When celebrity photographer and artiste, T.Y. Bello sang that 2007 Classic, The Land is Green, could it be that some current Senators of the 9th National Assembly interpreted it as Nigeria being a vast grassland for cattles and other livestock? Hopefully not!
You may have been puzzled by the above analogy, but that may be nowhere near the shock on the faces of Nigerians following reports on Tuesday, that the Senate has given its nod to a bill seeking to create a national database for livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs).
Entitled ‘Bill for an Act to establish National Livestock and Management (protection, control and management etc) Bureau,’ the proposed legislation is aimed at handling livestock identification, traceability, registration, cattle rustling control, disease control; and other related matters through a National Livestock Identification database.
For Senator Muhammad Bima Enagi (Niger South – APC), sponsor of the bill which scaled second reading on Tuesday, the system would deter animal theft and aid intelligence gathering by security agencies towards mitigating the incessant conflicts between herders and farmers.
Other supporters of the bills argue that being able to track livestock would significantly reduce cattle rustling, believed to be worsening banditry in the north. On the part of Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (Kebbi South – APC), the bill is ‘one of the best legislation’ introduced in the chamber, especially in view of the lingering insecurity crisis.
Some other acclaimed benefits that have been pushed in favour of the bill include livestock health and disease management through disease surveillance, prevention and quick response to disease outbreaks as well as to aid international market access and trade, thereby diversifying the economy.
In 2021 where nations are sending citizens to space and moving fast on dreams to improve the quality of living through fast rail systems and electric cars, Nigeria is still stuck with solving basic issues of amenities, security and worse of all, livestock management.
Other than the huge issue of prioritising a national livestock database over one for citizens, which thousands of Nigerians have expressed outrage. It is lost on many how ‘a people-centered parliament’ would contemplate enacting such legislation when there is an obvious need to cut down the hundreds of federal agencies created across the country.
Another shameful dimension to this legislation is the fact that this 9th Senate appears to have perfected the art of ‘putting the cart before horse’ since it was inaugurated; judging from the quality of legislations before it.
From the bill on National Religious Equity Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2020 to the ‘Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, 2021,’ with designs on legalising the use of the Muslim veil; the priorities of our federal lawmakers are almost always on the least pertinent issues. Others would include National Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalization and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria Bill (2020), and the Dormant Account Funds Management (Est, etc) Bill, 2019.
How do we govern in this part of the world in a manner that we focus on symptoms rather than the root cause of issues?
Assuming (without conceding) that a legislation as this one on National Livestock and Management Bureau holds any merit, we should have huge concerns as to why the bill is getting such controversial passage. This is despite opposition from Senate spokesman, Senator Ajibola Bashiru, who relied on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), to argue that no aspect of the Exclusive and Concurrent list permits the National Assembly to legislate on Livestock.
The defence of the five Northern Senators in support of the Bill (while their Southern counterparts kept silent) is that it is the duty of the Federal Government to ensure food security in the country. And for the Senate President who likened his approval of the bill to the February 2010 Doctrine of Necessity motion; that ushered in then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as acting President, national interest was more important.
If the Senate truly cares about national interest and the National Assembly is interested in solving the hydra-headed national security crisis, it needs no soothsayer to announce the urgent need for the amendment of our constitution to create state/regional police arrangements amongst other necessary reforms.
Until then, this Cowspiracy must stop!
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.