Nigeria: Senate in Heated Debate Over Livestock Control Bill

The Senate at plenary on Tuesday, had a heated debate on 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 Bill which scaled through second reading is sponsored by Senator Bima Muhammad Enagi (Niger South).

Leading the debate on its general principles, Enagi said the Bill seeks to ensure livestock health and disease management through disease surveillance, prevention and quick response to disease outbreaks.

According to him, the proposed legislation when passed into law will deter animal theft, especially as it affects the incessant cattle rustling crisis; and aid intelligence gathering by security agencies towards mitigating the incessant conflicts between herders and farmers.

He said, “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.”

While five Senators from the North, including the President of the Senate, Dr, Ahmad Lawan, spoke in favour of the Bill, Southern Senators kept mum except the Senate spokesman, Senator Ajibola Bashiru who spoke against it.

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.”