Though the Buhari administration’s planned RUGA establishment of RUGA settlements across the country has met with harsh criticisms nationwide, with feelers emanating from the federal capital territory, the Buhari administration is set to commence with the implementation of the pilot phase of the planned establishment of Ruga settlements in Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Kaduna and seven other states.
According to a senior government official in one of the related ministries in Abuja on Friday, it was gathered that the execution of the project would start in 11 states amongst which are Sokoto, Nasarawa, Kogi, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, and Niger. Documents seen by news correspondents at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development showed that all was set for the implementation of the initiative.
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The senior officials of the ministry who spoke on condition of anonymitysaid that the Federal Government is determined to go ahead with the project, notwithstanding the public outcry, particularly from the Southern states. According to the official
“the government will go ahead with the programme, particularly in states that are willing to have it. For states that are not interested, no problem.
“The pilot states for its implementation are Sokoto, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Taraba, Katsina, Plateau, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger. They are actually 11 in number and the governors of these states are coming to the ministry to learn how the Ruga settlements will be implemented,
“These are the states that have fully shown their interest. But unfortunately, people are talking about this as if the Federal Government is planning to grab land in the states. That’s not true. The plan is mainly for these states that are ready and the Federal Government had a discussion with the governors concerned.
“Some of the governors came here, and they promised to provide land because they have seen the benefits they will derive from the initiative. It is not that the Federal Government wants to invade the states, no!”
On Tuesday, the Permanent Secretary, FMARD, Mohammed Umar, said that the project was part of the initiative to proffer solution to the incessant clashes between farmers and herders.
According to Umar,
“The Ruga settlement will attract a lot of investment to Nigeria and it is our belief that in the next five years, each Ruga settlement will provide nothing less than 2,000 employment opportunities. We are collaborating with the cattle breeders associations in Nigeria.”
Recall that on May 21, 2019, an announcement to the effect that President Buhari has approved the RUGA settlement initiative was made by the immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogeh.
He said, “All must agree with me that the crisis we are facing today has become a multi-dimensional one. So, the approach must also be holistic. It was the desire of the Federal Government to take a holistic approach that gave birth to the Ruga settlement model and it is not only Fulani who are herders.
“In Southern Kaduna, there are natives who are also herders. Even in Plateau, there are groups that are herders. It was intended for the herders as part of the effort by the government to come up with an economic model of resolving this crisis.
“This is an integrated settlement that will bring about the production of pasture grasses, water, schools, markets, meat and milk processing, and where it can create a sub-sector of the economy. This is something that if done properly, will create a lot of jobs.”
When asked if it was right for the government to spend taxpayers’ money on what would benefit herders alone, Ngelzerma argued that crop farmers had similarly benefitted in the past.
Akande said the National Livestock Transformation Plan endorsed by the National Economic Council was different from the Ruga programme.
“On the National Livestock Transformation Plan, 13 states are already in the process of implementation of a plan to transform the livestock production system in Nigeria along market-oriented value chain while ensuring an atmosphere of peace and justice.
“The states are Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Kogi, Kwara, Ondo and Edo. These states are at different stages in the process, but have indicated readiness to implement the plan. Truth is: this Federal Government will not impose on any state government regarding its land.
“NEC okayed the plan based on the recommendation of a technical committee of the council chaired by Ebonyi State Governor (David) Umahi. Other governors on the committee and working group are those of Adamawa, Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, Edo, Plateau, Oyo and Zamfara-mostly the frontline states.”
While Governor Bello Mutawalle of Zamfara State and Secretary to the Niger State Government, Ahmed Matane, have confirmed that their states will accept the proposed Ruga settlements for herdsmen, down south of the country, the majority of governors are set against the Ruga settlement model.
The Zamfara state Director-General of Media and Publicity, Alhaji Yusuf Idris, said
“The governor has pledged to establish grazing reserves for herders which will be distinct from farmlands in order to ensure a seamless peaceful coexistence, especially among farmers and Fulani.”
According to a Saturday PUNCH report, the Niger State government has already provided over 40 hectares of land for the project and its been reported that the state would provide some facilities for the actualization of the Ruga project, the facilities include security, health services, schools and clinics for the animals to make the herdsmen feel comfortable to carry out their job in a well dignified manner.
Although, Benue was not listed among the pilot states, one of our correspondents observed a signpost for the project in one of the local government areas in the state, the signboars seen by one of our correspondents read in part,
“Federal Government of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Agric and Rural Development. Project: The establishment of pasture plots grazing reserve, Benue State.”
Addressing journalists in his office on Friday, the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Titus Uba, said the Assembly had called for the removal of the signboards erected in the communities earmarked for Ruga settlements.
According to the speaker,
“We support the full implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 as ranching remains the global best practice. The House has also communicated to the governor to direct council chairmen to remove any signboard of Ruga settlement, grazing reserve in their domains.”
While commenting on the subject, human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, said the Supreme Court had held that the entire land in each state was vested in the governor and as such the government could not embark on such ventures without the consent of the governors.
“It is pertinent to point out that the Supreme Court has held that the entire land in each state is vested in the governor. As far as the Land Use Act is concerned, the Federal Government has no control over any land outside the Federal Capital Territory.
“Therefore, Nigerians should rest assured that the Federal Government cannot forcefully acquire any land for a Ruga or a ranch in any state without the consent of the governor.
According to Falana, the ranch concept is not new, as ranches has already been in existence the first republic.
“In the First Republic, the Obafemi Awolowo regime had a ranch at Akunnu (Ondo State), the Ahmadu Bello regime had a ranch in Mokwa (Niger State) while the Nnamdi Azikwe regime had the Obudu Cattle Ranch (Cross River State). In the Second Republic, Governor (Adekunle) Ajasin built a dairy farm in Ikun (Ekiti State).”
“All the ranches were ruined by former military dictators. Today the South-West consumes 10,000 cattle daily. Lagos alone consumes about 6,000. What stops the Oodua Group from setting up a ranch to supply meat in the South-West? The meat sold by Shoprite is prepared in an abattoir in Ikenne, Ogun State.”
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Senior Special Assistant Jonathan Asake sees the Ruga settlement initiative as a scheme in the grand plot to “Fulanise” and ultimately “Islamize” the country. In a Channels Television interview during Friday’s edition of Sunrise Daily, the former member of the House of Assembly between 2011 and 2015 opined that the term “Ruga” was a Fulani word and wondered why anyone would be deluded into thinking that the settlement would not be exclusive to the Fulani when implemented rather than the much hyped job creating, economic emancipation vehicle which the Buhari government is trying to pitch to Nigerians.
Asake, himself a native of Southern Kaduna said, in 1987, the Kaduna State Government approved Ruga settlements to be built in the old Kachia Local Government Area, which comprises Zangon Kataf, Chikun, Kajuru and Kachia local government areas, however, according to him, overtime the visiting Fulani began to expand these settlements to a point where today, some of these settlements have been converted into emirates.
“That grazing reserve has been changed to Laduga. Laduga is actually a Fulani word and no indigene is there. The land has been taken over from the indigenes. And that place is now a big town, with big hospitals and roads.”