Anger over livestock database bill


• It’s Ridiculous, Misplaced Priority, Says Rights Activist
• Serves No Strategic Purpose For Nigeria — Yoruba Elder
• ‘We Need To Be Taken Care Of, Not Cows And Goats’
• ‘Bill Should Die A Natural Death’ • ‘N’Assembly Problem Of Nigeria’

Nigerians from all walks of life have criticised a bill in the Senate seeking to create a database of livestock, including cows and goats at a time the country is battling hunger, poverty, insecurity (banditry, kidnapping, etc), agitations amidst calls for restructuring, insisting such move should be the least attention of the lawmakers at this point in time.

The Bill for an act to provide for National Livestock Bureau scaled Second Reading at last Tuesday’s plenary session.
According to its sponsor, Muhammad Enagi, representing Niger South, the agency would be in charge of identification, traceability and registration of livestock, such as cows and goats, to among other things, curb cattle rustling and ensure the protection, control and management of all livestock in Nigeria, as well as reduce farmers-herders clashes. It has been referred to its Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for further action.

It would be recalled that a similar bill was considered by the 8th Senate, but was not passed. Reacting to the development, Lagos-based lawyer, Tony Odiadi, described the Bill as pretty ridiculous, saying it is not a high impact legislation that can address development or transform the agricultural sector.

He stated: “First, this is a matter suitable for local government administrations, who deal with abattoirs, by extension matters relating to livestock and the rest. 

“Second, in terms of national priority, a database for cattle, goats, sheep and livestock is a monumental waste of bureaucratic energy that ought to be deployed to facilitate ranching and keeping animals in proper pens, not merely counting migrating or ubiquitous livestock.

“Third, this is purely a private enterprise. It is like government desiring to count the cars in all the private car shops in Nigeria. After counting the cars in the shops, as a national assignment or enterprise, how will the information aid local economic development?

“Lastly, at a time Nigeria is faced with cases of insurgency, banditry, separatist impulses, herdsmen-farmers clashes and so on, the National Assembly is burdened with preparing a law to maintain an inventory of livestock in the country? Who is to use the data? How will such data help planning, and planning for what?

“This is the sort of law that runs counter to serious development issues. The Bill serves no strategic purpose to our national needs at this time.”

Senior Lecturer, Department of Industrial Relations and Human Resources, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Dr. Folusho Jayeoba Ilesanmi, said: “Many things are becoming normal in Nigeria under the Muhammadu Buhari regime, ranging from the absurd to the farcical.
“Indeed, there should be no time for such inanity in the parliamentary life of any nation. But there they are! I hope chickens, dogs and pigs will feature in the proposed database, as well as the number of AK47 accompanying them as they roam, defile and pollute the landscape.
“Seriously, a nation ought to have inclusive data for planning for livestock needs of a country; this is why ranching is the most ideal animal rearing practice. But I cannot imagine who will and how to obtain data from roaming animals and gun-wielding herders?

“That is why I think this Bill is provocative and mocking victims of banditry and herders incursions into private farmlands. What agency are you creating for those in other fields of agriculture, such as crops, vegetables, aquaculture, etc?”

On the timing of the Bill, the don said: “I think it is insensitive for them to be debating such a frivolous Bill as this. What about a Bill to curb illegal arms bearing by herdsmen? What about an agency to compensate victims? There are more weighty national issues, such as the economy in doldrums, unholy trinity of Boko Haram, herdsmen and banditry; clamour for secession and restructuring, etc.

“But it will appear that the senate is in the service of certain parochial interests. One can only wonder what hypnotic spell the other lawmakers are subjected to. One could only wonder why the standard of morality, conscience and public decorum had declined so low recently.

“At a time the very existence and essence of Nigeria’s unity is being contested and debated, one expects much more than meretricious issues from both the National Assembly.”

On his part, music legend, Prof Victor Uwaifo, noted: “Our senators should first of all address restructuring. Livestock belong to private business enterprises; they should concentrate on border control, banditry, kidnapping, smuggling, corruption, unemployment and naira devaluation.
“From my own private experience in business, academics, art and music, there must be harmony and cohesion. We have laws in Nigeria twice too many, but the problem is the inability to effect the laws, because those in charge delegate powers and go to sleep. This is why we are still where we are today. The job is never done because you expect someone to do the job in your absence. Talk and rhetoric, but no action can never bear fruits.”

To the National Secretary of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide, the Bill is a misplaced priority. He wondered whether cows and goats are more important than human beings, saying this should not be the priority of government in the current time of crisis in the country.

The YCE scribe said the attention of the lawmakers should have been focused on the important challenges facing the country, adding: “My first reaction is why enumerating cows and goats is more important than human beings. Presently, we do not have a concrete database of Nigerians, so cows should not be the priority of the national government at this time of crisis. Are we more concerned for the safety of cows than the safety of human beings?

“The situation in the country is so frightening. As I speak to you, there are some people in Police uniform who are designated community police, they have been supposedly trained and for six months now, they have not been paid a dime as salaries and we are saying we are fighting corruption. They have given them uniforms and they go to the road to harass people and extort them.

“There are more challenges confronting the country today than the enumeration of cows and goats. Yes, ultimately we might get there, but not now when about 14 million children of school age are out of school, when 200 schools have been shut down in the north, when thousands are being killed in the north?

“This is why I have stopped talking about restructuring; this is why the YCE is talking about a new constitution, because if you talk of restructuring, you will factor the National Assembly into it. As far as I am concerned, the National Assembly is our problem.

“For me, I think it is a non-issue. The media must let them realise that there are many problems confronting us. They must begin to see Nigeria from the lenses of the ordinary people, not on the lenses of less than 500 people who are spending 35 per cent of our recurrent budget.

“I think we need the database of human beings and proper demographic data of age distribution, rather than to start counting cows and goats.”

A leadership expert and lawyer, Toye Sobande, noted: “I subscribe to government’s efforts to capture data, but to what end and how does this solve the issue of cattle rustling? I am trying to understand the reasoning and information at the disposal of the lawmakers wanting to capture the data of cows to solve the problem of cattle rustling.
“The problem of cattle rustling is a security issue, but how does generating data for cows create a security strategy for us? How does it solve the problem the farmers are facing right now, also what cost at the expense of the taxpayer will this data capturing bear on the citizens of Nigeria, especially for a country that borrows funds, which we have converted to capturing data?”

Sobande added: “To what economic value is the data for cows? How does that data help to solve the current debt that Nigeria is plunged into to build infrastructure?

“Government needs to communicate the processes, so that Nigerians can be carried along. I believe government’s intentions may be genuine, but because there is no leadership communication, it creates a misunderstanding.
“Do we have data that measures the crime rate in this country, that tells us the number of children that have been kidnapped everyday? What impact does it have to that child who goes to bed every night without food, because data helps us make informed decision.”

Expressing displeasure over the Bill, Dr. David Edochie, a businessman, added: “I don’t really think the 9th National Assembly has any programme for the Nigerian people; they lack direction. Human beings are yet to be fully identified and someone is proposing a law for the creation of a database for cows? From the body language, it is clear that what we have is the government of the cows.”

Coordinator of the Concerned Citizens for Good Governance, Duru Daniels, vehemently opposed the move, describing it as “retrogressive and misplaced priority.”

According to the rights activist, at a time Nigeria is facing hunger, poverty, banditry, kidnapping, terrorist attacks, measurable power supply, energy should be deployed to tackle the social problem than frolic issues.

Daniels lamented: “We should not engage in misplaced priorities and unnecessary waste of resources on irrelevant issues. Our lawmakers should exercise legislative time in making laws that should address Nigerians’ immediate needs, such as reducing hunger, poverty, banditry, terrorism, kidnapping and all forms of insecurity. Nigerians do not need laws on provision of database for cows and goats and other livestock.”

For social critic, Jude Ugbaja, such legislation should be thought twice, adding that it has come to the stage where National Assembly members and other legislators should consult widely with Nigerians before drafting and presenting Bills on the floors of their chambers.

To him, the plight of Nigerians in providing food on their tables and steps to end social and security challenges in the country should concern the lawmakers, saying: “They should make good laws that would give hope to Nigerians, such as eradicating poverty and security challenges in the land, rather than going into trivial things.”

To Veteran journalist and Editor of Watchman magazine, Lawrence Mpama, it is a total distraction and waste of time, noting: “How can we be talking of an Act to provide for National Livestock Bureau at this point in time? This is a shame! 

“The country is passing through serious crises and people are being attacked and killed on daily basis and we are here talking about animal? How come our representatives, for once, cannot behave like our true representatives? Is that what Nigerians want? Did they meet their people to find out if that is what they want?

“Nigerians are going about the streets hungry and youths in thousands are unemployed and the universities are churning out graduates everyday. Why can’t they sit and think outside the box to see how they can handle youth unemployment, instead of talking of how to count goats and cow?

“Let them think of better things and see how they can rescue Nigerians from the security quagmire we are today. For me, the Bill should die a natural death; a stillbirth.” 

Chairman South-South Civil Liberty Organisation, Karl Chinedu, said the timing is yet another demonstration of the present government’s insensitivity and disregard for the plight of the ordinary Nigerians.

“At a time the country is being ravaged by insecurity and hunger arising from the sheer incompetence of government agencies and policies, the best thing our representatives can think to do is debate about the welfare of cows. Thus is most absurd.

“Ordinarily, every country seeks to have an idea of the number of livestock within its territory, but seeking to make a law just for the purposes of identifying and tracing goats and cows is the hallmark of legislative indolence and irresponsibility and further calls to question the over-centralised nature of the country’s federalism.”

He pointed out that every state has the enabling legal regime and policies to tackle the issue of registration of livestock, stressing the need to create an omnibus federal parastatal to register and trace cows and goats.

He stated: “It is equally ironic that at a time the whole country is crying out against the menace of herders and the destruction of farmlands by cows, even against the backdrop of the rejection of such policies as RUGA and open grazing, the Federal Government has continued to display a selective pro-cows disposition.”

Similarly, budget analyst, Ken Henshaw, said it is shocking that with poverty and an alarming rate of insecurity all over the country, protection and preservation of cows and goats is more important to the lawmakers at the moment, saying: “I wish the Senate will be proposing a Bill for the protection of Nigerians against insecurity or to address the state of poverty in the country.

“Of what use is it for us to be creating identification for cows? How plausible is this? Will the cows be given names to identify them? When they are sold and killed, will their death be updated on the database, same with when they reproduce? This is how unthinkable the proposal is.”

Henshaw, who is the Executive Director of We the People, a non-governmental organisation, noted that the proposal flows from the thinking that Nigeria would continue to permit the nomadic movement of cattle all over the country.

“This is a system of livestock rearing that is known to cause constant conflict between herders and farmers, leading to regular killings. Rather than think of how to alter that system and introduce the globally acceptable practice of ranching, the lawmakers are planning to formalise a moribund method.

“Nigeria, a country currently faced with 40 years challenge of national registration and identification that has still not been surmounted plans to track and register cows and goats? This is not only laughable, but also very sad,” he added.

Chairman of Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Osun State University, Osogbo, Isaiah Fayemi, said the senate is not surprising Nigerians, because “they never had the interest of masses at heart. They are only interested in the money they share at the red chamber.

“We are not surprised that their interests are on animals when the nation is under siege, there is hardship across the country, insecurity and kidnappings everywhere and what they are creating time for is cow and goat. It’s shame of a nation.”

He added: “The senators should force the government to equip the security agencies with sophisticated arms and ammunition to be able to combat all forms of terrorism in the country. They should make the government stop negotiating with bandits and stop payment of ransom and not dissipating energy on cows.

“Our lawmakers should push our government to treat all tribes equally and not giving preferential treatment to a particular tribe over others.”

Also speaking, Eustace Chukwuemeka, a businessman in Osogbo berated the senators, saying: “What we have seen is misplacement of priority by our senators. Why would the legislative arms of government that should be a watchdog to the Executive be discussing an irrelevant issue about cows when the country is practically boiling? This is unacceptable!”

In Plateau State, residents condemned the Bill, describing it as puerile in the face of hardship. According to Isaac Musa: “I would have expected the distinguished senators to put the Bill under the carpet, but from the look of things, it may be passed. Even if passed, it would not add to our hardship.”

But Yakubu Matthew welcomed the development, saying if passed, there would be no stray cows and goats that cause human tragedy again, adding that such loose animals cause diseases and illnesses, as there is no control over where they can go.

“But when they are now caged in one place, they cannot go out again to contaminate foodstuffs, which they are known for. See advanced countries, livestock are kept in particular places, so that when you need meat, you know where to go,

“Besides, the issue of harder/herder clashes, which often cause death, and criminal rustling, especially cows, will be a thing of the past. I whole heartedly welcome the Bill and I am praying for it to scale through,” he stressed.

By Daniel Anazia, Adelowo Adebumiti, Ijeoma Thomas-Odia, (Lagos), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Anietie Akpan (Calabar), Ayodele Afolabi Ado Ekiti), Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt), Timothy Agbor (Osogbo), Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos)

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