The Director, Department of Animal Husbandry Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Winnie Lai- Solarin, has affirmed that Nigeria has 415 grazing reserves in 21 states.
According to her, only two of these 415 grazing reserves are in the South— one each in Ogun and Oyo; 141 are gazetted. All the grazing reserves cover 4,275,326 hectares of land, while the gazetted reserves cover about 2.7 million hectares. The National Grazing Reserve Law is of 1965.
On the issue of grazing routes, the Pan-Yoruba Socio-Political Organization, Afenifere, advised the Federal Government to jettison grazing routes, just as human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, criticized the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, for allegedly misleading President Muhammadu Buhari on the existence of grazing routes in southern Nigeria.
In his reaction to the ban on open grazing by southern governors, Malami had said that the ban was unconstitutional, adding that open grazing in Nigeria was backed by law and gazetted.
It should be noted that 21 months after the Federal Government launched the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, which would have helped in addressing the herders/farmers’ crises, some of the willing states are yet to receive the counterpart funding from the Federal Government.
On this issue, some agencies of the federal and state governments traded blames. While one of the state governments desirous of getting the livestock plan kicking said it was yet to get the Federal Government’s 80 per cent counterpart funding, a director in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture said the Federal Government needed to ‘see commensurate commitment’ from the state governments to proceed.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru had earlier explained that the Grazing Reserves Laws in some states created from the former Northern Region of Nigeria are deemed to be state laws by Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He said, “They have been adopted from the Grazing Reserve Law of Northern Region of Nigeria (NN Law of 1965) including CAP 3 Laws of Kwara State, CAP 56 Laws of Bauchi State and CAP 55 Laws of Katsina State.
“On the case of these laws, it was expressly stated that they are adopted from Northern Nigeria Laws of 1965. There is no provision for grazing routes as it is being claimed.
“There has never been federal legislation on Grazing Reserves and/or Grazing Routes in Nigeria and Northern Region Laws are not applicable everywhere in Nigeria.
“In fact, by the present constitutional provisions, such law cannot be within the competence of the National Assembly.
“The Grazing Reserves Laws are only applicable and enforceable in those states created from the former northern regions that chose to adopt same as part of their revised laws like Kwara, Bauchi and Katsina States.
“It appears that Jigawa State omitted the Grazing Reserves Law as part of its laws in the more recent compilation of its laws.
However, what is “trade route” was not defined in the law and there is no other reference to the term “trade route” in the law.
“The purport of Grazing Reserve Law, contrary to the impression being sought to be created, is to create grazing reserve areas with necessary legal requirements and criminalise grazing outside the grazing areas.
“Under those laws, animals are only allowed to graze in the grazing reserve or “trade route”.
“In fact, Section 37 of grazing law CAP G3 Laws of Kwara State provides that an offence is committed by any person, being the owner of specific animal or the person in taking care of who; “(a) allow such animal to graze anyhow other than grazing reserves or trade route established pursuant to this law; or (b) fails to control such animal and the animal causes damages to any crops.
“Section 40 of the law also prohibits possessing, carrying or using for any purpose any firearms or other weapons for other purposes in the grazing areas.
“There is also provision for a constitution for local government grazing reserve in the law.
“Rather than making reference to laws that do not exist or not applicable, what is required and should be pursued by our government and my great party, the All-Progressives Congress as the way forward to address the issue of farmers and herdsmen crisis is to adopt, promote and finance the modern animal husbandry by way of ranches and modern grazing reserves.”
Basiru insisted that the President, with all respect, has not received well-informed and proper legal advice from his Attorney-General and the legal team.
He added: “As a patriot, a Distinguished Senator and someone sworn to uphold the Nigerian Constitution and in view of the apparent interest of Nigerians on the subject matter, it is pertinent to say neither in the North nor in the South is there a law creating grazing routes either as state law or federal law.
“It is rather unfortunate that our President has been mis-advised on this matter,” Basiru added.
The Kano State Governor, Umar Ganduje, is in favour of ranching and has expressed his opposition to movement of cattle from North to South, on foot.
Speaking on how far he had gone with the Ruga project in his state recently, Ganduje said: “We are building a Ruga settlement in Samsosua Forest, our border with Katsina and we have succeeded in curtailing the effect of banditry in that area.
“So, we are building many houses, we are constructing a dam; we are establishing a Cattle Artificial insemination Centre; we are establishing a veterinary clinic and already we have started building houses for herdsmen.
“My advocacy is that we should abolish the transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the northern part of Nigeria to the Middle Belt and to the Southern part of Nigeria.
“There should be a law that will ban, otherwise we cannot control the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers and cannot control the cattle rustling which is affecting us greatly.”
While inaugurating the National Livestock Transformation Plan at the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve in Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area of Adamawa State in September 2019, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, said the plan was designed to run from 2019-2028, as part of Federal Government’s initiative to collaborate with states under the auspices of the National Economic Council.
He said the plan, targeted at supporting the development of Nigeria’s livestock sector, is to be implemented in seven pilot states of Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
According to the vice president, the plan will be implemented as a collaboration project among the federal and state governments, farmers, pastoralists and private investors.
Speaking further on the grazing reserves, Lai-Solarin, said the states should take it up and run the reserves. Her words: “We need to see commensurate commitment from the states, and this is not politics because most people are politicizing it, and we are not politicizing it.
‘’We should develop the grazing reserves and if we are able to develop our grazing reserves, this greenhouse emission we are talking about and carbon will be drastically reduced.
‘’Only the grazing reserve can conserve carbon, and would not allow it go up. We are not against ranching because it is a private business, and if you want to go into ranching, we give you technical support but just one ranch for 10 million cattle and it cannot accommodate them for ranching, but a grazing reserve can absorb that number if it is well planned, developed and managed.
‘’In all, we have 415 grazing reserves in 21 states- Adamawa has 69 grazing reserves and 31 gazetted and it is the highest. The number of grazing reserves ranges from 69 to some states that have only one.
‘’Other states that have grazing reserves include Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara, Plateau, Ogun, Oyo, and FCT.
‘’Of these, there are states that did not gazette their grazing reserve, and there is implication for not gazetting your grazing reserve, like Ogun has one grazing reserve. It might be possible that what we are calling grazing reserve in Ogun might be a forest reserve.
‘’For it not to have been gazetted as grazing reserve, we cannot hold anybody for saying I cannot give to you fund because it was just a pronouncement that was not gazetted.
‘’Out of these 415 grazing reserves, 141 are gazetted, and these 141 that are gazetted are about 2.7 million hectares of land. All the grazing reserves cover 4, 275, 326 hectares of land, and the National Grazing Reserve Law is of 1965.’’
The Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, has said the statement by the Senate spokesman was a clear revelation of the deceit by Northern Nigeria against other parts of the country, adding that the North was neck-deep in deceiving other parts of the country.
He said: “It is unfortunate that the Federal Government is taking other parts of the country for granted. They create safe havens for themselves and that is why different groups would say the North is ready ‘we are ready to go’, the rest of the country can go, because they have amassed our wealth, and control our resources.
“For the past 50 years they have been draining our resources and so they could comfortably say we are prepared to go.
“It is regulations like this that triggers anger and disaffection among our people. Up until 1997 and 1998 when young people from the Niger Delta got to Abuja and saw how the place has been transformed from nothing, and then there were abandonment of projects in the Niger Delta, that is what resulted into crises, demonstrations and protests.
“People are reacting to the neglect and marginalisation. They have continued in that manner. If it is true that open grazing is outlawed and criminalized in the North and then they are opposing the banning of open grazing in Southern Nigeria, it shows the insincerity and height of dishonesty.
“Revelations like this will continue to create anger and some kind of realization that we are being taken for granted. Even the Middle Belt is suffering the same marginalisation and neglect.
“For us, this situation reinforces the decisions and resolutions of the Niger Delta people and Southern Nigeria to say open grazing is banned and it is a settled matter. I encourage governors of the South to enact the necessary laws through their state houses of assembly and ensure that it is enforced.
“If the Nigeria Police refuses to enforce it, we the people of Southern Nigeria will enforce those laws ourselves.”
In his own reaction, the National President of Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu has said whether the grazing reserve law prohibits open grazing or not, ranching remains the global best practice in animal husbandry and should be adopted in Nigeria.
Dr. Pogu said “We know that yes, there was the grazing reserve law that was passed by the regional government of Northern Nigeria. And the grazing reserve is for the animals to remain within the reserve. It was not a ranching thing per-se, but the herders were supposed to remain within the grazing reserve area and not to be roaming around.
“But now, we have a president who is taking us backward by trying to impose open grazing on a progressive Nigeria which is not tenable. He mentioned other things that suggests that he is more inclined to his people in Niger Republic. If you remember what he said, when he was answering the question on why he is doing projects in Niger Republic, he said there are three tribes, Kanuri, Fulani and Hausa that have their nations there.
“But you see, whether you are talking about grazing reserves or we are talking about the original laws of Northern Nigeria then, the important thing is that the policies he is talking about, that he is opening grazing routes and all that are not tenable in modern Nigeria. What is obtainable in the modern world is ranching.
“And the earlier Mr. President revisits the ECOWAS Treaty allowing for free movement, which allows herders to roam about from Mali, the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso into Nigeria in order to stop it the better.”