Concerns over the livestock database bill

National Legislative Assembly

• It’s a ridiculous, misplaced priority, according to a rights activist; • It serves no strategic purpose for Nigeria, according to a Yoruba elder
• ‘We, not the cows and goats, ought to be looked after.’ ‘Bill Can Die Naturally’ • ‘Nigeria’s Assembly Issue’

Nigerians from all walks of life have slammed a bill in the Senate that seeks to establish a database of animals, including cows and goats, at a period when the nation is grappling with hunger, poverty, instability (banditry, abduction, etc), agitations, and demands for restructuring, arguing that such a move should be given the least consideration by lawmakers at this time.

During last Tuesday’s plenary session, the Bill for an Act to Create a National Livestock Bureau received Second Reading.
According to its sponsor, Muhammad Enagi, who represents Niger South, the agency will be in charge of identifying, tracing, and registering livestock such as cows and goats in order to, among other things, reduce cattle rustling and ensure the security, supervision, and management of all livestock in Nigeria, as well as reduce farmers-herders clashes. It has been forwarded to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee for further action.

It should be noted that a similar bill was debated but not approved by the 8th Senate. In response to the news, Lagos-based lawyer Tony Odiadi called the Bill “ridiculous,” claiming that it is not a high-impact piece of legislation capable of addressing growth or transforming the agricultural sector.

“First and foremost, this is a matter appropriate for local government administrations, which deal with abattoirs and, by extension, livestock and the rest,” he said.

“Second, in terms of national importance, a database for horses, goats, sheep, and poultry is a massive waste of logistical resources that can be used to promote ranching and maintaining animals in proper pens, rather than just counting migrating or ubiquitous livestock.

“Third, this is entirely a for-profit venture. It’s as if the government wants to count the vehicles in all of Nigeria’s private vehicle dealerships. How can the intelligence obtained by counting the cars in the stores, as a national assignment or company, help local economic development?

“Finally, at a time when Nigeria is dealing with terrorism, banditry, separatist tendencies, herdsmen-farmers conflicts, and so on, why is the National Assembly tasked with drafting legislation to keep a livestock inventory in the country?” Who will make use of the data? How can such data aid preparation, and for what purpose?

“This is the kind of legislation that contradicts significant planning concerns. At this time, the Bill has no practical function for our national needs.”

Dr. Folusho Jayeoba Ilesanmi, Senior Lecturer, Department of Industrial Relations and Human Resources, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, said, “Many things are becoming common in Nigeria under the Muhammadu Buhari government, ranging from the ridiculous to the farcical.”
“Indeed, such inanity should have no place in every nation’s parliamentary life. But they’re there! I hope the suggested database includes goats, rats, and pigs, as well as the amount of AK47s following them as they roam, defile, and pollute the countryside.
“Seriously, a government should have comprehensive details for preparing for a country’s livestock needs; this is why ranching is the best animal rearing method. But I’m not sure who would do that or how they’ll get data from wandering animals and gun-wielding herders.

“It is why I believe this Bill is offensive, mocking victims of banditry and herder incursions into private farmlands. What agency are you establishing for those working in other areas of agriculture, such as crops, vegetables, aquaculture, and so on?”
The don spoke on the timing of the Bill, saying, “I think it is insensitive for them to be considering such a trivial Bill as this.” What about a bill to prohibit herdsmen from carrying illegal weapons? What about establishing a compensation agency? There are more pressing national challenges, such as the stagnant currency, the unholy trinity of Boko Haram, herdsmen, and banditry; calls for secession and reform, and so on.

“However, it would seem that the Senate is serving narrow interests. One can only speculate as to what hypnotic spell the other legislators are under. One could only speculate as to why the level of morals, conscience, and civic decorum had lately fallen so short.

“At a time when the very presence and meaning of Nigeria’s independence are being disputed and discussed, one wants even more from both the National Assembly.”

Prof Victor Uwaifo, a music legend, said, “Our senators should first discuss reform.” Private businesses own livestock; they can focus on border protection, banditry, extortion, piracy, graft, unemployment, and naira devaluation.
“Accordion and continuity must exist, based on my personal background in business, academia, painting, and music. In Nigeria, we have twice as many rules as we like, but the trouble is that they can’t be enforced because those in power delegate authority and then go to sleep. This is why we are all here today. The role is never over and you want someone else to do it in your absence. Talk and rhetoric are useless if no action is taken.”

According to Dr. Kunle Olajide, National Secretary of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), the Bill is a misguided priority. He questioned why cows and goats were more critical than humans, arguing that this should not be the government’s focus during the country’s current crisis.

The YCE scribe said that lawmakers’ interest should have been concentrated on the critical issues confronting the world, adding, “My first response is why enumerating cows and goats is more relevant than human beings.” Since we do not currently have a concrete database of Nigerians, cows need not be the national government’s focus during this period of crisis. Are we more concerned with the welfare of cows than we are with the safety of humans?

“The country’s condition is terrifying.

As I talk to you, there are some people in police uniform who are named community police; they have allegedly been educated, but they have not been paying a dime in wages for six months, despite the fact that we claim to be battling corruption. They’ve issued them badges, and they’re out on the street harassing and extorting citizens.

“There are more problems facing the country today than counting cows and goats.” Yes, we could get there eventually, but not now, when 14 million children of school age are not in school, 200 schools have been closed in the north, and thousands have been killed in the north?

“It is why I have stopped talking about reform; this is why the YCE is talking about a new constitution, because talking about restructuring involves the National Assembly. Our challenge, in my opinion, is the National Assembly.

“I believe it is a non-issue for me. The media must make us aware of the many issues that face us. They must begin to see Nigeria through the eyes of average citizens, not through the eyes of fewer than 500 people who pay 35% of our recurrent budget.

“I believe we need a human database and adequate population statistics on age distribution before we start counting cows and goats.”

Toye Sobande, a leadership expert and lawyer, said, “I support the government’s attempts to collect data, but to what end and how does this fix the problem of cattle rustling?” I’m attempting to comprehend the logic and facts available to politicians who wish to collect cow data in order to address the issue of cattle rustling.
“Cattle rustling is a security problem, so how does collecting data for cows build a security plan for us?” How does it solve the problem that farmers are currently facing, and what cost will this data collection impose on Nigerian people, especially for a country that borrows funds, which we have transformed to data collection?”

Sobande went on to say, “What economic significance does the data for cows have?” How does the information contribute to resolving Nigeria’s existing infrastructure debt?

“The government must communicate the procedures so that Nigerians can follow along. I assume the government’s motives are good, but the lack of leadership contact leads to misunderstandings.
“Do we have evidence that tracks the crime rate of this country and shows us how many children are stolen every day?” What effect does it have on the kid who goes to bed hungry every night, because data allows us to make better decisions?”

Dr. David Edochie, a businessman, expressed his displeasure with the Bill, adding, “I don’t really think the 9th National Assembly has any programme for the Nigerian people; they need guidance.” Humans are yet to be properly identified, and someone is considering legislation to provide a database for cows? It is plain from the body language that we are dealing with cow government.”

Duru Daniels, coordinator of the Concerned Citizens for Good Governance, vehemently opposed the change, calling it “retrogressive and misguided priority.”

According to the rights activist, at a time when Nigeria is dealing with malnutrition, poverty, banditry, extortion, terrorist threats, and a lack of visible power supply, resources should be used to address social problems rather than frolic issues.

“We do not partake in misguided interests and needless wasting of time on unrelated issues,” Daniels lamented. Our legislators should use their parliamentary time to pass legislation that solve Nigerians’ immediate needs, such as reducing hunger, poverty, banditry, insurgency, abduction, and other types of insecurity. Nigerians do not need laws requiring the development of databases for cows, goats, and other livestock.”

According to social commentator Jude Ugbaja, such laws should be reconsidered, and it has reached the point that National Assembly members and other politicians should communicate extensively with Nigerians before writing and proposing Bills on the floors of their houses.

According to him, lawmakers should be concerned about the plight of Nigerians in providing food on their tables as well as measures to end social and security problems in the region, saying: “They should make effective laws that would give hope to Nigerians, such as eradicating hunger and security challenges in the nation, rather than going into trivial matters.”

According to veteran journalist and Watchman magazine Editor Lawrence Mpama, it is a complete diversion and waste of time, noting: “How can we be dreaming about an Act to provide for a National Livestock Bureau at this point of time?” This is a disgrace!

“The world is in deep crisis, and civilians are being targeted and slaughtered on a regular basis, and we’re here arguing about animals?” How come our leaders can’t act like our real representatives for a change? Is this what Nigerians desire? Did they consult with their people and see if that’s what they wanted?

“Nigerians are going hungry on the streets, and thousands of youths are unemployed, despite the fact that universities are producing graduates on a daily basis. Instead of discussing how to count goats and cows, why shouldn’t they sit down and look beyond the box and see how they can deal with youth unemployment?

“Let them dream of better ways to get Nigerians out of the defence quagmire we’re in today. The Bill, in my opinion, should die naturally; a stillbirth.”

The timing, according to Karl Chinedu, Chairman of the South-South Civil Liberties Organisation, is yet another example of the current government’s insensitivity and disrespect for the plight of ordinary Nigerians.

“At a moment when the world is being devastated by insecurity and starvation as a result of the utter negligence of government institutions and policies, the only thing our representatives can think of is to discuss cow protection. This is completely ridiculous.

“Normally, a nation seeks to have an understanding of the number of livestock within its jurisdiction, but making a law solely for the purpose of recognising and tracing goats and cows is the trademark of legislative indolence and irresponsibility, and brings into question the country’s over-centralised nature.”

He emphasised the importance of establishing an omnibus federal parastatal to register and trace cows and goats, pointing out that each state lacks the necessary legislative framework and policies in place to address the issue of livestock registration.

“It is equally ironic that, at a time when the whole country is crying out against the threat of herders and the depletion of farmlands by cows, even in the face of the condemnation of such policies as RUGA and free grazing, the Federal Government has continued to show a selective pro-cows disposition,” he said.

Similarly, budget analyst Ken Henshaw said it is surprising that, with hunger and an unprecedented rate of insecurity in the world, lawmakers are more concerned with the safety and preservation of cows and goats at the moment, saying: “I wish the Senate would be considering a Bill for the protection of Nigerians against insecurity or to fix the state of poverty in the country.”

“What is the point of making marking for cows? How credible is this? Would the cows be assigned names in order to be identified? Would their deaths be recorded in the database if they are sold and killed, as well as when they reproduce? Which is how absurd the idea is.”

Henshaw, the Executive Director of the non-governmental organisation We the People, said that the plan is based on the assumption that Nigeria will continue to allow the nomadic movement of cattle in the region.

“This is a livestock-raising scheme that is considered to trigger frequent confrontation between herders and farmers, resulting in routine kills. Rather than considering ways to change the structure and implement the internationally appropriate tradition of ranching, lawmakers want to formalise a dormant process.

“Nigeria, a country presently confronted with a 40-year problem of national registration and recognition that has yet to be overcome, aims to track and register cows and goats?” This is not only amusing, but also heartbreaking,” he continued.

Isaiah Fayemi, Chairman of the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Osun State University, Osogbo, said the senate’s actions do not surprise Nigerians because “they never had the welfare of the people at heart.” They just care about the wealth they share in the red chamber.

“We are not shocked that they are interested in animals when the country is under siege, there is poverty throughout the region, instability and kidnappings everywhere, and what they are making time for is cow and goat. That is a national disgrace.”

“The senators should compel the government to provide advanced weapons and ammunition to security forces in order for them to fight all forms of terrorism in the country,” he said. They should demand that the government stop dealing with pirates, stop paying ransoms, and stop wasting oil on cows.

“Our legislators should press our government to regard all tribes fairly, rather than give unfair treatment to one tribe over others.”

In his remarks, Eustace Chukwuemeka, an Osogbo businessman, chastised the senators, adding, “What we have seen is misplacement of priority by our senators.”

Why will the legislative branches of government, who are supposed to be the Executive’s watchdog, be debating an unrelated question concerning cows when the country is virtually on fire? This is intolerable!”

Residents in Plateau State condemned the Bill, calling it puerile in the face of adversity. According to Isaac Musa, “I would have preferred the distinguished senators to sweep the Bill under the rug, but it appears that it might be passed.” And if passed, it would not worsen our situation.”

But Yakubu Matthew welcomed the development, saying if passed, there would be no stray cows and goats that cause human tragedy again, adding that such loose animals cause diseases and illnesses, as there is no control over where they can go.

“However, since they are now caged in one place, they cannot go out and contaminate foodstuffs, as they are known to do. In developed countries, livestock is stored in specific locations, so that when you need beef, you know where to go.

“Besides, the issue of harder/herder clashes, which often cause death, and criminal rustling, especially cows, will be a thing of the past. “I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill, and I am praying for it to pass,” he said.

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