The Senate has begun high-level consultations with the Presidency and other stakeholders over its proposed security summit scheduled to hold in the next two weeks.The Guardian learnt that the consultation became necessary due to apprehensions about the summit in certain circles, particularly from the presidency, the security community and even within the upper chamber.
The summit, which was earlier fixed for Wednesday and Thursday this week, was postponed within 24 hours of the Senate resolution abruptly, till the next two weeks to allow for proper planning.Sources disclosed that the criticisms against President Muhammadu Buhari over his inaction in the face of mindless killings in many parts of the country fuelled suspicions on the real motive behind the summit.
The Senate leadership was said to have received several calls seeking explanations on the summit.Also, within the Senate, a cloud of discord is beginning to gather against the summit. Former Governor of Nassarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, is one of the lawmakers that expressed his opposition to the open criticism of Buhari by senators when the country’s failing security infrastructure was debated last week.He took exception to what he called the outright condemnation of the Buhari administration on the matter.
However, the Senate leadership explained that the postponement was to allow all those expected to participate to thoroughly prepare.The Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, had said that convening a summit on a matter as serious as national security is not one to be rushed without proper consultation and study.He added that having given the inspector general of police 14 days to arrest killers of the 73 persons in Benue State, the Senate believes that the security summit should be deferred to among other things, allow the police gather more intelligence on the killings.
Meanwhile, the plan by the Federal Government to establish cattle colonies across the country as the solution to the perennial clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers has continued to attract serious criticisms from senators and civil society organisations (CSOs).In separate interviews with The Guardian yesterday, the lawmakers described the planned cattle colonies as an attempt to bring back through the back door, the grazing reserves bill, which was rejected in 2016 by the National Assembly.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Sam Anyanwu, said the proposal ran contrary to generally acceptable norms in private businesses across the globe, adding that government has no business in securing free land for selected businessmen, while others are left to be on their own.Anyanwu added: “You know that I do not subscribe to the plan to set up cattle colonies. Every businessman should go and look for land and buy for his business. I will not support plans to give free land to people for businesses. Cattle rearing is a private business.”
The Senate had in 2016 rejected the controversial bill seeking to establish a Grazing Management Agency that will ensure the creation of grazing areas across the country.Sponsored by Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano Central), the bill was withdrawn along with two other similar bills sponsored by senators Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East) and Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North).
While Gemade’s bill sought to establish A National Ranches Commission for regulation, preservation and control of ranches, Utazi’s bill sought to control the keeping and movement of cattle in the country.Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, had also said that the Senate lacked the power to legislate on grazing matters, stressing that only states have powers to legislate on grazing matters and livestock.
While arguing that the National Assembly lacked the power to legislate on the matter since it was neither on the exclusive nor concurrent list, Ekweremadu said: “The issues at stake here are neither on the exclusive list nor on the concurrent list. I believe therefore that it is a residual matter. It is for states to decide how to deal with it. I believe the matter here concerns everybody, given the level of carnage and the conflicts going on in different states.”
The proposed cattle colonies also received knocks from the CSOs, as the Human Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said it would be unconstitutional for the Federal Government to deploy public resources to assist private businesses of select people in the country.The National Coordinator of HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, who was a Federal Commissioner in the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission, stated: “The decision to set up cattle colonies is tantamount to granting rewards to the killer herdsmen and this is indirectly conveying the impression that the herdsmen enjoy some measures of support from some highly placed Nigerians.”
Onwubiko urged Nigerians to challenge the decision of the Federal Government to set up cattle colonies in court as a way of stopping it. His words: “Let the Nigerian people opposed to this unconstitutional act about to be imposed on Nigeria speak out loud and clear and file cases in different courts of competent jurisdiction to challenge the legality or otherwise of this wholly discriminatory policy of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.”
He maintained that the development could lead to “the deployment of billions of public funds raised from taxes and exports of crude oil taken from the neglected and environmentally degraded Niger Delta communities to service the private businesses of Fulani herdsmen.”