South East Governors, Ortom, Ishaku. others rejects Federal Government Ruga settlement for herdsmen

As the controversy on the proposed Ruga settlement for herdsmen rages, the Federal Government stated that 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.

Recall that the Federal Government had last year planned to establish cattle colonies for herdsmen, but many states kicked against them.

Prior to the dissolution of the Federal Executive Council, the immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had on May 12, 2019 informed Nigerians that the President 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.

In a related development 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 recently 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.”

In contrast to the statement by the former minister and the Permanent Secretary, all the five South-East state governors, Samuel Ortom (Benue); Darius Ishaku (Taraba) and the Ondo State Government have rejected the Ruga settlements, saying they would not give out their land for herdsmen’s settlements in their states. Ortom stated that Benue State had no land for the Federal Government proposed Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen.

Ortom, 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.”

In line with the stand of Benue state government, 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 our reporter in Owerri last week, 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.

Also 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.”

In lending their voice on the raging issue, 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.

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 on the issue, 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 spite of opposition to the creation of the Ruga settlements, President Buhari said his administration was focused on ending the mindless killings resulting from the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country.

He sought the cooperation of various leaders and the citizens to maintain peace while the government sought an end to the killings.

Buhari spoke in Abuja when a delegation from Nasarawa State visited him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The delegation, which was led by Governor Abdullahi Sule, had the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, a former governor, Mr Tanko Al-Makura, ambassadors, former ministers, traditional rulers and several other personalities from the state on the team.

The President stated, “In the last four years, you collectively put aside your political, religious and ethnic differences for the interest of stability and prosperity. We must continue to preach peace and understanding in your various communities.

“The incessant conflicts between herders and farmers are an age-long problem; this administration is determined to find lasting solutions to this problem. I implore all opinion leaders to help maintain peace while we are putting in place policies and permanent solutions.

“I must commend the steadfastness, commitment and the enormous hard work of Al-Makura, who identified with our project from the word go. I wish him well in his new assignment.”

Speaking earlier, Sule thanked the President for the Federal Government’s projects Buhari brought to the state and the appointment of its indigenes into key positions.

On insecurity, the governor informed the President that one way the state had opted to fight it was through agriculture.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 10 persons were killed and several houses burnt in two separate attacks in the Wukari Local Government Area of Taraba State last week Tuesday.

According to the Caretaker Chairman, Wukari Local Government, Daniel Adi, armed gunmen in army camouflage attacked Rafinkada in the early hours of Tuesday and set several houses ablaze.

He added that while the attack on Rafinkada was going on, another batch of the attackers blocked the Wukari-Takum Road at a forest close to Wukari and killed five persons.

Adi noted that a soldier was injured in the attack at Rafinkada and was receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital in Wukari.

Local residents also said five persons were killed at the Takum junction in Wukari in what appeared to be a reprisal on Rafinkada.

The eyewitness said three people were already killed according to information they gathered at the checkpoint where their vehicle was stopped along other vehicles.

Many of the passengers, who travelled on the Jalingo-Wukari Road, told our reporter that the situation was bad and scary as vehicles were been checked and some people killed in the process.

However, Adi said there was no roadblock in Wukari where people were allegedly killed.

Adi said he got information that there was a roadblock in Wukari when he was returning from Rafinkada, but when he got there with soldiers there was nothing like that and motorists were moving freely.

“When we got to where they alleged that there was a roadblock, there was nothing like that.

“We later saw some youths gathered at a location in Wukari town with a woman in their midst and we immediately rescue the woman.

“The youths alleged that the woman, a Tiv married to a Jukun man in Wukari, was giving information about the movement of Jukun people towards Rafinkada for Tiv people to lay an ambush for them.

“We immediately rescued the woman and dispersed the youths. The woman is now in safe hands,” he said. The state Police Public Relations Officer, David Misal, also confirmed the attack in Wukari, but said only one person was killed

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