Our attention has, again, been drawn to public statements credited to some serving Senators in Nigeria to the effect that the National Grazing Reserve Bill is not before the Upper Chamber or Senate of the National Assembly. The latest of such statements was credited to the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu during his recent outing in Enugu. We wish to state strongly that the referenced public statements are deceitful, diversionary, distractive and misleading.The implication of such statements is that there is nothing like “the National Grazing Reserve Bill 2008 & 2016” before the National Assembly of Nigeria; whether passive or active; or that the Bill is nonexistent.
We had in our recent position paper sent to the National Assembly through the Senate President and the House Speaker, dated 26th of April 2016, disclosed as follows: “two Bills concerning the above subject matter, originally drawn from the National Grazing Reserve (Establishment & Development) Bill 2008, introduced and sponsored by Senator Zainab Kure of Niger South Senatorial District of Niger State in the 6th National Assembly (2007-2011); are presently before the House of Reps. The two Bills are aimed at creating grazing reserves, ranches and cattle reserves across the 36 states to be funded with public funds through the establishment of a National Grazing Reserve Commission, an agency to be placed under the direct control of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also the national patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN)”.
We further disclosed that “one of the two grazing reserve Bills under reference was published in the official National Assembly Gazette of February 1, 2016 and the other was published in the March 16, 2016 edition of the National Assembly Journal. The two Bills contain details of the proposed law. The first Bill with number HB.16.02.388 is titled: “A Bill for an Act to Establish the National Grazing Route and Reserve Commission, to establish and control Grazing Routes and Reserves in all parts of Nigeria and other incidental matters thereto…” It is sponsored by Honourable Sunday Karimi from Kogi State while the second Bill, published on March 16, 2016 and titled: “A Bill for an Act to Establish Grazing Reserve in each State of the Federation of Nigeria to improve Agriculture yield from livestock farming and curb incessant conflicts between Cattle farmers and crop farmers in Nigeria and for Related Matters,” is marked HB.16.03.448 and sponsored by Hon Sadiq Ibrahim of Fafure/Song Federal Constituency in Adamawa State. The Bill is contained in pages 931 to 941 of the National Assembly Journal, Volume 13. The two Bills are being consolidated, having passed the Second Reading at the House of Reps (source: Nigerian Tribune Newspaper, April 20, 2016). The two Bills are mostly a replication or repetition of the first National Grazing Reserve Commission Bill of 2008, sponsored by Senator Zainab Kure. The following link contains the original National Grazing Reserve Bill of 2008 under reference: http://nass.gov.ng/document/download/147”.
Legislatively speaking, for a Bill to be passed as a law before a presidential assent, it must have originated from the two or either of the two chambers of the National Assembly. If such Bill originates from the House of Reps, for instance, much of its ground works including Third Reading and passage will be done at the same House of Reps, after which, it will be transmitted to the Upper Chamber or Senate for a concurrent passage. The passed Bill transmitted to the Senate undergoes lesser legislative work and requires harmonization if there are grey areas. This means that irrespective of the particular chamber where the Bill under reference is presently located or rooted, the two chambers (Senate and House of Reps) must pass or reject it concurrently at the end of the day. That is to say that the controversial Bill is actively before the House of Reps segment of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and passively originated from the Sixth Senate Session (2007-2011). Till date, its original version exists in the National Assembly archive: http://nass.gov.ng/document/download/147:
A typical example of the detailed explanation above is “A Bill for An Act for the Repeal of the Nigerian Traffic Warden Decree 29 of 1975” (2016); which is one of the worse existing bureaucratic injustices in the country against officers of the Traffic Warden Service. The Bill was originally sponsored by Hon Victor Afam Ogene of the Ogbaru Federal Constituency in Anambra State during the 2011-2015 session of the House of Reps. The Bill was at the Committee stage when the 2015 general polls were held and its sponsor did not return. In the present 8th National Assembly, a Senator has dusted it up and it has, again, passed Second Reading. If at the end, it is passed at the Senate, surely, it will be transmitted to the Lower Chamber or House of Reps for concurrent passage before it can be signed into law by the President.
We call on all Nigerians and members of the international community to refuse to be distracted or have their minds diverted. Strictly and factually speaking, the controversial, genocidal and ethnic war drumming “National Grazing Reserve Bill 2016” is passively originated from the Senate of 2007-2011 session and actively laid, presently, before the House of Reps section of the 8th National Assembly of Nigeria. It is already on its way from Committee stage to the Third Reading/Debate session. Attempts by the powers that be to manipulate and suppress the rising public opinion against the obnoxious Bill; by denying the pendency of same, must be resisted with utter vehemence by all and sundry.
We restate our strong opposition to the Bill and insist that some religious fundamentalists have hijacked the Federal establishments in Nigeria and vowed to Islamize the country through a combination of violent and political means. The crude practice of Fulani Animal Husbandry throughout the country must be abolished and strictly restricted to the core north. The Federal Government must also hands off the epidemic Bill and refrains from its steady moves to plunge Nigeria into genocide and intractable anarchy.
The Southern Nigeria and its sister old Middle Belt must say no to institutionalization and nationalization of crude and violent Fulani Animal Husbandry in their ancestral areas with the exception of its trading. They must say no to crude and violent Fulani Cattle grazing and pasturing methodologies in Nigeria. The Fulani Cattle herders and owners must be reminded that Right to freedom of movement guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution does not allow “right to freedom of violent movement” or “unprovoked guest hostilities against the host”. Nigerians must keep vigil and be vigilant until the criminal Bill is massively and legislatively destroyed to be dusted up no more.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Barr Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program