By Emmanuel Ovuakporie
ABUJA-THE National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) and the Donkey Skin Processors, Marketers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (DSPMEAN) on Tuesday differ with representatives on the bill seeking to ban exportation of donkeys.
At an ongoing public hearing on the Killing of Donkey Prohibition Bill critical stakeholders said the bill would be detrimental to the donkey value chain suggesting that donkey breeding should be rather encouraged.
The bill was introduced to address the increasing decline of donkeys in the country as a result of the demand for donkey skin by China and local consumption of donkey meat.
Mr Haruna Ibrahim a Research Fellow who represented NAPRI said that the socio-economic importance of donkeys especially in northern Nigeria cannot be over emphasised.
He said that the animals are used for cultivation for agricultural production, transportation of produce and other goods and services.
Ibrahim recalled that in 1992, the population of donkeys in the country was less than one million and that the Federal Ministry of Environment had since declared donkey endangered animal.
He said that China’s interest to get donkey skin from Africa for medicinal purposes had 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.
Ibrahim explained that breeding, nutrition, health and management of donkey were essential areas of intervention to boost the population of the animal.
He said that donkey value chain was a means of employment and income generation for many Nigerians adding that a legislation against the killing sale of donkey would further compound the menace of unemployment.
“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 northen Nigeria where the weather condition is favourable for the animal.
He said up scaling the breeding of donkey would promote the socio-economic life of rural dwellers in the north and that small
Mr Vitalis Ike, Deputy Chairman, DSPMEAN in his submission said that global demand for donkey skin was an opportunity for Nigeria to increase production and generate foreign exchange.
He said that no fewer than 10,000 persons were fully involved in the donkey value chain and that they have no fewer than 40,000 independents.
The deputy chairman said rather than outlawing the consumption and exportation of donkey, its production should be extensively encouraged.
He said 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 cows in the country, it had not been categorised as endangered species as proper attention was being given to cow breeding.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mohammed Garba (APC-Kaduna) said that donkeys were an important means of transportation in rural northern Nigerian as it serves as ambulance in some cases.
The Kaduna lawmaker said that the bill, which was also supported by Rep. Sani Zoro, APC, Jigawa ,seeks to prohibit the killing and exportation of the animal as its population had continued to decline.
He said countries like Botswana, Senegal, Mali, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ethopia and Zimbabwe among others had prohibited the exportation of donkeys.
Garba said as a result of the global demand, the price of donkeys had risen from about N15,000 to N130,000 which was responsible for the increasing cases of theft of the animal in the north.
The lawmaker said that clauses one and two of bill prohibits the exportation of donkeys and that clause four of the bill proposes 10 years imprisonment for defaulters when passed into law.
Dr Olaniran Alabi, the Director, Veterinary and Pest Control in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said the ministry was in support of the bill.
He said that the decline in the population of donkeys in the country was of serious concern to the ministry.
Alabi said that donkeys have a gestation period of one year and that unlike pigs, the donkey produces only one ass in a year.
He said that if nothing was urgently done to salvage the situation, Nigeria would soon lose all its donkeys.