By Patrick Andrew
Uproar over grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen forced a sudden adjournment of the National Conference yesterday following unrestrained outbursts by members when a delegate from Benue state, Dr. Magdalene Mba Dura, proposed an amendment to section 3 (3J) on provision of grazing reserves across the states.
It was part of the recommendation by the committee on Immigration and Related Matters, whose recommendations had before then enjoyed robust acceptance and passage of resolutions and amendments, until the grazing reserve issue became a heated debate.
Speaking on the amendment of initial recommendation which reads thus, “It should be promoted by the government and affected stakeholders as well as dedicated funds for the acculturation and acclimatization of herdsmen and well as provide designated reserve and less nomadic life style,” Dr Dura raised objection and proposed that it be amended thus:
“My amendment is that their state governments should carve out lands and dedicate funds for setting them down and where they do need to leave any other parts of Nigeria, they like other Nigerians they have the right to apply for land anywhere they reside. They should follow due process and apply for land”.
This suggestion irked Northern delegates who felt that the Fulanis were being discriminated against and thereby launched series of arguments against the amendment. Hon. Umar Kareto Lawan adduced that such reserves would be in favour of the hosts states the nomadic Fulanis and hence they should be the cost of providing it.
Maigari Dingyadi defended the proposal that hosts states should fund the grazing reserve by arguing that the beneficiaries are group of people who are nomadic and whose welfare and needs should be catered for by hosts states not their state of origin.
Prof. Dare disagreed stressing that it is seems abnormal in this era to talk about nomadic herdsmen adding that modern technology has made it easier to produce enough grass within four hours for cows in most universities and suggested that the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, has the facilities to do just that.
Further, Magaji Danbatta objected to the ethnic dimension the argument has degenerated noting that some members tended to allow sentiment and irresponsibility talks to becloud their sense of reasoning and went ahead to reason that taxi drivers in Sokoto from the South West do not bring roads from their states of origin to Sokoto to conduct their economic activities.
That argument generated further uproar as delegates jeered at the comments forcing the Deputy Chairman of the conference Prof. Bolaji Akiyemi to angrily told delegates,” I am a diplomat, and I have kept my cool, don’t force me to break my cool,” he said.
He quoted a provision in their Order book to the effect that where they to failed to reach a consensus before a contentious issue is put to vote the leadership of the conference has the right to defer further action until it has done wider consultations.
“Every time we have a contentious issue like this we should put a bracket on it and then do our consultation on it. If we cannot reached a consensus before it is put to vote.Don’t provoked me,” he said.
However, that did little to assuage the situation forcing the chairman Justice Idris Legbo Kutugi to descend rather hard on the delegates.
“All decisions are pragmatic we have not descended to this low level. We are here to make national decisions. These Fulani, how many are there that we should take on them? Please let’s be national in our decisions,” he said even as members continue to shout no, no.
Iyom Josephine Anenih moved a motion for adjournment and was supported by another even as many continue to shout in disagreement with the decision.
Meanwhile, the proposer of the amendment, Dr. Dura, said she was misunderstood by delegates because her suggestion was not meant to generate such uproar.
“My amendment was that their state governments should carve out lands and dedicate funds for setting them down and where they do need to leave any other parts of Nigeria (I am against this random movement) as other Nigerians they have the right to apply for land anywhere they reside. They should follow due process and apply for land.
According to her accepting the recommendation the way it is would be discriminatory and against the spirit of section 42 of the Nigerian constitution and also said no citizen be denied his or her rights and privileged.
“My argument is that none should not be given a privilege that others have not been granted,” she stressing that already there are two bills before the National Assembly setting out to create grazing reserves across the 36 states of the federation and Abuja and also to set up a Grazing Reserve Commission that will approach states governments for land to develop as grazing reserve.