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A regressive grazing reserve bill – Part 1

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Grazing Reserves

Grazing Reserves

The bill sponsored by Senator Zaynab Kure is not new in content, intent or purpose. The difference here is that while the history of grazing reserves is as old as Nigeria and is practised and legislated for the use, protection and benefit of the people of Northern Nigeria (whose history, culture, custom and lifestyle is embedded in pasturing) the bill seeks to extend it to other parts of Nigeria which have no history or connection to pasturing/cattle rearing.

The history of reserves in Northern Nigeria has shown that they along with cattle routes cannot be the solution. Records show that reserves in Nigeria started in the colonial era and peaked in1985/86, when millions of naira/dollar in aid were spent. The Federal Government in the 70s/80s, invested the sum of N119.8 million into livestock development in the time period of which the sum of N86 million was spent on grazing reserves.

According to a study by Moses O. Awogbade :(Nomadic Peoples Number 23, 1987) titled ‘Grazing Reserves in Nigeria, a world bank project’, Six (6) grazing reserves had been fully established by 1976. Covering a land area of, 115,000 hectares, located at Kachia, Kukar-Jangarai (Kaduna State) Gujjba (Bornu), Udoho (Bauchi) Garikida and Soran (Adamawa State). Development cost, as at 1983, was N2.1million. 1,850 Nomadic herdsmen and their families were billed to settle in the fully developed reserves. In Kachia 31 number agro pastoralist making use of leguminous fodder plots for fodder banks for cattle feed lived there. The big question is what has happened to these reserves? Were or are they so successful that there is a need to replicate them? Reserves are capital/resource intensive, should the country indulge in another expensive venture when resources are scarce.

The second objective is to encourage the Fulani, to settle and enjoy a sedentary lifestyle. The following questions arise:
Have the Fulani accepted to settle for a sedentary life?
Is there a consensus with the Fulani and the government indicating such an agreement?
What happens if they refuse to settle after government expenditure and forceful acquisition of individual agricultural land? Soran in his 1984/85 survey for the second World Bank and Nigerian Livestock Development Project, stated that, the fundamental problem is to ‘induce pastoralists to abandon a transhumant life-style in favor of becoming Sedentary livestock producers” Has this been achieved?
Are the northern governments whose heritage is livestock thinking in that line?

Building nationwide facilities where there is neither a sense of belonging nor commitment by users, who have no personal investment therein is neither motivating nor ennobling for the presumed beneficiaries. Worse is the unconstitutional act of removing the rights of non-pastoral peoples.  It is unjust, inequitable, and inhuman.  It is against the spirit and letter of Section 44(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The constitution is very specific on how individuals’ rights can be taken. It states inter-alia that “No movable property or any immovable property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria, except in the manner and for the purpose prescribed by a law” in this case the Land Use Act 1978. Sec 28(1) specifies public interest as a key fundamental element in compulsory acquisition of land. For any acquisition to be valid within the ambit of the law, the stated purpose must be for the “exclusive use of the government, or for the use of the general public.”  “Public Purpose,” according to Sec. 50 (1) refers to functions and activities of government specifically designed for uses, common to EVERY citizen. They include roads, railways, telecoms, electricity, urban development for industrial, economic, education and social services. The spirit and intent here is that it must be a facility with equal access to all citizens usually on short periods of time. The emphasis is on for all, not a group or sets of citizens. These uses are funded from our collective purse and cannot, therefore, be appropriated by or for one section or group.

Do grazing reserves fall within this provision? The answer is No.

Items 7-9 of the proposed bill states thus: “For the particular use and benefits, wholly or in part of any class of persons or for the benefit of any community, state or local government.” A law that seeks to segregate and give preference to any class of persons is an unjust law. It fundamentally restricts the rights to access and use to other Nigerians who are not pastoralists, while taking away the livelihood of farmers, plantation owners and industrialists. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul (Nuhu, M.B & Aliyu, A.U., 2009)

In trying to understand the mind of the sponsor and supporters of the bill, one would have expected that the bill would have been supported with empirical data, detailing the cost benefits of such a weighty project. In the absence of this, one can only proffer suggestions based on what is reported, as said by the senators and rely on write-ups from privileged sources like, Ismaila Iro (Phd), founder of Gamji.com. He, in one of his write-ups, states that grazing reserves and stock routes top the list of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) demands from presidential candidates and noted that political parties that ignored it, would suffer voters’ revenge.  This is a smart move by this group, worthy of emulation. I have therefore, repeated this, in an attempt to understand the near-incomprehensible contributions by the supporters of the bill in the Senate summarised as follows:

Senator Bagudu Abubakar avers the bill conforms to the President’s diversification policy and it is to increase local production of cattle. Pray on what facts or data did he arrive at this conclusion? According to Senator Gyang Dantong, “animal rearing is one of the most important occupations of the people for large scale production of meat and milk, as well as a means of farming and a medium of acquiring wealth.” Acquiring wealth for whom?

•To be continued

•Chizea wrote via chineduodu@gmail.com


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