Senate steps down bills on grazing, cites constitutional limitations
• Outrage at FG’s planned dialogue with armed Fulani herdsmen
The Senate yesterday stepped down three bills on the controversial issue of grazing in the country.
They are: “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of Grazing Areas Management Agency and Other Related Matters 2016”, sponsored by Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso (APC, Kano Central); “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of National Ranches Commission for the Regulation, Management, Preservation and Control of Ranches and Connected Purposes 2016”, sponsored by Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC, Benue North-East); and “A Bill for an Act to Control the Keeping and Movement of Cattle in Nigeria and Other Related Matters 2016”, sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North).
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the Senate lacked the constitutional authority to legislate on the issues.
He said: “I believe the matter here concerns everybody, given the level of carnage and conflict going on in different states. So, I feel the concern of my colleagues. But, unfortunately, we do not have powers to legislate on matters relating to livestock in this Assembly. It is a matter reserved for the states.
“I believe that both the bills for Kwankwaso, Gemade and Utazi are beyond the reach of this National Assembly and should, accordingly, be withdrawn, so that the states, under the constitution, would be able to deal with the matters which the constitution has prescribed for them. I will like to see somebody show me anywhere on the exclusive list or concurrent list that has given us powers to legislate on this matter because they are not in existence.”
Supporting Ekweremadu’s position, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, questioned the necessity of any further debate.
He said: “The point that the Deputy Senate President raised is a very important one. First, if we don’t have the power to make laws, I think there is no need to even start arguing about it.”
He, however, added: “What we now know before us, to be very candid, is just the heading of the bill, which attracted us. We should hear them out on the merits, if that is possible. But if we don’t have the powers to do it, then we just waste our time. But if we have, I think we should listen to the merits and principles.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki disclosed he had already held a discussion with sponsors of the bills, urging them to harmonise their positions and present a uniform document.
“It is clear from the discussion today that it is not so. And my view is that since the basis by which they came on the Order Paper has changed, the way forward is for us to step it down from the Order Paper of today. I will want the Leader to move that we step it down from the Order Paper of today to another legislative day,” he said.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has criticised the Federal Government for choosing to dialogue with armed Fulani attackers.
It asked: “How does a civilised government intend to dialogue with murderers who have destroyed such farming communities as Agatu in Benue State, Godogodo in Southern Kaduna State, and have raided communities in Kogi, Enugu, Abia, Delta and most of Middle Belt states of Plateau and Tarawa?”
The group’s statement follows constitution by the Minister of Interior Abdulrahman Dambazau on Monday of a committee to resolve clashes between the Fulani and farmers.
“This time-wasting and money-guzzling committee is totally unlawful and amounts to an attempt to usurp the legal functions of law enforcement authorities, like the police and attorneys-general, where such killings have occurred.”
HURIWA dismissed the action as an attempt to provide soft landing to outlaws who disguised as herdsmen and caused the deaths of thousands of Nigerians and destroyed property and crops worth billions of naira.
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