Senators were in war of wards as debate on a bill for an Act to provide for the National Livestock Agency. Senators opposed one another on the desirability of the Bureau. It all started during the consideration of a Bill for an Act to provide for the National Livestock Protection, control, and management etc, Bureau for the purpose of livestock identification, traceability registration, cattle rustling control and for other related purposes, 2021 (SB,471) and sponsored by Senator Muhammad Enagi Bima. According to the bill National Livestock Identification Data base bureau when established would ensure the management, traceability, and control of movement of livestock; ensure livestock health and disease management through disease surveillance, prevention and quick response to disease outbreaks, just as it came up for second reading.Despite the arguments that came up, the Bill scaled second reading and was refereed by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan to the Senator Abdullahi Adamu, led Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development to report back in four weeks.
In his lead debate on the general principles of the Bill, Senator Bima said, “Agriculture is the main stay of our economy and a key sector to diversify the economy away from oil. The livestock sub-sector is an integral part of agriculture and vital to the socio-economic development of the country, though its productivity currently is very low. It accounts for one-third of Nigeria’s agricultural GDP, providing income, employment, meat, milk, leather, farm energy, manure, fuel, and transport. Recent estimates indicate that Nigeria’s national livestock comprises 18.4 million cattle, 43.4 million sheep, 76 million goats and 7.5 million pigs (FMARD, 2017). Majority of the animals are raised in extensive production systems comprising smallholders and nomadic herders. Large commercial holdings are currently rare but expanding.
“Livestock identification (ID) refers to keeping records on individual farm animals or groups (e.g., flocks or herds) of farm animals so that they can be more easily tracked from their birth through the marketing chain to the table. Historically, livestock ID was intended to indicate ownership and prevent rustling. Today, livestock identification has been expanded to include information on the animal’s origins (e.g., birthplace, parentage, sex, breed, genetics) as well as traceability—the ability to trace an animal product back through the marketing chain to its source, while identifying those other animals or animal products with which it has come into contact. “It should also be noted that, despite Nigeria having about 40% 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 established will ensure the traceability of animal products into the country, in order to safeguard the lives of our people.”
According to him, the Bill when passed into law, 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. International market access and trade, thereby diversifying the economy. The Bureau when created will facilitate and ensure the operationalisation 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.”
When it was time for contribution, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central who vehemently opposed the Bill and supporting his argument with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, stressed that no aspect of the Exclusive and Concurrent components of the Constitution warrants the National Assembly the powers to legislate on Livestock, adding that said such matters in line with the Constitution, should be handled by State Houses of Assembly. According to him, going ahead with the consideration and passage of the Bill would be unconstitutional. Unfortunately, Senator Basiru was alone in his fight against the Bill as no Senator even those from the South spoke, just as the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan and other Senators from the North threw their weights behind the Bill. The first to oppose Senator Basiru was Senator Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi South who noted that the National Assembly could legislate on the matter, however stressed that it was the duty of the Federal Government to ensure food security in the country. Na’ Allah who did not buttress his argument with the Constitution, said that the Bill would help in monitoring the movement of cattle, adding, “It will make it almost impossible for any body to have access to illegal livestock and sell them elsewhere.”
Contributing, the Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, APC-Niger North who recalled that the Bill was brought before the 8th Senate but “unfortunately it never went through missing said, “This Bill is timely and should be supported. We are talking about diversifying the economy the livestock sector is key to this effort.” On his part, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan said that as the President of the Senate, it was within his powers to interpret the Constitution and the Senate rules, even as he ignored the Constitutional argument and ruled in favour of the passage for a second reading of the Bill. According to Lawan, in February, 2010, the National Assembly, without recourse to the 1999 Constitution, as amended, passed the Doctrine of Necessity motion that made it possible for Goodluck Jonathan become the acting President, adding that national interest was more important. Lawan who noted that the livestock sector generated between N5 to N10 trillion annually for the country, said, “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.”
Recall that Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, in September, 2019, inaugurated the National Livestock Transformation Plan at the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve in Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area of Adamawa. According to him, the programme was designed to run from 2019-2028 as part of Federal Government’s initiative in collaboration with States under the auspices of the National Economic Council, adding that it was 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. But since the programme was flagged off, no State in the South has keyed into it, insisting that livestock should be handled as a personal business.