The Senate, on Wednesday, approved a Bill for be establishment of the National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission, following a heated debate during the plenary session.

The Bill, titled “Regulation of Animal Husbandry and Ranches Establishment in Nigeria as a Solution to Farmers-Herders Crises,” was introduced by Senator Titus Tartenger Zam of Benue North-West.

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If enacted, this legislation will aim to regulate and oversee cattle rearing and ranching activities nationwide, including the establishment of ranches in the states of origin for pastoralists.

Senator Zam emphasized that the commission, if established, would serve as a remedy for the recurring violent clashes between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders in Nigeria.

During the debate on the principles of the Bill, Senator Zam highlighted the absence of a regulatory framework for pastoralism and livestock mobility, which has resulted in a chaotic situation of “Survival of the Fittest” between farmers and herders. He argued that such a situation is unacceptable in the modern civilized world.

“As elected representatives and stakeholders in Nigeria, we cannot afford to stand idly by while our country is engulfed in violence between farmers and herders. It would be a dereliction of our duty and leadership responsibilities.

The menace of these crises can be addressed through legislation that bans open grazing in Nigeria,” the lawmaker asserted.

Zam further emphasized the need to adopt international best practices in animal husbandry and urged his colleagues to enact a law to prohibit open grazing, which he deemed outdated, hazardous, and burdensome.

He supported his argument with four key provisions in the Bill, which advocate for ranching as the only sustainable alternative for cattle breeding, the transition from traditional livestock-keeping to modern methods, the establishment of ranches in pastoralists’ states of origin, and the requirement for approval from host communities for the establishment of ranches to promote peaceful coexistence.

However, the Bill faced opposition from some Senators from the Northern region, including Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central), Adamu Aliero (Kebbi State), and Abdulrahman Kawu Sumaila (NNPP, Kano), who objected to confining pastoralists to grazing in their states of origin instead of allowing them to utilize the entire country’s landmass.

They argued that such restrictions violated the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and ECOWAS protocols on freedom of movement, deeming the Bill discriminatory.

They emphasized that cattle rearing and ranching activities were more prevalent in the North and argued that legislation should encompass the whole country, not just a specific region.

Goje specifically mentioned that cattle routes begin from the far north and do not extend to the South, thus opposing the regional confinement proposed in the Bill.

Senator Hussein Babangida Uba (Jigawa North-West) called for caution in passing the Bill due to its past controversies.

However, other Senators who supported the Bill contended that the proposed Commission would effectively address the farmers-herders crisis and urged its passage into law.

After a voice vote, the Bill was ultimately passed by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio.

It has now been referred to the Joint Senate Committee on Agriculture, and Judiciary and Legal Matters for further legislative input. The committee is expected to report back to the Senate within four weeks.