Some stakeholders on Tuesday disagreed with House of Representatives on the bill seeking to ban the Killing and exportation of donkeys from Nigeria.
At a public hearing on the Killing of Donkey Prohibition Bill in Abuja, the stakeholders including National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) and the Donkey Skin Processors, Marketers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (DSPMEAN) said the bill would be detrimental to the donkey value chain suggesting that the animal breeding should be rather encouraged.
The bill was introduced to address the decreasing population of donkeys in the country as a result of the demand for its skin by China and local consumption of the meat.
Representing NAPRI at the hearing, Mr Haruna Ibrahim a Research Fellow II said that the socio-economic importance of donkeys especially in Northern Nigeria cannot be over emphasised.
He said that the animal is used for cultivation for agricultural produce, transportation of goods and services among others.
Ibrahim recalled that in 1992, the population of donkeys in the country was less than one million and that the Federal Ministry of Environment has since declared donkey an endangered animal.
He said that China’s interest in donkey skin from Africa for medicinal purposes has contributed to the reduction of the animal in the country.
According to Ibrahim, China is in need of four million donkey skin annually to meet the industrial demand of the country.
He said that breeding, nutrition, health and management of donkey are essential areas of intervention to boost the population of the animal.
He said that donkey value chain is a means of employment and income generation for many Nigerians adding that a legislation against the killing and sales of donkeys would further compound the menace of unemployment in the country.
“We rather call for the up scaling of donkey production in the areas favourable to the production and growth of the animal.
“The reason for the decline in population is as a result of demand for skin and consumption of the meat but that does not mean we should forget about the many people whose livelihood depend on donkey,’’ he said.
According him, there is neglected attention given to breeding and multiplication of donkey by development agencies that accounts for the general decline of donkey population in the country.
Ibrahim called for adequate funding of breeding of donkeys and centers should be established across Northern Nigeria where the weather condition is favourable for the animal.
He said up scaling the breeding of donkeys would promote the socio-economic life of rural dwellers in the North.
Also, Mr Vitalis Ike, Deputy Chairman, DSPMEAN said that global demand for donkey skin is an opportunity for Nigeria to increase production and generate foreign exchange.
He said that no fewer than 10,000 persons are fully involved in the donkey value chain and that they have no fewer than 40,000 dependents.
The deputy chairman said rather than outlawing the consumption and exportation of donkey, its production should be extensively encouraged.
According to him, over 500 million dollars could be generated in the first five years if the country invests properly in the production of the animal.
He said that the bill, if not well manage could take the country backward when passed into law urging the lawmakers to thread with caution.
Ike said that in spite of the consumption of cow meat in the country, the animal has not been categorised as endangered species as proper attention is being given to it breeding.
Earlier, the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mohammed Garba (APC-Kaduna) said that donkeys are important means of transportation in rural Northern Nigerian as it serves as ambulance in some cases.
The legislator said that the bill, which is also supported by Rep. Sani Zoro (APC-Jigawa) seeks to prohibit the killing and exportation of the animal as its population has continued to decline.
He said countries like Botswana, Senegal, Mali, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ethopia and Zimbabwe among others have prohibited the exportation of donkeys.
Garba said as a result of the global demand, the price of donkeys has risen from about N15,000 to N130,000 which is responsible for the increasing theft of the animal in the North.
The lawmaker said that clauses one and two of bill prohibit the exportation of donkeys and that clause four of the bill proposes 10 years imprisonment for defaulters when passed in to law.
Also, Dr Olaniran Alabi, the Director, Veterinary and Pest Control in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said the ministry is in support of the bill.
He said that the decline in the population of donkeys in the country is of serious concern to the ministry.
Alabi said that donkeys have a gestation period of one year and that unlike pigs, they reproduce only once in a year.
He said that if nothing is urgently done to salvage the situation, Nigeria would soon lose all its donkeys and would be difficult to replace them.
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