All the five South-East state governors, Samuel Ortom (Benue); Darius Ishaku (Taraba) and the Ondo State Government have rejected the federal government plan for Ruga settlements, saying they would not give out their land for herdsmen’s settlements in their states.
The Federal Government on Tuesday said in the next five years, the establishment of Ruga settlements in the country would stop open grazing by herdsmen and end herdsmen-farmers’ clashes across the country.
It explained that the establishment of Ruga settlements, which had been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and had started in 12 states, would allow herdsmen to stay in specific areas, where they could graze their animals.
But Gov. Ortom said Benue State had no land for the Federal Government proposed Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen.
The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, explained that Ruga settlement policy was imposed on states during the National Council on Agriculture summit held in Owerri, Imo State, in April this year by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
The governor further said the Benue State delegation reminded the summit that the state had a law on ranching which had phased out open grazing.
The statement added that few weeks ago, a director of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture with his team in Benue State informed officials of the state Ministry of Agriculture that he had received directives from the Ministry’s headquarters Abuja to establish Ruga which means ‘Fulani settlement’ in parts of the state.
The statement added that the director said three local government areas of the state: Otukpo, Tarka and Ukum had been selected for the Ruga settlements.
“We find the approach of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture not only as a gross violation of the Ranching law but also as an insult to the sensibilities of the entire people of Benue State.
“During the National Council on Agriculture summit which took place in Owerri, Imo State in April this year, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture attempted to impose Ruga settlement on the states but the Benue State delegation seized the opportunity to remind the summit that Benue State has a law on ranching which has phased out open grazing. No one at the summit put forth an alternative method of animal husbandry to counter the state’s presentation.
“The Government of Benue State is willing to support cattle owners to establish ranches as stipulated by the law prohibiting open grazing.
“We however wish to reiterate that Benue State has no land for grazing reserves, grazing routes, cattle colonies or Ruga settlements. The state only has land for the establishment of ranches.”
Imo won’t accept Ruga settlement for herdsmen – Govt
Also, the Imo State Government said that it would not be part of the proposed Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen in all the states of the federation.
The Special Adviser on Media to the state Governor, Steve Osuji, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Owerri on Tuesday, said that no governor in South-East would accept such a proposal.
He said the south-eastern states would not rush to accept the proposal when none of the northern states had implemented it.
He said, “Certainly not. It is not about Imo State; no state in the South-East would accept it. We won’t rush to accept it when no state in the North has implemented it.”
Ugwuanyi backs South-East governors
Reacting, the Special Adviser to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Mr Louis Amoke, said the state was in full support of the South-East Governors’ Forum position on cattle colony.
Amoke added that the governors had made their position known that South-East had “no land for cattle colony, Ruga settlement, or in whatever nomenclature it is called.”
He added, “So the position of Enugu State Government is not different from the position of South-East Governors’ Forum.”
We ‘ll accept nothing other than ranching – Taraba Govt
Speaking in the same vein, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Dan Abu, said the state would not accept anything except ranching.
Abu, who said ranching remained the best option in the resolution of the crisis, called on the Federal Government to key into the ranching policy as the best option in the resolution of the herders-farmers’ crisis.
“We have a policy on this issue already which led to the enactment of the open grazing and ranches establishment law. This policy remains the best practice the world over in animal rearing.
“We implore the Federal Government to key into the ranching policy for the overall interest of herders and farmers. For now, we will not accept anything other than ranching,” he said.
We don’t believe in Ruga settlement – Ondo govt.
Also, the Ondo State Government declared that it did not plan to have any other settlement for Fulani herdsmen because it had already established ranches in some parts of the state.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Yemi Olowolabi, said the ranches were established in Auga Akoko and Akunnu Akoko in the Akoko North-East Local Government Area of the state.
He said, “I am not aware of anything of such (Ruga settlement). However, we have made our position known about that. We have established cattle ranches at Auga Akoko and Akunnu Akoko for people to take their cattle to.
“So, rather than doing cattle rustling, the ranches were established for people to bring their cattle there. So, our position is that we don’t believe in creating anything of such, we already have our own ranches established, with the belief that the cattle there would be healthier and better.”
In 2018, the Federal Government also planned to establish cattle colonies for herdsmen, but many states kicked against them.
But on May 21, 2019, the immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, announced that Buhari had approved the Ruga settlement initiative earlier in the same month.
“Just 10 days ago, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a programme called the Ruga settlement. We are going to build settlements where herders will live, grow their cattle and produce milk. The milk will be bought by a milking parlour thus preventing their wives from moving around with milk. This is especially to avert any conflict between the herders and the farmers,” Ogbeh reportedly stated.
Also, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Umar, while speaking on the sidelines of the West Africa Antimicrobial Resistance Workshop in Abuja on Tuesday, insisted that the Ruga settlements would attract investors to Nigeria.
The workshop was organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. West African countries including Nigeria, agreed to collaborate to address the destructive effects of antimicrobial resistance on human and animal health.
Explaining how the Ruga settlements would work, he said many states had indicated interest in the programme.
Umar said, “The Ruga settlement is one of the very important things being done by the ministry and it is one of the best things that can happen not only to Nigeria but to most of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a concept that we developed to deal with internal security.
“We felt that to do away with herders-farmers’ conflict, we need to settle our nomads and those who breed animals. We want to put them in a place that has been developed as a settlement, where we provide water for their animals, pasture, schools for their children, security, agro-rangers, etc.”
He added, “We also felt that we need to develop cattle markets whereby you don’t need to be transporting animals through very long distances. We will also bring in investors that will set up modern centres where cattle breeders can slaughter their animals. When we do that, a lot of other things will come up.
“We are going to change their (herdsmen) lifestyle, take them away from our streets and from wandering in the bush and develop districts, hamlets and towns and definitely in the next five to 10 years you will never see a nomad moving about, wandering or kidnapping. And this will end all these security challenges.”
Asked when the programme would take off, Umar replied, “We have already taken off. First of all, we are starting with about 12 states and we have identified the required locations. In each and every state we are going to have at least nothing less than six locations which we will start with and will settle these people along with other people that are interested in rearing animals.
“The Ruga settlement will attract a lot of investments 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.”
The permanent secretary stated that many state governments had indicated interest and were visiting the ministry to get details about the initiative.
He said, “Already state and local governments are buying into the initiative. Many states have indicated interest. They have been coming to the ministry and will like to join to ensure that we set up Ruga settlements in their states so that their nomads will have a place. Also, they will have cattle markets and modern abattoirs in their states.” – Punch.