Governors of the 19 Northern States have allayed fears over the federal government’s choice of Ruga cattle resettlement to address the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in various parts of the country.
The governors told the protagonists of the scheme not to lose further sleep over the programme, insisting that the raging controversy on the project was unnecessary.
Through the chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) and Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, the state chief executives said that enough homework and publicity on the benefits of the Ruga scheme had been done, adding that the policy was not imposed on them by the federal government.
Governor Lalong told State House correspondents yesterday after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja that as member of the Food Security and Herdsmen/Farmers’ Committee, they had come to the inevitable conclusion that the ranching policy is the most feasible way to address the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country.
The governor described the policy as all-encompassing instead of the inferences being drawn that it was designed to promote the interest of a particular tribe.
He said that in the long-run, the Ruga project would benefit all Nigerians through less friction between farmers and herders, food security, and sustainable development.
Lalong said: “I think the Ruga thing should not be anything that should bring controversy considering the level of sensitisation we’ve done. I am a member of the food security committee, I am also a member of the herdsmen/farmers’ committee. We’ve gone a long way on this issue and we’ve said that the only solution that can address some of these insecurity issues between herdsmen and farmers is the ranching policy.
“You remember that at one time we had gone far when some people called it colony and named it this and that, and it created serious controversy.
“Again, we have gone far under the leadership of Mr. Vice President, and then we are hearing other terms, what they are talking about, it’s the same thing that we are talking about.
“But I think when they mentioned Ruga, it may refer to a particular tribe but what we are doing is all- encompassing, it’s for the benefit of Nigeria. I have said particularly in my state that animal husbandry, livestock rearing is not the prerogative of one tribe, everybody must get involved in it and that is what we have done in our state when we registered for it,” he said.
Lalong added that “we are going to put these structures to enable us to encourage our youths and train them. Right now, we are training permanent secretaries and retired civil servants who would also get involved in it so that we can address some of the security issues that we have in the country. So, when somebody mentioned another word, people would not wait to question and find out who and who are bringing those words, that is just the simple fact.”
The governor reiterated that the federal government was not imposing the policy on any state, noting that the affected states applied for it.
He said: “If you go to what we have done because they mentioned some states which are included, those states applied… we have land for it. It’s not the federal government that is imposing it on any state.
“To the benefit of Mr. President, he has not imposed that on any states, it is voluntary. And they said any state that is prepared to do that to address insecurity should apply. Some of the states applied and we are at the level of the pilot scheme and some mischief makers have started bringing terms to cause confusion in the country. It’s very unfortunate,” he said.
On whether the initiative is political, the governor replied that “I don’t know whether it is political. Of course, I am a member of the committee, by the time we addressed that issue, some people said yes we would prefer to do open grazing in our states. Some said we would prefer to do ranching and others said in our states we would call it Ruga model.
“So, different states came up with their approaches, but Ruga term is not general to everybody. In my state we call it livestock farming, it’s not Ruga and we have explained it to our people,” Lalong said.
The governor dismissed insinuations that the federal government was solely funding the policy, saying that international institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) were involved in the initiative.
Lalong continued: “I was here one time when people asked why is the federal government subsidising agriculture and ranching?
“This is a policy that we felt that it does not only make economic sense, but can address the issue of insecurity. If it is going to address insecurity at a time the country is confronted with serious security challenges then federal government would come and assist those who want to do it.
“They are not imposing it on any state, I am a member of this committee under the chairmanship of the Vice President; the federal government has not imposed Ruga on any state.
“They said if you have land for pilot scheme the federal government can assist, and some donor agencies are involved, therefore, it is not a federal government project because the World Bank the African Development Bank, are involved in it.
“So if you have a scheme like this that can take care of poverty, generate revenue and also address insecurity, you will need to go into it but with due consultation from your state.
“We did a lot of sensitisation, in my state it took me three months and we all agreed that we should bring this concept to empower our people. It is not meant to empower one tribe, it is for everybody and that would address the issue of insecurity because we don’t want people moving from one place to another looking for grasses.
“The fact that federal government is bringing in subsidy was a request by the committee chaired by Mr. Vice President. Former President Goodluck Jonathan did it and he budgeted about N10 billion but we didn’t see the money. If he had done that at that time, we would not be fighting insecurity between herders and farmers today,” he added.
CSOs Defend Project, Call For Calm
Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) has made a case for the Ruga initiative of the federal government as varying reactions across the country trails it.
The coalition under the umbrella of Conference of Civil Society of Nigeria in a statement issued by its director of Information, Mr David Aches Aru, urged Nigerians to be calm and disregard the unnecessary anxiety around the policy which is designed to end bloodletting in Nigeria.
Aru said that “after our study of the Ruga plan, we are obliged as an umbrella body of CSOs in Nigeria to react to the recent anxiety, misconception and falsehood spun around the programme.
“First, the word Ruga is the same as ranch, and under the policy, lands are never to be expropriated forcefully from any state(s). The required land is the 415 old grazing reserves acquired by government and gazetted as far back as the 1960s, the largest concentration being in Adamawa State.
“In Niger State alone, there are 87,000 hectares. Same is true for Wase in Plateau State and Kaduna State to mention a few. The total area covered by these grazing reserves is over 6,000,000 hectares all in the northern region where the crisis has been most prevalent and where cattle are mostly found. Government has thus absolutely no need for new land in any state other than the ones that already exist, hence the speculations to the contrary are false, unsubstantiated without evidence, pathetic and most unfortunate.
“Second, the recent announcement that the programme covers 36 states of the federation is a misrepresentation and a blatant lie. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the programme for 12 states comprising Niger, Kaduna, Zamfara, Kebbi, Plateau, Kogi, Nasarawa, Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, Kano and Kwara that were severely affected by the herders/farmers’ conflict.
“Third, the immediate past minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh had discussed extensively with the governor of Benue State, Mr. Samuel Ortom during the presidential campaign when President Muhammadu Buhari visited the state, that only dams would be built for the use of ranching by indigenes of the state, who may wish to go into ranching programme in the future, since the state has no land for anything that has to do with cattle. Hence, there was no plan to impose Ruga on Benue or any other state in Nigeria,” he said.
It’s Dead On Arrival In S’West, Say Yoruba Leaders
In their reaction to the plan yesterday, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) kicked against its adoption in any of the states in the South-West geo-political zone.
The YCE vowed that not an inch of Yoruba land would be ceded for the Ruga programme.
The council’s president, Dansaaki Ade Agbede, in a statement he issued in Ibadan, Oyo State described the proposal as “dead on arrival” in the entire six states of the zone.
Agbede wondered how a group of people that were being seen as threat to peace and the security of others would be made to own settlements in places outside their domain.
He said: “To now think that the federal government which should be concerned and worried about the untoward activities of such people is the sponsor of Ruga is worrisome.
“Such a project is not at all in the best interest of this country as well as the Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency and the earlier the federal government listens to the voice of the people by disembarking on the project, the better.
“Virtually all the states outside of the domains of the Fulani herdsmen are against the project and Yoruba-speaking states are not exception,” Agbede stated.
Insisting on the rejection of the project in the entire Yorubaland, the YCE also known as ‘Egbe Igbimo Agba Yoruba’ maintained that the recent experience of the people in the hands of the Fulani herdsmen “leaves much to be desired with our spirit of openness and accommodation being eroded.
“We can’t fold our arms and allow our land to be overrun by strangers,” he said.
Agbede charged the governors of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun States to be on guard and let the federal government know the stance of their people on the matter, stressing that “this is not about politics or political party affiliation; it is about patriotism and responsibility to the people that elected them into office.
“As the highest body of Yoruba socio-cultural group, we are saying emphatic No to the construction of Fulani settlements in any of the states in the Yoruba-speaking area of the country. Our land is for the establishment of industries and farming and not cattle grazing and we are expressing our vehement opposition to the project, which to us is nothing but an expansionist agenda,” YCE added.
He equally urged President Buhari to be wary of actions his administration would be taking in view of the myriad of challenges confronting the country, noting that the idea of creating settlements for Fulani herdsmen across the country does not portray him as being fair, adding that “herdsmen across the country should be the least of Buhari’s problems while Nigerians are yearning for good roads, health, education, sustainable wages.”
Nobody Will Take Over Your Lands, Fayemi Assures Ekiti People
Similarly, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi has assured the people of the state that nobody would take over their lands for any reason.
He restated the commitment of his administration to providing adequate security in all communities across the state.
The governor spoke yesterday during his visit to Orin Ekiti in Ido/Osi local government area over the murder of one Sunday Ilori, a hunter, who was reportedly killed at the weekend by some suspected herdsmen in the community.
While addressing the leaders and residents of the area during the condolence visit, Governor Fayemi, who doubles as the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) urged the people to collaborate with the government and security agencies by providing information on suspicious movements and activities in their communities.
He added that a collaborative effort by all security stakeholders would help rid the state of banditry and other forms of criminal activities.
The governor also directed that a police post be provided near the farm settlement and that security patrol be stepped up in the town to forestall any form of insecurity in the area.
He also tasked security agencies to fish out the culprits and ensure that they face the maximum wrath of the law.
“Whoever violates the law and is caught in the act will face the wrath of the law whether he is Yoruba, Fulani, Tiv or whichever tribe the person may come from. Anybody who commits crime will not go scot free. If we don’t give the security agents around us adequate information, it will be difficult to arrest and prosecute such an offender. That is why there is need for us all to collaborate. We must play our roles and inform the appropriate security personnel,” Fayemi said.
The governor added that “we have youths, hunters and Peace Corps who should collaborate with security agents. We cannot relocate Orin to another place for any reason. Government will provide adequate security in this community so that everyone can ply their trades without fear.
“This is your land. As the governor, I have authority over all the land in the state and I am assuring you that no one will take your land from you for any purpose,” he said.
Earlier, the daughter of the deceased, Mrs. Olanike Akinwumi, narrated how the incident happened, maintaining that her father did not go hunting when he was killed in the farm.
According to her, the deceased went to the farm early in the morning in response to a call that some bandits were in the farm and was killed right there.
The community leaders demanded for the resuscitation of the farm settlement and a police post in the area.
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