The bill’s explanatory memorandum states that the essence of the bill is to establish a National Grazing Routes and Reserve Commission, which shall acquire lands in all the 36 states of the federation for the purpose of grazing and ranching. It further states that the aim is to curb incessant conflicts between nomadic herdsmen and livestock farmers and settlers in Nigeria.
The Bill contains 35 clauses.
· Part I of the Bill contains provisions on how the Commission is to be established, its officers and their tenure, funding and basically governance. Section 1 establishes the Commission as a corporate body capable of suing and being sued, and capable of acquiring property. It situates the headquarters of the Commission in the FCT, Abuja and requires State Governments to provide situation for offices in the States under the Ministry of Agriculture or Lands. On funding, Sections 6 provides for Federal Government allocation to a fund to be established by the Commission. This fund will be used to take care of the administration costs of the commission, re-imburse its members, pay salaries etc. The Director-General will be the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the Commission.
· Part II of the Bill states the functions of the Commission in clause 11 to include:
o Establishment, management, maintenance and control of Cattle routes, Farm Camps and Grazing Reserves in different parts of the country;
o Prescribing persons who may use the grazing reserve, number and type of stocks that may be permitted therein.
o Provision of grazing permits and prescribing fees for usage of the routes and reserves and activities that may be carried therein.
o Regulating conditions of entry, imposing penalties for breach of its regulations, and prosecuting those in breach.
o It further gives the commission, the power to demarcate or advise on the boundaries of the Grazing Route & Reserve.
Paragraph 2 of clause 11 adds that the Grazing Reserves will in the long run emerge as Ranches in the future. The Bill does not state to whom possession of these Ranches may yield on this future date.
· Part III of the Bill makes provisions touching on land, for instance, it prohibits unauthorized entry into a Grazing Reserve or route and unauthorized transfer of rights in such land, loss of rights to such land where it hasn’t been exercised for 10 years and closure of rights of way or watercourse where it deems fit.
· Part IV details the procedure for acquiring Grazing Routes and Reserves and it includes:
o A physical/geographical analysis of the land use to ascertain the best locations within the States for such routes or reserves.
o That the 36 State Governors cooperate with the Commission to accomplish this objective. The Bill requires Governors to transfer identified land to the Commission for use as grazing land. The Governor shall then issue an Order stipulating the limits of the land acquired and the interest transferred.
o The bill provided for notices to be issued and or served on the affected citizens,
o Clause 21 of the Bill mandates the Commission to pay “the compensation necessary” to persons and communities whose interest in the land are affected by the transfer.
o Foreigners and non-Nigerian will only be allowed on the routes and reserves on conditions to be determined by the Commission.
o The Commission is allowed to make regulations under the Bill.
· The Bill basically authorizes compulsory acquisition of land by the Commission and requires that State Governments shall facilitate such acquisition for the purpose of contributing to grazing routes and reserves for the country.
· The power of the Commission to acquire land does not appear to derive from the provisions outlined in the Land Use Act; a constitutional instrument. The Land Use Act, 1978 is the principal legislation on land use, acquisition and ownership in Nigeria.
· The Bill does not identify the overall public interest mentioned in the constitutionally entrenched Land Use Act for which land is being acquired and there is concern that grazing and ranching may not satisfy the Constitutional provision of overriding public interest.
· The Bill appears to direct State Governors to exercise powers of land acquisition; the right they already have as recognized under the provisions of the Land Use Act that is ingrained in the Constitution.
· The bill does not clearly identify the nature of animal husbandry to be carried out in the various grazing reserves that it seeks to carve out across the country.
· The Bill does not seem to properly address the issue of compensation. Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution mandates prompt payment of compensation in cases of compulsory acquisition of property, and while this is mentioned in the Bill, its provisions on the issue are not extensive. For instance, the requirement for the Commission to pay “the compensation necessary” to persons whose interests are affected by the acquisition appears vague and open to various interpretations. It doesn’t specify if it’s monetary or other form of compensation e.g. resettlement. The issue of adequacy is also up in the air.
· The Constitution further adds that any law enacted to effect compulsory acquisition of property should give to any person claiming compensation, a right of access to a court of law or tribunal or body having jurisdiction in that part of Nigeria to determine his/her interest in the property and the amount of compensation. The Bill contains no provision on right to access to court or determination of compensation.
· The cost implications of setting up the Commission would be high. Membership of the board of the Commission is at least 38 and the number of offices to be set up across the country is at least 37.
· The Bill empowers the commission to regulate conditions of entry and prosecute defaulters. It further proscribes some acts such as unlawful entry into grazing reserved/routes. However, it does not say how or who will secure the limits or boundaries of the massive hectares of land that will probably go into such reserve.
· The Bill is unclear as to how the Commission will accomplish the objective of ensuring that the grazing areas end up as ranches.
· Clause 29 says that Pastoralists will not be allowed to graze cattle outside the grazing routes except in exceptional circumstances. However, the interpretation clause goes on to define exceptional circumstances to mean “cogent and exceptional circumstances which will warrant the Commission to allow pastoralists to carry cattle outside the designated grazing routes and not for grazing purposes.” The two provisions appear contradictory.
· The provision in clause 3(2), which allows any member of the Commission to be removed at any time, might prevent Members who represent their States from voicing out disagreements for fear of losing their appointment. This might be against the spirit of the Act that seeks to foster national cohesion on the subject matter.
· Overall, the Bill may also have a challenge of inelegant drafting.
NB: The Bill has just been introduced and is not law yet. Members of the public can make inputs on the Bill if the House organizes a public hearing on it. There is no evidence of a similar Bill before the 8th Senate.