It has been widely reported in the media that the National Assembly will soon conduct the third reading of the obnoxious, controversial and needless National Grazing Reserve Bill before it. The unpopular bill has reportedly passed the first and second reading of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Before it will be presented to the president for his assent, for the bill to become law, it must pass through a third reading.
The said bill being sponsored by Senator Zainab Kure, seeks to provide for the establishment of National Grazing Reserves and stock routes. It also seeks to establish a National Grazing Reserve Commission (NGRC) for the country. The NGRC will acquire farmlands from the 36 states of the federation for the provision of grazing reserves for nomadic cattle rearers. The evil bill was first presented in 2008 during the 6th National Assembly but was greeted with hostility. It is paradoxical that the same bill is accorded accelerated hearing this time around.
Those promoting the bill are presumably doing so with the hope that it will finally solve the problem of nomadic Fulani cattle rearers that have been killing people and destroying their farms and crops simply because they want to feed their cattle. But the opposite is likely to be the case. The Fulani cattle rearers have been fingered in the recent Agatu peoples’ massacre and other killings in different parts of the country where they pass through with their cattle.
They have attacked and killed farmers in Enugu, Ondo, Delta and many states of the country in recent times without provocation. They have attacked the farms of Chief Olu Falae and even killed some people. The mounting criminality of the Fulani cattle rearers are so many that space will not be enough to catalogue them in this piece.
Some people have argued that some of the cattle rearers that indulge in the orgy of killings are not from Nigeria. Such argument does not really make sense at all. It does not hold water. Whether they are from Nigeria or not, what they are doing is bad.
The new Fulani cattle rearers are quite different from their kind of old. Before, the Fulani cattle nomads went about feeding their cows with only sticks and perhaps daggers. They were then harmless. They even apologise if their cattle strayed into people’s farms and ate their crops.
Not anymore. They now carry AK47 assault rifles and other dangerous weapons with which they can kill their victims at will and nothing will happen to them. They are law unto themselves. In fact, they are now above the law. They now rape and kill their female victims. They also kill men in the farms.
They can now wipe an entire town and nobody will caution or arrest them. The security agents dare not touch them either. For some Nigerians, the fear of the Fulani cattle rearers is the beginning of wisdom. They walk all over the country with impunity.
I think that those promoting the grazing bill did not do much home work. If they did, they should have known that farming whether for crops, fish or animals is a personal business. No person’s business should be used to shortchange another.
The idea of a national grazing route in a country of diverse people, culture and religion is insensitive. It rankles. When has animal husbandry (cattle rearing) become a national concern that should be funded by the federal government and where all the states of the federation must contribute part of their land? Will all of them share in the profit? Who owns the cattle?
If the lawmakers are so keen on creating a national grazing route, will they also create a national palm tree planting route, cocoa plantation route and what have you? Let the promoters of this problematic grazing route put it on hold because they will create more problems than they intended to solve. At best, they should jettison the idea.
I do not think people from all the six geo-political zones are in agreement over the creation of the cattle grazing reserve. Some zones are already protesting against the bill and its intendment. The planned law is discriminatory and imposes one ethnic group over and above others.
It is indeed bound to fail. No doubt, some Nigerians will definitely resist this obnoxious and poisonous bill that will pitch one part of the country against the other.
Our lawmakers should make laws that will positively impact on the lives of all Nigerians. They should not make laws that will privilege one ethnic group far above others in the name of grazing reserve. Farming, including animal husbandry, is a big time business.
Those behind it should be able to fund it. Those that engage in cattle rearing should be bold enough to build cattle ranches where they have land or buy land. No land should be given to them free of charge. The way of modern rearing of cattle is through cattle ranches.
Ask those in India, Brazil, China, Argentina, Australia and some other big time cattle farmers outside our shores. We must follow other parts of the world in the way they do things. Nomadic cattle rearing method belongs to ancient times. It is no longer in vogue. The owners of these cattle being reared by Fulani men are big businessmen and politicians.
The way of modern animal husbandry is through cattle ranches. With ranches, more youths can be attracted to cattle farming than is presently the case. The owners of the cattle can afford to build big ranches in the north or in any other part of the country they wish to buy land. They should just do that and spare the country of “civil wars” that the grazing routes will ignite.
I do not think that the government is prepared for these needless wars. I enjoin the lawmakers to reject this bill. I call on well meaning Nigerians to put pressure on the legislators to drop the bill. There is more than one reason why I say so.
One, it is not going to solve the problem it is envisaged to solve. Two, it will end up creating more problems than it is meant to solve. Three, it will lead to anarchy in the land. Four, it will lead to avoidable bloodbath in the country. Let this bad bill be extinguished before it throws the country into war.