When Proposed Database for Livestock Stirred Heated Debate in Senate

Members of the Senate were divided during debate on a Bill seeking to create database for cows and other livestock, Udora Orizu reports

The Senate at the plenary on April 20th were divided during the consideration of a Bill for an Act to provide for the National Livestock Bureau to ensure protection, control and management of livestock, traceability registration and cattle rustling in the country.

The proposed legislation which scaled through second reading is sponsored by Senator Bima Enagi (APC, Niger South).

Benefits of the Bill

According to the Bill’s draft, when passed into law, it will address the following objectives, ”Creation of a National Livestock Identification Data base; Ensure management, traceability, and control of movement of livestock; Ensure livestock health and disease management through disease surveillance, prevention and quick response to disease outbreaks; Food safety through the traceability of animal products; Enhance transparency and information in the food chain; Deter animal theft, especially as it affects the incessant cattle rustling crisis; Aid intelligence gathering by security agencies towards mitigating the incessant conflicts between herders and farmers.

The Bill will further aid, ”International market access and trade, thereby diversifying the economy; The Bureau when created will facilitate and ensure the operationalization of a national system of livestock identification, registration and traceability through developing strategies, mechanisms and scheme for the implementation of the system and in particular, evolve a standard national uniform procedure. The National Data base would serve as a guide for policy formulation by Government. It would also ensure the regulation of participants in the livestock business.”

Overview of the Clauses of the Bill

The Bill contains Twenty-Eight (28) clauses with a schedule. Clauses 1-6 deals with the establishment, objectives and functions of the Bureau. Clauses 7-8 provides for appointment of staff and pension matters while clauses 9 -12 contains provisions for funds of the Bureau, annual estimates and report. Clauses 13-17 deals with the establishment and functions of Zonal offices.

The Debate

Leading the debate on its general principles, the Bill’s sponsor, Enagi said the Bill’s objective is to safeguard the national livestock and sanitize the livestock industry.

He said the legislation is aimed at solving the challenge of animal identification, management and aid intelligence gathering by security agencies towards mitigating the incessant conflicts between herders and farmers.

He also said it will help in checking cattle rustling, address the diseases and other threats to human lives caused by the movement of livestock.

He said, ”It should be noted that, despite Nigeria having about 40 percent of the entire cattle population of West Africa, the country cannot participate in the export of meat and other dairy products, due to the absence of a functional Animal Identification and Management System in Nigeria. Furthermore, the movement of livestock and their products has increased the spread of diseases, increased the threat to human health and reduced consumer confidence in animal products.

“The Bureau when created will facilitate and ensure the operationalization of a national system of livestock identification, registration and traceability through developing strategies, mechanisms and scheme for the implementation of the system and in particular, evolve a standard national uniform procedure. The National Data base would serve as a guide for policy formulation by Government. It would also ensure the regulation of participants in the livestock business.”

The Senate Spokesman, Senator Ajibola Bashiru, opposing the Bill, while relying on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Senator Bashiru, said no aspect of the Exclusive and Concurrent components of the Constitution gives the National Assembly the powers to legislate on Livestock.

He said such matters, according to the Constitution, should be handled by State Houses of Assembly.

According to him, proceeding with the consideration and passage of the Bill will be unconstitutional.

His position was opposed by a Senator from Kebbi State, Bala Ibn N’Allah, who contended that the National Assembly could legislate on the matter.

He insisted that it was the duty of the Federal Government to ensure food security in the country.

Na’Allah said: “I read in person the debate on the issue as to whether the senate has legal capacity to legislate on issue of agriculture last week. It is by providence that today the same issue is being raised, based on my limited understanding of the constitution, the sectorialzation of powers of National Assembly under what is called exclusive, the concurrent list, one if it was under a system of confederate nature , then you can religiously say that we don’t have the power, but because the system is federal in nature the constitution anticipates a situation might arise where the overriding National interest will be tabled for consideration and that’s why the constitution says if an issue is presented in the concurrent list, both the National and state assemblies have powers to make laws. And that where the laws made by the states becomes inconsistent with the one made by the federal then ours shall prevail so that the provision.

“With due respect to position held by Senator Bashiru , the senate has legislative competence to legislate on issue of agriculture. This is one of the best legislation to be presented for the intervention of the senate. In view of the current crisis we are having, regarding cattle rustling extra ordinary situation requires extraordinary actions and this is the reason why we find justification by the senate to legislate on issue of agriculture. If the contents of this Bill is implemented movement of cattle will be strictly monitored, it means it will make it almost impossible to have access to illegal livestock and sell them elsewhere. It’s better for us to err on the side of action that will bring peace to the country than for us to err on what we can conveniently refer to as legislative convenience”.

Contributing, Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi recalled that the Bill was brought before the Eighth Senate but “unfortunately it never went through.

“This Bill is timely and should be supported. We are talking about diversifying the economy, the livestock sector is key to this effort.”

Corroborating Na’Allah’s position, the Senate President said it was within his powers to interpret the Constitution and the Senate rules.

He recalled that in February, 2010, the National Assembly, without recourse to the 1999 Constitution, as amended, passed the Doctrine of Necessity motion which ushered in Goodluck Jonathan as acting President, adding that national interest was more important.

His words: “I believe that in this Senate, we even had a resolution or intervention that was based on the Doctrine of necessity, because there was need for the National Assembly to intervene even when it was clear that there was no provision for such a situation.

“Sitting here, I believe that we will be doing this country good, we will be doing justice and a great deal of service to our people that we legislate on this. The identification is just one side of it, but the protection and management of this sector of our economy that is so huge and massive is critical to our economy.

“It is not something that we will leave to the states to do whatever they want to do. Let the states also try to legislate to compliment whatever the National Assembly will do.

“So, based on Standing Order 25(h) which gives me the authority to interprete both our standing orders – the rules and constitutional point of orders – I rule that this Senate and, indeed, the National Assembly has the legislative competence to legislate on this matter”.

Lawan said the livestock sector generated between N5 to N10 trillion annually for the country.

“Any government or any parliament will try to do anything possible to ensure that such an industry is protected, promoted to ensure that people earn their livelihood and people have food reserve in the country.”

The Senate President thereafter, ruled in favour of the passage for a second reading of the Bill and referred it to the Senate committee on Agriculture and Rural Development which is to report back to plenary within two weeks.

Views of Some Nigerians

At a time the country is battling poverty, insecurity, agitations and so on, some Nigerians believe that such move should be the least attention of the lawmakers.

Nigerians on social media flayed the Senate for considering such bill, describing it as irrelevant.

Dr Olufunmilayo wrote: “Twitter to open Africa HQ in Ghana. Amazon to put Africa HQ in South Africa. Germany to open Global Pandemic Prevention Centre in Ghana. Guess what Nigeria is doing? Nigeria to have National Database for Cows. Pls don’t laugh. This is a true life story from the Giant of Africa.”

Another user, Sodiq Tade wrote: “Serious Countries are putting in place policies to attract huge Investors, but in Nigeria we are working on creating National database for cows. Sigh”.

Only time will tell, if the Bill will scale through third reading or get the support of stakeholders at the public hearing.

QUOTE 1

I believe that we will be doing this country good, we will be doing justice and a great deal of service to our people that we legislate on this. The identification is just one side of it, but the protection and management of this sector of our economy that is so huge and massive is critical to our economy. It is not something that we will leave to the states to do whatever they want to do. Let the states also try to legislate to compliment whatever the National Assembly will do. So, based on Standing Order 25(h) which gives me the authority to interprete both our standing orders – the rules and constitutional point of orders – I rule that this Senate and, indeed, the National Assembly has the legislative competence to legislate on this matter.

QUOTE 2

The Senate has legislative competence to legislate on issue of agriculture. This is one of the best legislation to be presented for the intervention of the senate. In view of the current crisis we are having, regarding cattle rustling extra ordinary situation requires extraordinary actions and this is the reason why we find justification by the senate to legislate on issue of agriculture. If the contents of this Bill is implemented movement of cattle will be strictly monitored, it means it will make it almost impossible to have access to illegal livestock and sell them elsewhere. It’s better for us to err on the side of action that will bring peace to the country than for us to err on what we can conveniently refer to as legislative convenience. Contributing, Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi recalled that the Bill was brought before the Eighth Senate but “unfortunately it never went through

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