The lawmakers said they would rather support the establishment of private ranches for cattle owners in the Northern parts of the country. They spoke against the backdrop of the N940m provided in the 2016 budget for grazing reserves.
The South-West lawmakers said that grazing reserves could be created in the North so long as doing so did not include forcing land owners to relinquish their property for grazing purposes.
The most ranked lawmaker from the South-West, who also doubles as the Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, spoke on behalf of the 71 lawmakers from the region.
He told Saturday PUNCH that much depended on the details of the Federal Government’s policy on grazing.
Gbajabiamila said, “It depends on where the reserves are located. We don’t know the details yet. The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, did not mention this, but said there was a lot of fallow land up North where reserves or ranches would be located.
“Please, remember that no one has any issue with grazing reserves. The issue raised by Nigerians is whether or not the Federal Government can forcefully acquire individual or state land for that purpose.”
The South-South lawmakers in the House of Representatives were more direct in their opposition to reserves.
Their Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, who spoke on behalf of 51 other lawmakers from the South-South, called for the enactment of legislation to criminalise grazing outside ranches as the permanent solution to herdsmen/farmers’ clashes.
Ogor, who is also the Minority Leader of the House, said, “The conflicts created by cattle rearers in this country have become a major issue and we must find a permanent solution to such crises.
“Creating grazing reserves cannot be the permanent solution. We should be talking of creating ranches, which limit the cattle to a locality where they are supposed to be catered for by the owners.
“The solution lies in coming up with legislation that will criminalise grazing outside the ranches.
“We live in a modern society and the cost of moving cattle from place to place is there for us all to see in the lives being lost and the property being destroyed.
“Until we wake up and do the right thing, we will continue to chase shadows.”
The forty-three lawmakers representing the South-East in the House of Representatives are already set to protest against the N940m budgeted for the grazing reserves.
One of the senior members from the zone, Mr. Pat Asadu, told Saturday PUNCH that the members were ready to organise a protest if it was proven that the Federal Government planned to create grazing reserves in any part of the South-East.