the problem of corruption, sectarian and ethnic characteristics that are bedeviling the country.
Each military is welcomed with enthusiasm and hope that are dashed before the end of the tenure.
Ideally, it is under the military that the country suffered the highest number of religious crises in the country. It is also indisputable that corruption skyrocketed irredeemably under the military.
Nepotism was giving untoward recognition under the military as contracts and employment, especially in the security sector, was given to those who can present notes from military leaders.
The most condemned obnoxious laws were also enacted under the military. Such laws ran contrary to human rights. The rights could be that of individual, community or state.
Laws are enacted to foster healthy living, create security and harmony, sanitize society and assist rulers to administer their areas. Any law that is not popular will create insecurity and lawlessness and leads to eventual loss of lives and property.
The notorious Decree Two remains indelible in the minds of both international and local human rights activits. The shadow of the Decree is still causing nightmares to many Nigerians till date.
It is one decree that attracted international condemnation, but the proponents felt it was suitable at the time, so far it enable them hunt down “enemies” of the state. Today those who were victims are still hunted by the circumstance that prevailed at that time.
Another law, under the military, that denied Nigerians their rights is the Land Use Act. It was also enacted under the military. It is still considered draconian. Communities are weeping while the Government takes over their ancestral land, in circumstance that reminds them of colonial administration.
The Land Use Act was enacted in 1978. Today, agitations are rife for the review or abrogation of the law. It has been subjected to serious abuses as those who own the land standby and watch while strangers scramble for their God-given gifts.
Nigerians know better now as the problems that the military attempted to solve are growing by the day.
Those laws have taken the country backward and created more problems than solution.
Although, the country can pride itself as growing in democracy, the principal actors since 1999 when democracy held sway have been those with military experience.
Today, the administration of President Mohammadu Buhari, a former military Head of State, has set in motion and supported the process of enacting a law that will also affect the rights of the people and communities in Nigeria. Nigerians are already expressing the fear that if allowed, the law will cause crises in future.
Like the Land Use Act that denied the people access to their lands, the proposed law now known as the National Grazing Reserve Bill, is intended to cede portions of community lands to herdsmen.
The Bill is intended to serve a section of the multifarious ethnic groups and is characterized by inequality and injustice. When passed, the law will dispossesses the people of their lands and given to the Hausa/Fulani to graze their cattle. The proceeds from the sales of the Cattles would go into private pockets while owners of the lands wallow in abject poverty. Farmers would have no enough land to farm.
The National Grazing Reserves Bill was sponsored by Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, All Progressives Congress (APC), Kano Central and co-sponsored by others.
The law is proposed to solve the violent crises between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in all parts of the country, but it is likely to create more problems than it is intended to solve.
The Bills, besides seeking Grazing Routes and Reserves, also sought for a Commission that will implement the law.
The Commission is mandated to manage, control and maintain the Cattle Reserves; prescribe the persons who may be licensed to use the Grazing Reserves and determine the type and number of stock permitted therein; prescribe the manner in which the Grazing Reserves may be put to use; fix charges for the Grazing Reserves; maintain and ensure, in co-operation with the Nigerian Police, the security of lives and property within the Reserve; provide for and issue grazing permits to persons grazing within the Reserves; develop infrastructure and basic amenities such as clinic, schools, etc within the Reserves; demarcate the land boundaries of the Grazing Reserves; and prosecute persons who graze outside the Grazing Reserves and other offenders of the Regulations of the Commission.
Although the National Assembly has commenced consideration of the Bill; opposition has continued to trail its presence in the National Assembly. Those who are opposed to it are expressing the fear that the future might spell doom for the country. It is described as anti-people in some section because of its tendency to enslave and deny a section of Nigeria their land.
All over the South, the Government, traditional rulers, opinion leaders, politicians, social and cultural groups and religious leaders have risen against the proposed Bill, which some also believe in planned to advance the quest to Islamize the entire country.
The Southern Nigeria People’s Assembly (SNPA) described the Bill as “an unfortunate elevation of what ought to be private commercial ventures into a national or government business”.
The group, at the end of a three-day meeting in Asaba, Delta State Capital deplored the rampaging attack, raping and killing of innocent Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen, but insisted that a National Grazing Reserve is not the answer to the unwarranted killings.
According to the leaders, including former Vice President Alex Ekwueme (represented by former Anambra State Governor, Chukuwuemeka Ezeife); Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark (represented by Senator Roland Owie); and Senator Femi Okorounmu, (who stood in for Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi), all from the three South geo-political zones, the Grazing Bill portends danger to the nation, as it would institute a source of permanent conflict in the land, especially the federal structure and the 1999 Constitution, which vest power to hold land on the 36 states and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The leaders said: “The President should deal decisively with the issue of Fulani herdsmen in the manner government is dealing with the insurgency problem that, if unchecked, has the capacity to snowball to another Boko Haram”
The Pan-Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, also rejected the Grazing Commission Bill proposed by the National Assembly, saying that it is “anti-people.”
The group’s leader, Reuben Fasoranti, while addressing journalists in Akure, recently, said the Bill, which empowered the Commission to acquire any land anywhere in the country, would violate the subsisting Land Use Act and traditional means of land holding, if enacted.
” We reject any law that would rob the citizens of their possessions and award to another set of citizens as this offensive bill attempts to do. That is against the principle of natural justice,” Chief Fasoranti declared.
“It is also against federal principle for the government of the federation to therefore want to violate the rights of other sections of the country to please a group from an ethnic unit over and above the interest of other over 400 ethnic groups.”
He called on members of the National Assembly from the South and Nigerians in general to reject the Bill in its entirety.
The Government of Taraba State is also against the Bill. The Government in a statement recently said it had no plan to support the Bill.
The Governor of the State, Darius Dickson Ishaku, while reacting to a recent newspaper publicationthat 11 states in the northern part of the country have each donated 55,000 hectares of land for the implementation of the programme for grazing reserves, denied donating any portion of its land for the reserve.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe, had named Adamawa, Gombe, Plateau, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Taraba, Niger, Sokoto, Jigawa and the Federal Capital Territory as the states that would provide lands for the project.
The governor, who spoke through his Senior Special Adviser on Media Matters, Sylvanus Y. Giwa, said: “Taraba State government wishes to state that in as much as we appreciate the need for the creation of conducive environment for all categories of agricultural and pastoral activities, there is the need for proper collaboration between states and Federal Government.”
According to him “the state government is therefore not aware of any decision to donate 55,000 hectares of land to the Federal Government for grazing reserves in the state.”
On his part, the Benue State Governor, Governor Samuel Ortom, rejected the proposed Grazing Reserves, contending that the solution to the feud between Herdsmen and farmers is the establishment of Cattle ranches by cattle rearers.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and ICT, Mr. Tahav Agerzua, in a recent statement, said that the “Governor Samuel Ortom has reiterated overtime that the establishment of ranches remains the best global practice in animal husbandry that explains why there are no clashes between farmers and herders in countries that have domesticated the practice”, adding that “It has become the generally acceptable practice, which necessitated the position of the government on the matter.”
According to the governor, it could be very difficult and almost impossible to convince any community to donate parcels of land for the purpose of creating grazing land for cattle rearers.
Furthermore, Governor Mimiko of Ondo State and his Oyo State counterpart are strictly opposed to the Bill too.
They said they will not allow the Federal Government to establish a Grazing Reserve in their States, even as farmers in Ondo are kicking against the Bill on the ground that visitors want to dispossess them of their farm lands.
In the league of those kicking against the Grazing Bill are leaders of Anglican Church and Christian Association of Nigeria. They said it might undermine peace in our communities.
If the proposed Bill eventually becomes a law in the country, the present leadership of Nigeria will be sowing seed that will grow to cause perpetual conflict between Southerners and Northerners, and inflict disaffection and serious injury on farmers.
The Northern oligarchy is using the purported high population in the regions to perpetrate acts that could cause disaffection. In fact, Nigerians in the South are already feeling cheated in the implementation of most of the policies that are on ground.
Suspicion is reigning in all sections of our national polity because of fear of marginalistion and Islamization and the leaders are pretending that nothing is wrong.
The Grazing Reserve Bill is a clear case of intimidation and show of superiority by the North. Those who are farmers should buy seeds to sow while Cattle rearers should prepare ranches for their cows.
If the Federal Government is interested in animal husbandry, it should also be prepared to support its programme. Nigeria is a capitalist state and individuals and Government are free to embark on any economic venture for survival. There is no wisdom in proposing a policy that will favour a section of the people, and the economy, to the detriment of the others. Government should not be seen as carrying a section of the people on its back
The proposed Bill, which is anti-people and anti-economic, should be dropped to save Nigeria from degenerating into an unprecedented chaos that could trigger serious violent clashes and insecurity in the country in the future.