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Grazing Bill Suffers Setback At Senate

Nigeria senate, JAMB
Posted: Nov 10, 2016 at 4:15 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

 

 

Rotimi Akinwumi

 

Abuja – The controversial Grazing Reserve Bill suffered a major setback at the Senate on Wednesday as it was stopped from going through second reading.

The bill sponsored by Rabiu Kwakwanso, former Kano State governor, had two other bills countering its provisions, which were also slated for second reading on the order paper for Wednesday’s plenary session.

The two other counter bills were sponsored by Barnabas Gemade and Chukwuka Utazi.

Kwankwaso’s bill is entitled ‘A Bill for an Act for the Establishment of Grazing Areas Management Agency and for other Related Matters, 2016 (SB 292)’.

The bill by Gemade is entitled ‘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 (SB 293)’.

Utazi’s bill was entitled ‘A Bill for an Act to Control the Keeping and Movement of Cattle in Nigeria and for Related Matters thereto, 2016 (SB 311)’.

Refusal by the sponsors of the three bills to agree to harmonisation was set to cause uproar in the Senate as the supporters of the bills were voicing their displeasure to the call for the harmonisation before Senate President Bukola Saraki stepped in to stop the brewing rowdy session.

Ali Ndume, Leader of the Senate, after reading the three bills out at a stretch suggested that since the proposals were related they should be harmonised, consolidated and presented as one bill before it could be considered by the Senate.

But Gemade disagreed with that suggestion, urging the Senate to allow the three bills to be presented separately so that senators could treat them individually on their merits rather than consolidating them into one document.

While he spoke, there were uneasy movements and grumbling in the chamber, signifying the readiness of the senators to degenerate to open confrontation.

Before any decision to consider the bill for second reading was taken, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, rose to raise a constitutional point of order, alerting his colleagues that, by entertaining such bills, the apex chamber was going out of its constitutional jurisdiction.

He observed that the issues proposed in the bills were not within the list of matters the National Assembly could legislate on, saying that it is the duty of the states to legislate on grazing reserves, ranches and control of movement of cattle in their various geographical enclaves.

Ekweremadu said, “Issues at stake here are neither in the exclusive list nor in the concurrent list. I believe, therefore, it is a residual matter; it is for states to decide how to deal with it.

“I believe the matter here concerns everybody, given the level of carnage and the conflicts 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.

“So, I believe that both the bills for Kwankwaso, Gemade and Utazi are beyond the reach of this National Assembly and should be accordingly withdrawn so that the states under the constitution should be able to deal with the matters which the constitution has prescribed for them.

“I will like to see somebody to show me anywhere in the Exclusive List or Concurrent List that has given us powers to legislate on this matter because they are not in existence”.

On his part, the Senate Leader tried to persuade the Senate to allow the bills pass for second reading so that the relevant committees of the Senate could carry out a comprehensive legislative scrutiny on them and determine whether they could pass into law.

Ndume failed to achieve this mission as the murmurings in the chamber, particularly from the southern senators, indicated that the proposals would end in the trash can if they should be put to voice vote.

Ndume said, “I just want to join the DSP to explain. I just want to remind us of order 81 and also appeal that we are the Senate. We should not allow any emotion or whatever this thing is to guide us. The point that the DSP raised is a very important one.

“Number one, if we don’t have the power to make laws on these issues, I think there is no need to even start arguing on it. But having said that if that is not even the case our rule 81 talks in the order of the second reading of bills.

“A motion maybe made that the bill now be read the second time and a debate may arise covering the general merits and principles of the bill. We should hear them out on the merits”, he appealed.

Sensing the body language of his colleagues, the president of the Senate explained that before the bills were enlisted for second reading, he had thought that the sponsors of the bills would agree for harmonisation because of their seeming similarity.

He, however, reasoned that since such anticipatory agreement did not happen, there was need to put the bills on hold. Accordingly, he advised that the bills be stepped down for another unspecified legislative day, obviously to forestall impending commotion in the chamber.

He, thereafter, advised the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, to move a motion for the bill to be stepped down.

He said, “Before the point of order of Deputy Senate President, I had already put a suggestion that these bills came on the order paper based on the discussion I had with the two sponsors that these bills be consolidated.

“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”.

It would be recalled that the bill on grazing reserves had generated controversy in the parliament, splitting the Senate into two factional blocs along the northern/ southern divides.

While the lawmakers from the North were in strong support of the legislation to secure grazing areas all over the country for herdsmen, their southern and Middle Belt counterparts are vehemently opposed to it.