BILL TO BAN OPEN GRAZING SUFFERS SETBACK IN SENATE

The attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party senator representing Oyo South, Kola Balogun, to present his bill aimed at banning open grazing in the country, on the floor of the red chamber, might have been technically frustrated.

Balogun told our correspondent in March this year that the proposed legislation, which he had submitted since January, was ready for first reading.

Investigations at the Rules and Business Committee of the red chamber, however, showed that the bill has not been approved for listing on the order paper by the leadership of the upper chamber.

The senator, in a discussion with our correspondent last week, expressed surprise that his bill had yet to see the light of day, since he presented it for listing on the order paper.

Balogun, however, said he would not relent in his efforts to ensure that the bill surfaced on the floor of the Senate as soon as possible to tackle the menace of killer herdsmen terrorising Nigerians.

He said, “I don’t really know why the bill has not come up for first reading but we are on it. I have a lot of senators ready to support it.”

Balogun’s senatorial district, like other southern parts of Nigeria and the Middle Belt, are constantly under the attack of the Fulani herdsmen.

Worried by the development, the governors from the southern part of Nigeria announced a total ban on open grazing at the end of their meeting in Asaba, Delta State last month.

Senators from southern Nigeria have also supported the ban on open grazing and urged the governors to approach the National Assembly to perfect necessary legislative effect to their collective resolution.

Some senators, who spoke with our correspondent on the issue during the week on condition of anonymity, vowed to push for the listing of the bill for necessary legislative action.

A senator from the South-West geopolitical zone said there was strong opposition to the anti-open grazing bill in the red chamber.

He, however, noted that his colleagues pushing for the proposed legislation would not relent until they achieved their aim.

The lawmaker said, “The leadership of the 9th Senate is not comfortable with the bill and we have noticed that in their body language but we are determined to protect our people through all legal means against the herdsmen.”

However, the senator representing Cross River South, Gershon Bassey, told us that he did not believe the bill was being frustrated by the Senate leadership.

He said, “Talks about the leadership trying to frustrate the presentation of the bill is in the realm of speculation. The truth of the matter is that the process of lawmaking is there. Before any bill can be introduced, it has to go through the normal process and then we see how the document will look like.”

Bassey earlier told our correspondent that the legislation needed the support to end the herder-farmer clashes.

He emphasised widespread consultations to make it enjoy the support of every senator in the chamber.

“There has to be a widespread consultation before we can reach something that is agreeable to everybody,” he said.

Repeated calls made to the spokesperson for the red chamber, Dr. Sirajudeen Basiru, on Friday were not answered, nor had he replied to the text message sent to him on the issue at the time of filing this report.

We report that senators from the southern and Middle Belt areas of Nigeria, in February, started mobilising their colleagues from the core north areas of the country to support the yet-to-be-introduced new Senate anti-open grazing bill.

Investigations showed that a principal officer of the upper chamber was coordinating support for the bill sponsored by Balogun.

The Senate had also in February passed a resolution urging the state governments to implement the National Livestock Transformation Plan.

The red chamber described the project as “a modern scheme designed to eliminate trans-human movement in order to prevent farmer-herder conflicts and activate the highly productive livestock sector in Nigeria.”

The senator representing Benue South, Abba Moro, who is a former minister of interior, had also confirmed to our correspondent in February that the sponsor of the anti-open grazing bill had sought his support.

He promised to do everything possible to give the proposed legislation all the necessary input to ensure that it was signed into law.

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Moro said, “I have it on good authority that one of my colleagues is sponsoring a bill on anti-grazing. I have assured him that I will support him and I will lend my voice to his bill.”

Similarly, the senator representing Osun East, Francis Fadahunsi, in February, confirmed that the bill was already in the Senate, saying, “The anti-grazing bill is already in the Senate and I am fully in support of it. The foreign herdsmen are in Nigeria to cause mayhem, so the only alternative is to stop their free movement through the proposed law.”

Lending his support to the bill, the senator representing Ogun West, Tolu Odebiyi, also said there was the need for a total ban on open grazing,

Odebiyi said it would prevent incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen.

He added, “I completely support a total ban on open grazing and its replacement with the ranching system, which is a modern practice all over the world. We have a national crisis on our hands. It is a national crisis that has been devoid of leadership politically and morally.”

Reacting to the development, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said he was not aware of the matter because he had not been around for a while.

Basiru said, “I’m not aware of the development. I have not been around.”

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