During a heated Senate session on Wednesday, Senate President Godswill Akpabio made a striking statement, declaring, “Cows are not citizens of Nigeria,” while addressing a senator’s controversial remarks regarding the ongoing farmer-herder clashes in the country.

The remark came amid discussions surrounding the proposed National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission bill, which aims to control and regulate cattle rearing and ranching businesses across Nigeria. Sponsored by Senator Titus Tartenger Zam representing Benue North West, the bill has sparked significant debate among lawmakers, particularly concerning provisions about establishing ranches in pastoralists’ states of origin.

Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) voiced strong opposition to this aspect of the bill, arguing that it contradicts Section 41 of the Nigerian Constitution, which guarantees every citizen’s right to move freely and reside in any part of the country. He contended that ranching should be viewed as a private business without government intervention.

Senator Kawu Sumaila (Kano South) echoed Aliero’s sentiments, describing the bill as unconstitutional and threatening to “fight the bill,” a statement he later retracted after Senate President Akpabio intervened.

In his response, Akpabio emphasized the need for rational discourse, highlighting that livestock should not be equated with the rights and freedoms of human citizens. “Cows are not citizens of Nigeria,” he stated firmly, reinforcing the idea that the bill should be carefully considered to balance the needs of pastoralists with the constitutional rights of all Nigerians.

Despite the opposition, several senators supported the bill, arguing that modernizing livestock rearing practices is essential for reducing violent clashes between farmers and herders. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) supported the bill but noted the necessity of revisiting the Land Use Act to address potential conflicts with state governors.

Senator Abba Moro (Benue South) and Senator Sunday Karimi (Kogi West) also backed the bill, citing its potential to mitigate the recurring violence between farmers and herders.

Senator Zam, the bill’s sponsor, argued that establishing a regulatory framework for pastoralism is crucial for adopting international best practices in animal husbandry. He emphasized that open grazing is outdated and hazardous, advocating for a transition to modern, safer methods.

In closing the session, Akpabio assured that the bill would undergo comprehensive public hearings to address concerns raised by lawmakers and stakeholders before its final passage. The bill was subsequently referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Judicial and Legal Matters, and Trade and Investment for further review, with a report expected in the next month.