By Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
A bill for a law to establish the Edo State Control of Nomadic Cattle Rearing/Grazing Law and for other purposes yesterday suffered a major setback following its rejection by the state government and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN),
The bill was also rejected by Edo State chapter of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and other stakeholders in the state.
The tone for the rejection of the bill was set at the public hearing organised by the state House of Assembly.
Governor of the state, Mr. Godwin Obaseki while speaking, said he was not aware of the bill; that it did not emanate from him but got to find out from the media following the criticisms that trailed the bill.
The governor who was represented by the Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice, Mr. Wole Iyamu, said: “In discussing this bill, I must first of all repeat the statement that was issued a few days ago on behalf of the executive to the effect that the first knowledge that the executive had about this bill was when it was reported in the press and the reactions that it has generated.
“It must therefore be made very clear that the Government House and the executive have absolutely nothing to do with this bill in its current form.
“In that case, we recognised that it is the duty of the House of Assembly to legislate and it is not in our place to challenge that duty definitely we cannot. It is a constitutional duty but perhaps, if this bill had gone through the rigours that an executive bill always go through, that is our draftsmen looked at it, compared it with existing legislation, look at the implications and constitutional issues that arise from all the provisions, perhaps, it will not have generated the kinds of reactions that we are seeing.
“To say first of all, from the law title, as they say of the bill, absolutely to my mind, nothing is wrong with the bill because as they say, it is a bill to establish and control nomadic cattle rearing/grazing and other purposes connected therewith. They say a desperate situation requires a desperate solution. That is how we have gotten to this point but however, this bill, with every due respect to the originators, does not begin to address the problem.
“I will tick some section of that bill in coming to this conclusion. I mean no disrespect whatsoever and it is not my intention to relegate anybody but it is necessary that we understand that the concept of drafting law is a very complex one and every law you draft has an implication which might be obvious to the person doing the drafting if he is not comparing it with the body of law which is already existing”.
The governor said the bill which has 22 sections failed to define some major fundamental questions like what is nomadic, ranch and grazing, nomadic offenders and others, noting that all these unanswered questions ran through all the portions of the bill and thereby making the whole process confusing.
He said the core problem of the bill is where it made mention of designated areas for grazing noting that land is of fundamental importance to the people and when such an issue is said to be discussed, one needs to be very careful with it.
He said government owns land in trust for the people of the state and when there is a plan to cede land to an individual or group, the government puts the interest of the public into consideration and that it cannot go against the interest of the public.
In their contribution, the President, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Edo State chapter, Bishop Oyenude Kure, said the bill was anti people as its passage into law portends a great danger to the peaceful people of the state, so it should be dead on arrival.
On his personal opinion, Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom who representative the Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare II said they should be mindful of their decisions reached as any wrong decisions taken, the bulk of the problems will fall back to them at the palace.
Chairman of the NBA Edo State chapter, Mr. Asenoguan Ede, said if they are talking of cattle ranch, the Sambisa Forest is large enough to encourage such activity because of its vast land and not in Edo State.