Member representing Barkin Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Hon. Istifanus Gyang has rejected the grazing reserve bill in Plateau State.
The Lawmaker in a statement signed by his media aide, Mr. Chuwang Dungs, and made available to journalist in Jos cautioned the Plateau state government against taking actions which can plunge the State into crisis and conflict.
He said no portion of lands within his constituency (Barkin Ladi and Riyom) should be gazetted or appended for such grazing plans, because it goes against the wishes of his people.
He reiterated the fact that several individuals and families have been ravaged by previous attacks and that the victims are yet to be rehabilitated and wondered why these helpless victims will further be agonized with a policy that puts further suffering on them.
He averred that the main concern of the government at this time, should be seeking to provide justice for victims of the attacks, finding ways of rehabilitating them and exploring ways of fostering peace and harmony in the communities, as opposed to using political tools and instruments to further divide the people.
The statement reads that “One issue that has of recent generated concern and heated debate in Nigeria is the decision by the Federal Government to create Grazing Reserves “. This policy decision may have arisen out of the desire to seek a solution to the increasing spate of herdsmen insurgency that has devastated many farming communities across the nation, most affected being the North Central States of Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue States with extension to some communities in Kaduna, Zamfara, Taraba, Ekiti and Enugu States among others.
Hon. Gyang said for the Grazing Policy to have received the endorsement and consent of some Northern State Governors, including Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, through a revelation by the Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, “One would have thought that given the far reaching implications of the Governor’s decision, he might have consulted thoroughly with critical stakeholders on the Plateau like the State House of Assembly, Plateau State Traditional Council”.
The Lawmaker express fears that the contention over the policy decision of the Government on the issue is ominous given the devastation and violent attacks which host communities have suffered from herdsmen leading to displacement from their ancestral habitant.
“The Federal Government being aware that it has no Constitutional powers to administer land matters, has resorted to the powers vested on Governors under section 2 of the Land Use Act embedded in section 315 (5,d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by seeking the consent and approval of willing Governors to allocate land within their states for the implementation of the Grazing Reserves Policy”.
“My take on this matter as it relates to Plateau State, especially the Barkin Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency which I represent –a constituency that is fast recovering from over a decade of violent attacks and a people whose lands are still under forceful occupation by herdsmen, is that the constituency or any part thereof, should not, ought not and cannot be within the contemplation of housing a Grazing Reserve”.
He said: Already, there is palpable fear among the indigenous people in his constituency that the grazing reserve policy is simply a ploy to legitimize their displacement and forceful occupation of their ancestral land and heritage by herdsmen.
To insist on creating any grazing reserve in this constituency or anywhere near it, will rather than solving the problem, create new ones and further exacerbate the situation it is intended to remedy. It is therefore not welcomed.
According to him, Government should instead of pushing for the creation of Grazing Reserves, adopt and implement the option of animal husbandry and Cattle Ranching as a viable alternative economic activity for herdsmen, saying the option is the much needed panacea against herdsmen insurgency that will engender lasting peace.
“It is the globally tested and accepted best practice”Cattle owners and herdsmen being introduced to ranching may seek the prior and mutual consent of their host communities as against the seeming outright and unilateral imposition of the grazing reserves policy by government. After all, the security and wellbeing of citizens is the primary constitutional responsibility of government as enshrined in section 14 (2,b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The same government cannot be seen adopting policies that set citizens and communities against one another in hostility, acrimony and violent conflict.
“As for the widely circulated Grazing Reserve Bill at the National Assembly, one need not re-state the fact that the Bill clearly contradicts and violates the Land Use Act as embeded in section 315 (5) (d)1999 constitution (as amended) and is therefore doomed by reason of its inconsistency. Having been recycled for the third time in the 8th Assembly, it should suffer the same fate of being thrown out as was the case in the 6th and 7th Assemblies, more so that it affects a matter that is constitutionally under the purview of State Governments”.
The Federal Lawmaker maintained that the Grazing Reserve option either by way of a legislative Bill or a policy decision of the executive arm of government, is neither suitable nor feasible given the fact that it will worsen the problem it is intended to solve. Simply put, private ranching for cattle breeding is the most reasonable policy option in this instance.
He advise government to accept and adopt the option and facilitate access for herdsmen to loanable funds, thus enabling them establish and own private ranches the same way it has facilitated loans for rice and wheat farmers.