by Ajadi Daniel
The Senate did not probably thought it could find a lasting solution to the problem of the farmers/herdsmen crisis when it brought up three bills to address the issue, but it realized on Wednesday that the issue is more complicated than it envisaged.
This could be seen in the stepping down of the second reading of three bills on cattle rearing in the country. The Senate argued that only the states of the federation could decide on the establishment of grazing reserves, ranches and the movement of cattle by herdsmen in the states. Ekweremadu who raised the point of order said that the National Assembly lacks the powers to deal with matters that were neither on the concurrent list nor the exclusive list.
The first bill is ‘ A bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of Grazing Areas Management Agency and for other Related Matters 2016’, sponsored by the former Kano state governor, Senator Musa Kwankwaso. The second bill is ‘ A bill for an act to provide for the establishment of National Ranches commission for the regulation, management, preservation and control of ranches and for connected purposes 2016’ sponsored by Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC, Benue North-East). The third is ‘ A bill for an act to control the keeping and movement of cattle in Nigeria and other related matters thereto 2016’ sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu-North).
The National Assembly should have realized this earlier; eventually the states would have to come to the reality of the matter and wake up to their responsibility. There is no doubt that ours is a shadow kind of federalism that pays lip service to decentralization. What we have is actually a unitary structure that disrobe the state or component units of the benefits and responsibilities and commitment that comes from a federal system.
But that is not only the case, there are actually residual responsibilities bestowed on the states, but over time most of the states have become too reliant on the federal government at the expense of taking initiative to solve domestic matters that are actually within their capacity. The issue of cattle grazing and movement of the herdsmen is within the powers of the state but rather than take holistic actions to tackle the matter, most of the governors have sat back watching the matter to fester until it went beyond their powers.
It is my opinion that the issue of the Fulani herdsmen and farmers clashes went out of bounds because the leaders or governors in the state did not pay close attention to it at the embryonic stage, especially states in the middle belt. Most of the state governors need to take a cue from Ekiti. They need to take responsibility and open the line of communication. If they have to enact laws to address the issue or adopt any legal instrument, they should go about it in a holistic manner.
The issue of grazing reserves does not have to be general; it has to be thought through in the context of each state knowing full well that what works for one state might not work for another. Hence some states might decide to have grazing reserves for the herders and even go to the extent of creating ranches for them, other states might think otherwise. All these should be according to what each state feels about the situation.
There is no problem if some states could actually earmark some places in their state as grazing reserves for the herdsmen, and this does not mean others would do so. This is the best way to address the issue, not waiting for an overburdened federal government to proffer solution. Beyond the usual excuse of unfavourable federal structure, most of the states are lazy and lacks ingenuity to address the problems they experience in their state.
Beyond this, I think it is important that we rethink cattle rearing in this part of the world both economically and sociologically or else no matter how hard we try, we might not completely be able to put an end to the friction that occur between the parties involve.