A pressure group, Igboekulie, committed to the cause of good governance and the upliftment of the economic status of the Igbos, has called for the stepping down of the National Grazing Reserve Commission Bill in the National Assembly.
The group in a statement signed by its chairman and Secretary, Prince Ben Onuora and Mr. Benjamin Obidegwu, said the bill, which had passed second reading in the Senate portends grave danger for peace and unity of Nigeria.
According to the group, the bill, if passed, would create many other problems. “The bill has the potential of creating more tension and ultimately more violence. The bill is wasteful, self-serving, retrogressive, discriminatory and deceitful.
“In the Senate, there is a bill for the creation of National Grazing Reserve Commission and it has passed the second reading. Though the bill had been proposed in the past and was thrown out for good reasons, there is an attempt to resurrect the bill and rush it through the legislature process.”
Analysing Section 17(1) of the bill, the group said, “There is an element of compulsory acquisition power granted to the Commission once ‘it appears’ to it that the land is good for grazing to seize the land of peasant and other farmers all over Nigeria for the use of the herdsmen for whose benefit the Grazing Reserves are to be created. This is unacceptable. Otherwise, we should expect violent resistance across Nigeria.
“This bill seeks to violate the Constitution of Nigeria by authorising the Commission to merely give “due notice” in Section 18(1) to any State Governor in whose state land is to be acquired.
“It follows that the Commission has the power to seize people’s lands for the benefit of Fulani herdsmen who conveniently fall into” any class of persons”. This bill must fail on account of this alone.
“Which Nigerian would permit his land to be seized by the government and given to another ostensibly for a public purpose which is indeed private? Robbing Peter to pay Paul is a recipe for disaster and ethnic crises.”
While stating that the federal government had no business participating directly in the business of planting and maintaining grass for herdsmen, the group noted that land was not as abundant in the South, particularly in the South-east zone where people find it difficult to even get a plot for building a house or farming.
“With the attitude of the average Fulani herdsman, most Nigerians are indeed skeptical of this attempt to legitimise the occupation of other people’s lands with the connivance of the Federal Government. No legislation can cause this suspicion to disappear. Therefore, the bill has the potential of creating more tension and ultimately more violence.
“It is clear that this bill is unconstitutional, wasteful, self-serving, retrogressive, discriminatory and deceitful. It is a time bomb capable of igniting monumental crises in all places where attempts are made to dispossess the poor who are victims of the aggression of the herdsmen of their lands.
“The bill, if allowed to be passed into law, will shake the fabric of this nation in terms of the violence it is bound to generate. It is an ungodly attempt to reward impunity and ironically, further punish the victims of such impunity who are mostly poor.
“We hereby call on the members of the National Assembly with conscience, civil society groups, farmers and all other Nigerians to rise up and ensure that this bill is jettisoned immediately. The bill must fail as it did previously. A stitch in time saves nine”, they insisted.