Strong indications emerged yesterday that the controversial Grazing Reserve Bill before the Senate, may be defeated, as fresh attempts to pass it for Second Reading, suffered a major defeat during the plenary.
Three related bills, which were independently sponsored by Senators Rabiu Kwankwaso, Barnabas Gemade and Chukwuka Utazi, on grazing reserve and or related issues were included on the Order Paper yesterday.
Senator Kwankwaso sponsored “A Bill for an Act for the Establishment of Grazing Areas Management Agency and for other related matters, 2016 (SB 292)”.
Senator Gemade’s document was 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, 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)”.
But while debate was going on, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, came up with a Point of Order, alerting that, by entertaining such bills, the Upper Chamber was going out of its constitutional jurisdiction.
He said 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.
Senate, Leader Ali Ndume, first read the three bills together and suggested that since the three legislative proposals were related, they should be harmonised, 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.
Senate, President Bukola Saraki said, before the bills were enlisted for second reading, he had thought that their sponsors would agree for harmonisation because of their similarity.
He, however, reasoned that since such anticipatory agreement did not happen, there was the 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 as 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.”
Since last year, when the controversial bill was first introduced in the House of Representatives, there have been public outcry and condemnations.
Political and traditional leaders, as well as governors, predominantly drawn from the southern part of the country and North-Central states, have been kicking against the proposal.
At different instances, the Presidency denied being in possession of any such bills.