The Senate may soon abandon the contentious Grazing Reserve Bill. The bill is currently before the Senate and has already been read for the first time.
These indications emerged Wednesday, following fresh attempts to pass it for second reading. The attempt however suffered a major defeat during plenary.
Three related bills, which were separately sponsored by Senators Rabiu Kwankwaso, Barnabas Gemade and Chukwuka Utazi, on grazing reserve and or related issues were included on the Senate’s Order Paper on Wednesday.
Senator 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)”.
Senator Gemade’s bill on the other hand 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)”.
The third bill, sponsored by Senator Utazi, is entitled, “A bill for an Act to Control the Keeping and Movement of Cattle in Nigeria and for related Matters thereto, 2016 (SB 311)”.
While this contemplation was going on, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, came up with a constitutional point of order, alerting 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 things 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: “The issues at stake here are neither in the Exclusive list or in the Concurrent list. I believe therefore that 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both the bills for Kwankwaso, Gemade and Utazi are beyond the reach of this National Assembly and should be accordingly withdrawn so that the states under the constitution should be able to deal with the matters which the constitution prescribes for them.
“I will like to see somebody show me anywhere in the Exclusive list or Concurrent list that has given us powers to legislate on this matter, because they are non existent”
The Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, first read the three bills together and suggested that since the three legislative proposals were related, they should be harmonized, consolidated and presented as one bill before it could be considered by the Senate.
He said: “I just want to join the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu to explain. I just want to remind us of Order 81 and also appeal that we are the Senate. We should not allow any emotional to guide us. The point Ekweremadu raised is a very important one. Number one, if we do not have the power to make laws, I think there is no need to even start arguing on it.”
But Senator Gemade disagreed with that suggestion. Instead, he urged the Senate to allow the three bills to be presented separately in order to enable Senators treat them individually on their merits, rather than consolidating them into one document.
The President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, said that, before the bills were enlisted for second reading, he had thought that the sponsors of the bill would agree for harmonisation because of their 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.
Saraki stated: “Before the point of order of Deputy Senate President, I had already put a suggestion that these bills on the Order Paper based on the discussion I had with the three sponsors that these were bills to be consolidated. It is clear from the discussion 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. I will want the Leader to move that we step it down from the order paper of today to another legislative day.”
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