Opiinion: Grazing Reserve Bill Will Burn Nigeria Up
Just after the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, commenced the trial of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki on allegations that he did not declare his assets fully, two things happened. One was the camaraderie shown to him by senators and the other was the attempt by the Senate to amend the CCB Act, the CCT Act and the Administration of Justice Act. The strongest argument that our friends the Senators put forward was that both Acts, and the ACJ, 2015 are under the jurisdiction of a politician, the secretary to the government of the Federation, who could easily come under the influence of his principal. The Senators did not stop at trying to review the Acts. In what was seen as an attempt to provide soft landing for one of theirs, the first and second readings for the said Bills passed first and second readings in less than 48 hours.
For us at the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, we were nervous about these attempts. In a press release titled _Halt CCB Amendment Now_, we thought that the attempt at amending those Acts was ill-timed, ill-conceived and superficial. Our reason was this: the leadership of the Senate is currently mired in corruption charges, and is being tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. We said that while being arraigned, the Senate President had in tow over 70% of the Senators, who stood behind him at the CCT in an apparent show of solidarity. We also pointed to the fact that our beloved Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki had been fingered in the Panama Papers Leak as the owner of a number of questionable companies operating in offshore tax havens.
We thought as well that Mr. President should be willing to wield the hammer further and order the EFCC and the ICPC to probe all Nigerians who were fingered in the Panama Papers Leak. In the long run however, we were to be pleasantly surprised that the Senate indeed halted the attempt to review the Acts in question. We can only arrogate this level of maturity to the magisterial disposition of our Senators rather than on the firestorm unleashed via our publication of the phone numbers of one distinguished Senator, or to the rallies which several CSOs carried out.
And so, just after the attempt to amend the CCB, CCT and ACJ Acts, and just after the mindless slaughtering of farmers in Edo, Delta, Taraba, Benue and Osun states by Fulani herdsmen, we are yet confronted by another subtle mind game aka National Reserve Grazing Bill, being sponsored to the NASS. At first, very informed people argued that no such bill was before the NASS. Therefore I didn't bother to go look at its innards. But on Channels Television recently, the said sponsor said that there is indeed a bill, and went on to argue it eloquently.
According to him, a National Grazing Reserve Act 1965 already exists but it had been followed more in breach apparently because our population had increased from 1965 till date, and no one had thought of resuscitating the Bill until now. The progenitor of the said Bill said that if passed into law, it has the propensity of arresting incidents like the Agatu, the Delta case and now the Enugu before they happen. According to the proponent of the bill, the reserves to be created in Nigeria will restrict itinerant herdsmen to their reserves, and expose the fact that the killer-herdsmen are not even Nigerians.
But this is an unpleasant lie. Nobody needed a bill all these years for Fulani herdsmen to live peaceably with their very accommodating hosts down here for more than four decades. What makes this bill a little queer is that like the moves to amend the CCB, CCT and ACJ Acts, the personalities moving these bills, and the circumstances necessitating them seem to be driven by a domination quotient. Take the case of the chap in Kaduna state who has gotten his brother governors to initiate a law asking preachers to get a license before they preach; he is not different from the chap seeking a bill which empowers a certain National Reserve Grazing Council to walk into Uzere kingdom and take even the land upon which my ancestors were buried so that cattle can graze. After they take my land, I could go to court only with the kind permission of the Attorney General of Nigeria, who would be asking to see the papers that my ancestors left me as evidence that I am indeed the owner of the land of my ancestors. Oh, I nearly forgot – there's compensation for my land – which only the Reserve Council will determine, not me.
I have lived up North. Vast acres of green will get you green with envy when it rains. But the dry seasons are hard and herdsmen move in droves down south. But it does not need to be so. Rather than a whole Minister of Agriculture be annoying everyone with plans to import grass from Brazil to feed cattle, or an honourable member of parliament whipping up heat about a reserved grazing bill that threatens our lands, perhaps they should consider this that: a former FCT Minister was able to build an artificial lake in Jabi, Abuja where you would ordinarily not find a lake. I recommend to these rabble rousers wasting everyone's time to begin to think like this and desist from trying to burn Nigeria up.
Written by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku.