Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
A controversial bill seeking to establish Grazing Management Agency that will ensure the creation of grazing areas across the country was wednesday withdrawn by the Senate.
Sponsored by Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano Central), the bill was withdrawn along with two other similar bills sponsored by Senators Barnabas Gemade (Benue North-east) and Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North).
While Gemade’s bill sought to establish National Ranches Commission for Regulation, Preservation and Control of Ranches, Utazi’s bill sought to control keeping and movement of cattle in Nigeria.
However, after Kwankwaso made a presentation to the Senate on his bill, it was found to have completely different objectives from those of Gemade and Utazi and because of the controversy the bill had earlier generated across the country, the Senate President Bukola Saraki, asked the Senate Leader Ali Ndume to move a motion for the bill to be withdrawn.
The foundation for the withdrawal of the bills was laid by the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who said the Senate lacked the power to legislate on grazing matters which the bills set out to pursue.
According to him, only states have powers to legislate on grazing matters and livestock animals, adding that since the matter was neither in the exclusive nor concurrent list, the National Assembly lacked the power to legislate on the matter.
Ekweremadu said: “The issues at stake here are neither in the exclusive list nor 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. So, I feel the concern of my colleagues but unfortunately we do not have powers to legislate on matters relating to livestock in this Assembly. It is a matter reserved for the states. So, I believe that the bills for Senators Kwankwaso, Gemade and Utazi are beyond the reach of this National Assembly and should be accordingly withdrawn so that the states under the constitution should be able to deal with the matters which the constitution has prescribed for them. I will like to see somebody to show me anywhere in the exclusive list or concurrent list that has given us powers to legislate on this matter because they are not in existence.”
Also speaking, Ndume threw his weight behind Ekweremadu and urged his colleagues to withdraw the bill without being emotional about it, saying if the Senate lacked the legislative authority to legislate on the bills, it made no sense considering them at all.
He also reminded his colleagues of the implication of allowing the bills to scale second reading, explaining how Order 81 of the Senate Standing Orders provides that any bill which passes second reading in the house must be committed to a standing committee for further legislation.
Ndume therefore added that since it was unconstitutional of them to consider the bill, it was in their own interest to stop the bill from being read the second time in observance of their standing orders.
“I just want to join the DSP 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 or whatever to influence us. The point that the DSP raised is a very important one. Number one, if we don’t have the power to make laws, if it is so, I think there is no need to even start arguing on it. But having said that if that is not even the case our rules 81 says second reading of bills.
“On the order of the second reading of bill being read, a motion may be made that the bill now be read the second time and a debate may arise covering the general merits and principles of the bill. What we now have before us even myself, to be very candid, is just the heading of the bill which attracted us. We should hear them out on the merits if that is possible but if it is impossible, Mr. President, it is because we don’t have the powers to do it, then, we just waste our time. But if we have to, I think we should listen to the merits and principles,” he said.
Responding, Saraki said since the contents of the bills were antithetical to his initial thoughts that they were uniform, it was only sensible for them to withdraw them as he charged Ndume to withdraw the bills.
“Before the point of order of Deputy Senate President, I had already put a suggestion that these bills be caught on the order paper based on the discussion I had with the sponsors that these bills should be consolidated. It is clear from the discussion today that it is not so and my view is that since the basis by which they came on the order paper has changed, the way forward is for us to step them down from the order paper of today. I will want the leader to move that we step them down from the order paper of today to another legislative day,” Saraki said.
After Ndume moved the motion to withdraw the bills, they were immediately thrown out.