Folly of the rural grazing agenda
In general, public policy is pursued and implemented by institutions like government ministries and agencies. In the United States, the Council of Economic Advisers is an agency within the Executive Office of the President charged with offering the President objective economic advice on the formulation of both domestic and international economic policy. The Council bases its recommendations and analysis on economic research and empirical evidence, using the best data available to support the President in setting out the nation’s economic policy.
The folly of the rural grazing programme, therefore, is the absence of such a policy formulating agency in Nigeria. Which was why the Executive Office of the President had to be dragged into the mud over the grazing agenda. Furthermore, the folly of policymaking in Nigeria is the treatment of the grazing area allocation agenda as a solo event whereas policymaking is a dynamic, complex and interactive system through which policies are analyzed and tailored in accordance with the culture of the people.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the programme has become very controversial. Worse still, if the policy isn’t in pursuance of a sinister agenda, the government has no business in the programme because it is a private business. Why is the government not looking for land to grow cotton? Economists agree that cotton is much more important to human clothing than beef as a food resource. It is all the more disheartening for the Federal Government in a federation where land belongs to the states, to make a proclamation and gazette land in all the states as grazing reserves.
If the goal of the government in sourcing for grazing settlements for herdsmen was to stop the problems of open grazing, such a policy has failed. In practice, every public policy must essentially be regulatory, distributive or redistributive. Sadly, the grazing agenda does not in any way meet any of those parameters. The programme serves only cattle rearers. There is no information as to how farmers would benefit or how it will assuage the conflict of interest between farmers and herders. The falsity of the programme raises concerns about the government’s sincerity, effectiveness and planning.
Indeed, in proposing to set up grazing areas, the Federal Government overreached itself by seeking to take the land by fiat. Neither can the provisions of the land use Act that it is planning to amend apply. The pertinent legal provision stipulates that the use of any land so acquired must be for public purposes. Accordingly, the government cannot acquire land except in the public interest. The tardy way the rural grazing areas resettlement scheme was handled points to the need for the Federal Government to create a think tank for economic planning and development.
Nigeria needs a Council of Economic Advisers like that of the United States which was established by Parliament in the Employment Act of 1946. The Council, created in the Executive Office of the President is composed of three members who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and each of whom shall be a person who, as a result of his training, experience, and attainments, is exceptionally qualified to analyze and interpret economic developments, to appraise programmes and activities of the Government in the light of policy declared.
The Council is to formulate and recommend national economic policy to promote employment, production, and purchasing power under free competitive enterprise. The President shall designate one of the members of the Council as Chairman. It shall be the duty and function of the Council – one, to assist and advice the President in the preparation of a yearly Economic Report. Two, the Council is to gather timely and authoritative information concerning economic developments and economic trends, both current and progressive, to analyze and interpret such information in the light of declared policy; for the purpose of determining whether such developments and trends are interfering or are likely to interfere, with the achievement of full employment of the people.
It is to compile and submit to the President studies relating to such developments and trends. Also, the Council is to appraise programmes and activities of the Federal Government in the light of policy and recommend to the President national economic policies to foster and promote free competitive enterprise to avoid economic fluctuations and to maintain employment, production and purchasing power. It is further to furnish studies, recommendations and reports with respect to matters of Federal economic policy and legislation as the President may request. Until Nigeria gets this kind of policymaking organ, we shall continue to wallow in abject poverty.
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