The Senate on Tuesday divided over a bill seeking to regulate the slaughter of donkeys in the country.
The bill for an act to regulate the slaughter of donkeys and establish the the breeding and ranching of donkeys through the Export Certification Value Chain to mitigate the extinction of donkeys and for related matters is sponsored by the leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North).
The aimed of the bill, according to the Senate leader is to stop donkeys from extinction.
But there were arguments and counter arguments when the Senate minority leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia) said the Senate does not have the legislative competent to legislate on the matter.
Abaribe drew the attention of his colleagues to some provision in the Constitution on why the Senate should not go ahead with debate on the Bill.
Insisting that the Bill is a violation of some provisions in the Constitution, Abaribe said, “I will expect that as parliament we should look at the Constitution before certain things are put up here.”
Pointing out Section 4 second schedule of the Constitution, Abaribe noted that there are 68 items in the Exclusive Legislative List.
Supporting the Bill, Abdullahi Sabi (APC) said that the bill is something this country needs and “we should support it.”
He noted that the issue of donkey going into extinction in Nigeria was sometimes discussed and approved in 2004 at the national council on agriculture and rural development in Sokoto.
The lawmaker told his colleagues and President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan why the issue should be of concern to everybody, adding, “the concern Mr. President is for every country must be concerned about the flora and fauna. Because the ecosystem is designed in such a manner that the balance we are enjoying today, is driven by the diversity of flora and fauna.
“This subject matter which the Minority Leader is referring to in the same Constitution, the federal government is also given the right to look at research. Breeding is a research work. This bill is therefore looking at when you don’t want something to go into extinction.
“Some people have suddenly realised the value of the skin of donkey. The population of donkey in the North are used for many things.”
Supporting the position of Abaribe while kicking against the Bill, Senator Ajibola Basiru (APC) quoted some portions of the Constitution to back why the Bill shouldn’t be debated.
He said: “The fact that a subject matter is desirable, is necessary does not automatically confer on the federal legislative arm, legislative competence to do so.
“Section 1(3) of our Constitution is very clear as to superiority provision that any act or law contrary to the provision of the Constitution is to the extent of that inconsistency, null and void, contraverse.
“And the basis or existence is the Constitution. The basis of our power is in Section 4 of our Constitution which makes it clearly; to give the National Assembly three areas of subject matter; one, exclusive legislative list as listed in part one of the second schedule of the Constitution, and a part of the concurrent list.
“When we talk on concurrent list, there appears to be a misconception, that by a fact that is listed on the concurrent list the federal government has the power makes law, no. There is a matter that is mentioned, for instance, archives, it has to do with a specific subject matter. The same thing here.
“The third area that the National Assembly can make law as specific provisions conffering legislative competence on the National Assembly. But by section 4(7) of our Constitution, any other matter not so listed in the exclusive list and to which concurrent list does not confer National Assembly power are matters for legislative competence of the state assembly. This matter has been in litigated up to the Supreme Court.
“The argument of whether cattle or donkey is going into extinction is beyond the point.”
The President of the Senate, Lawan, however, ruled out those opposing debate on the Bill, adding that he feels that the Senate can debate on the subject matter.
He said: “The Bill is concerning the donkey. Not the donkey for commercial purposes but the extinction of the donkey.
“I believe that we could legislate on this and any other livestock if we feel that will disproportionately destroy our ecosystem.
“Secondly, even if we are looking at the economic value of the donkey not in terms of selling it but in terms of keeping the environment balanced.
“I believe we have the jurisdiction to legislate on that. And based on our standing order 25h which gives me the chance donated by you to interpret the rules, I rule that we can go ahead and take this bill.”
Leading debate on the Bill, Senator Abdullahi Yahaya said that the Bill seeks to regulate the slaughter of donkeys, establish the breeding and ranching of donkeys through the export certification value chain to mitigate the extinction of donkeys given their Aesthetic, Ecological, Educational, Historical, Recreational and Scientific Value to the Nigeria Nation.
The Bill, according to him, will further complement the import and export of raw animal skins and hides especially donkey currently on the Customs Prohibition List
While cattle, according to him, has received tremendous attention by the government over the years through the national cattle beef and dairy breeding programs, the donkey value chain has not received such attention, adding, “in fact the donkey predicament has deteriorated. There is no program in place to improve donkey breeding as a practical approach to increasing the national donkey population.
“The slaughter of donkey has become an attractive business nationwide, not for the donkey meat which is an inconsequential product of donkey slaughter but the donkey hides which is a lucrative export product.
“The actual meat of choice is the horse meat for those who indulge in it, the horse hide is not exported, as the major focus of the donkey slaughter is for the export of the hide which is the premium product for export.”
He further explained that the Bill is not a ban on the slaughtering of donkey as it will drive the illegal slaughter and export underground to the detriment of government regulation and the attendant benefit that government will derive from its proper regulation through increased employment oppotunities, revenue generation, provision of social amenities, improved sanitary conditions of the slaughter and processing facilities and the organized export trade through the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) export certification value chain.
“The likes of Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt and Pakistan have regulated donkey business in their countries and its contributing to national GDP,” he said.
He, however, enumerated what the bill seek to achieve.
According to him, “to declare Donkey as an endangered species which as a result of indiscriminate slaughtering for the purpose of harvesting its skin has greatly depleted the national herd of the animal.
“To make Nigeria derive utmost benefit from the Donkey hides export market that is worth millions of dollars by regulation instead of outright ban of the business that will compel the value chain players to go underground and ultimately increase the smuggling of the product due to the huge demand for the product in far eastern countries like China,
“Provide opportunities for responsible donkey breeding should therefore for those who wish to go into the business to be able to follow laid down procedures for such value chain operations.”
The Bill, which passed second reading, was referred to the committee on Agriculture and Rural Development to report back in two weeks.