By KINGSLEY OKOYE/NAOMI SHARANG
ABUJA- The Donkey Dealers Association (DDA) says the proposed ban on donkey slaughtering in the country would result in loss of jobs for three million Nigerians.
National Chairman of the association, Mr Ifeanyi Dike, made the remark at a one-day public hearing on eight bills for the agriculture sector.
The public hearing which held on Monday was organised by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development chaired by Sen. Bima Enagi.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bill is entitled: “Donkey Slaughter Regulation and Export Certification Bill, 2020” and sponsored by Sen. Yahaya Abdullahi.
The bill which passed second reading on July 6, 2021 aimed at mitigating the extinction of donkeys given their aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational and scientific value to the nation.
It also seeks to declare donkeys as an endangered specie which as a result of indiscriminate slaughtering for the purpose of harvesting its skin, has greatly depleted the national herd of the animal.
In his submission, Dike said that the outright ban on slaughtering of donkey was not a solution to the envisaged extinction of donkeys in the country.
“We should know that outright blanket ban as proposed by this bill will create some powerful smuggling syndicates who are bent in getting the donkey derivatives for export to China thereby sabotaging the economy.
“The blanket ban on donkey killing and export of its derivatives as a result of morbid fear of its extinction has failed to realise that regulation, ranching and breeding is the solution.
“Cows which we slaughter more than 50,000 on daily basis as meat has not gone into extinction, so how can a donkey with the same gestation period as cow go into extinction. We should encourage breeding and ranching,” he said.
Dike further said that the dealers had invested heavily over the years and had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) for the breeding and production of five million donkeys within a space of 10 years.
“We took this action to increase the local population of donkeys in Nigeria to avoid its extinction,” he said.
He said that donkey regulation, breeding and ranching policy would create millions of job opportunities starting from donkey farmers, traders, slaughter house, logistics and export.
“Each of these segments is very important in revenue generation into our economy by way of taxation and levy collections right from the Local Governments to the states and to the Federal Government.
” It is projected that donkey businesses if properly regulated, is capable of injecting N10 billion annually to our economy, ” he said.
Dike urged the senate to consider the plight of over three million Nigerians that would be out of jobs and businesses if the bill is allowed to pass.
Mr Maxwell Okpara, a legal practitioner and a human rights activist told NAN that the bill was a calculated attempt to put some Nigerians out of business, adding that the business of donkey slaughtering had been in existence for 70 years.
He said the dealers were more worried about the extinction of donkey, hence had resorted to breeding more donkeys through establishment of ranching systems to keep them in business.
Okpara said he was not against having a legal framework to regulate the business of donkey, but advised that the act should be framed to protect Nigerians in the business of donkey value chain .
A member of the House of Representatives, Muhammad Datti, in his remarks said the bill seeks to prohibit entirely, the killing and export of donkeys to China, saying that China was using the donkey skin for their traditional medicine.
He added that “This animal is facing extinction and it’s an animal you cannot breed in large number because of the very low rate of fertility.
“The major beneficiary in this trade is the donkey breeding merchants in China with a profit of 293 million dollars in 2016 to the detriment of the rural people of Africa and Caribbean.”
Earlier, chairman of the committee said the public hearing was designed to receive inputs from stakeholders and the general public with a bid to come up with relevant legislations that would promote agriculture in the country.
“You will recall that these important bills were read first and second time in the Chamber of the Senate as per the practice.
“Cursory look at the bills would reveal to us that, they are out to serve similar goals and purpose: ensure food security and healthy diet for our citizens, create jobs, development of the sector through various value chains and to reposition the agricultural sector in our economy,” he said.
He said the committee through the senate leadership wanted to reposition the agricultural sector to increase its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and achieve the objective of the global food organisational policies.
NAN reports that other bills considered at the the public hearing included Nigerian Research Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture Bakassi (Establishment) Bill, 2022.
The hearing also considered ”National Food Safety and Quality Bill, 2020 and National Veterinary Research Institute, Gombe (Establishment) Bill, 2021″(NAN)