Southern Senators ‘Quiet’ As Bill On Livestock Data Base Passes Second Reading

Majority of senators from the Southern parts of the country on Tuesday kept quiet during debate on a Bill to establish national livestock bureau.

The Bill for an Act to establish national Livestock and Management (protection control and management etc) Bureau for the purpose of livestock identification, traceable registration, cattle rustling control and for other related purposes, was sponsored by Senator Bima Mohammed Enagi (APC, Niger South).

Aside the Senate spokesman, Ajibola Bashiru, no other Southern senator spoke on the Bill, which eventually scaled second reading.

Some of the Northern Senators who spoke in favour of the Bill, pointed out the reasons why the Bill should be passed.

Specifically, the Senate spokesperson, who opposed the Bill, noted that no provision of the 1999 Constitution, as amended gives the National Assembly the powers to legislate on Livestock.

He said that no aspect of the Exclusive and Concurrent components of the Constitution gives the National Assembly the power to legislate on Livestock, noting that it is the state Houses of Assembly that have the power to do so.

Insisting that proceeding with the consideration and passage of the Bill will be unconstitutional, Bashiru said, “we have no power to legislate on this.”

Kicking against the position of Bashiru, Senator Bala Ibn N’Allah from Kebbi State, argued that the National Assembly has the competence to legislate on the matter.

He said that because Nigeria is federal in nature, the National Assembly has the power to legislate on issue of agriculture, adding that agriculture under a federal system is an issue of state and federal.

The lawmaker, who didn’t cite aspect of the Constitution to advance his argument, added that it is the duty of the federal government to ensure food security in the country.

Ignoring the Constitutional argument, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who presided over the plenary, ruled that the National Assembly has the power to legislate on issue of state.

The President of the Senate said that it was within his powers to interpret the Constitution and the Senate rules.

Pointing out that the issue at stake is too huge for only the state, Lawan ruled in favour of the passage for a second reading of the Bill.

He thereafter, referred it to the Senate committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, to report back within two weeks.

The Bill which was first presented in plenary in July 2020, reveals that despite Nigeria having about 40% of the entire cattle population of West Africa, the country cannot participate in the export of meat and other dairy products, due to the absence of a functional Animal Identification and Management System in Nigeria.

The Bill also seeks to address the increase in the spread of diseases, threat to human health and reduced consumer confidence in animal products.

If established, the Bureau will ensure the traceability of animal products into the country in order to safeguard the lives of Nigerians.

In his lead debate, Senator Enagi argued that “the bill will address the age long challenge of animal identification and management by establishing the National Livestock Bureau for the purpose of livestock identification, traceability, registration, cattle rustling control, livestock disease control and other related matters. The essence is to safeguard our national livestock and sanitize the livestock industry.”

Stating the benefits of the proposed bureau, Senator Enagi told the Senate that the bill hopes to create a National Livestock Identification Data base, promote food safety through the traceability of animal products and enhance transparency and information in the food chain.

According to him, the legislation “will also keep records on individual farm animals or groups (e.g., flocks or herds) of farm animals so that they can be more easily tracked from their birth through the marketing chain to the table. Historically, livestock ID was intended to indicate ownership and prevent rustling. Today, livestock identification has been expanded to include information on the animal’s origins (e.g., birthplace, parentage, sex, breed, genetics) as well as traceability—the ability to trace an animal product back through the marketing chain to its source, while identifying those other animals or animal products with which it has come into contact.”

Senator Enagi also disclosed that the National Livestock (protection, control and management etc) is informed by government’s drive to diversify the economy away from oil, adding that the livestock sub-sector is an integral part of agriculture and vital to the socio-economic development of the country.

While lamenting the poor state of the country’s management of livestocks, he disclosed recent statistics which indicate that Nigeria’s national livestock comprises 18.4 million cattle, 43.4 million sheep, 76 million goats and 7.5 million pigs even though productivity has been low in recent years owing to a number of factors.

According to him, “the sector accounts for one-third of Nigeria’s agricultural GDP, providing income, employment, meat, milk, leather, farm energy, manure, fuel, and transport.; as majority of the animals are raised in extensive production systems comprising smallholders and nomadic herders. Large commercial holdings are currently rare but expanding.”

The twenty-eight (28) clauses Bill would also help in the establishment of a National Data base that would serve as a guide for policy formulation by Government.

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