The Bayelsa State House of Assembly on Tuesday held a public hearing on a Bill seeking to prohibit open grazing of cattle in the state.
The bill, entitled: “Cattle Breeding, Rearing, Marketing, Regulation and Control 2017,” was sponsored by the Leader of the House, Peter Akpe, representing Sagbama Constituency 1.
The hearing was organised by House’s Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources and Security and Special Duties.
Declaring the hearing open, the Speaker of the Assembly, Konbowei Benson, said the House had resolved to adopt international best practices in its activities.
According to Benson, henceforth, all bills being considered by the House must go through public hearing.
Represented by the Chief Whip of the house, Tonye Isenah, the speaker noted that law-making process was not an exclusive preserve of the 24-member assembly.
Benson said: “We want to liberalize and open up for public participation. This bill was even at the Committee of the Whole discussion before it was stood down in order to seek input from the public.”
Stressing the importance of the bill, Benson said the assembly was trying to forestall any untoward situation, having seen what was happening in parts of the country, with clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
He said: “Even if nothing has happened at this other side, we should not rest on our oars.
“We need to ensure that we nip it in the bud before we start having crisis in our hands.”
Presenting an overview of the bill, Akpe pointed out that the bill was aimed at solving a lot of challenges.
He stressed the need to incorporate direct professional expertise in making the bill so that it would stand the test of time.
Akpe said the usefulness of cattle in our everyday life had made it imperative for a legislation to further maximize the value to the society.
He said: “There have been a lot of challenges in the management of cattle all over the country, not only in Bayelsa.
“We are also aware that a lot of lives have been lost both ways, by the cattle herders on one hand and the farmers on the other. What of the economic losses?
“Somebody will finish planting with the hope of harvest, invest so much time, energy and money, then all of a sudden we hear that some kind of animals have come to do grazing there, eating up everything.
“It takes the government and the people and law and order to put institutions in place such that we will have the best out of the cattle and the best out of the farms.
“We the people of Nigeria will continue to live more in peace and harmony.”
According to the house leader, the bill has 15 sections, specifying the formation of a committee to manage the activities of cattle in the state and other ancillary responsibilities.
He also said that the bill contained sanctions for violation of any aspect of its provisions.
He said that by the time this bill was law, the wandering of cattle around, causing unnecessary road accidents and pollution would be laid to rest.
Akpe said: “The intent of this bill is necessary to ensure the continued co-existence of Bayelsa people in the Nigeria entity in peace, harmony and prosperity.”
Earlier, Daniel Igali, Chairman of the committee, had said that the committee received seven position papers on the bill from stakeholders.
Igali said the bill was not a Bayelsa State affair, but a response to what had become a national problem with incessant clashes between herdsmen and people who went about their businesses, especially farmers.
Igali said: “What we are trying to do in Bayelsa which is almost novel is that while respecting the freedom of movement, you are also not to trespass on other people’s rights.
“We are also ensuring that those who rear cattle do it within the limits of the law, and that is why we are here.”
The hearing witnessed presentations from All Farmers Association of Nigeria, National Butchers Union of Nigeria, Association of Cattle Dealers and Rearers, Butchers Association of Bayelsa State, Police and Department of State Services, among others.