Despite the harsh criticism of the planned establishment of Ruga settlements across the country, the Federal Government is set to commence the pilot phase of the project in Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Kaduna and seven other states, Saturday PUNCH’s investigations have confirmed.
It was learnt in Abuja on Friday that the execution of the project would start in 11 states including Sokoto, Nasarawa, Kogi, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger.
Documents seen by one of our correspondents at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development showed that all was set for the implementation of the initiative.
According to senior officials of the ministry, the Federal Government is determined to go ahead with the project, notwithstanding the public outcry, particularly in the South.
“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,” a senior official at the FMARD, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
The source added, “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!”
When asked whether the government would go ahead with the initiative despite its rejection by many other states, the official replied, “Why not? Of course, 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.”
On Tuesday, the Permanent Secretary, FMARD, Mohammed Umar, said aside from the states where the pilot phase of the programme would start, many other states had expressed their interest in the scheme.
The project is said to be part of the solution to the incessant clashes between farmers and herders.
Umar had said, “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.”
On May 21, 2019, the immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had announced that Buhari approved the Ruga settlement initiative earlier in the same month.
Osinbajo, Miyetti Allah differ on Ruga settlement project execution
Meanwhile, the Office of the Vice-President and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria on Friday disagreed over the implementation of the controversial Ruga settlement initiative.
While MACBAN’s General Secretary, Baba Ngelzarma, claimed on Sunrise Daily, a programme on Channels Television, on Friday that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s office was helping Fulani herdsmen to create Ruga settlements across the country, Laolu Akande, media aide to Osinbajo, denied the claim.
Ngelzerma had told Channels Television that the Ruga settlement model was a component part of the livestock development and transformation plan being implemented under the Office of the Vice-President.
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.
However, in a swift reaction, the Office of the Vice-President denied being in charge of the implementation of the Ruga settlement initiative.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Mr Laolu Akande, said in a tweet on Friday that the programme being handled by Osinbajo was different from the one being referred to by Miyetti Allah.
Akande said the National Livestock Transformation Plan endorsed by the National Economic Council was different from the Ruga programme.
He tweeted, “Contrary to claims reported in sections of the media, Ruga settlements are not being supervised by the Office of the Vice- President. Ruga is different from the National Livestock Transformation Plan approved by governors under the auspices of the National Economic Council.
“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.”
Zamfara, Niger back Ruga settlements
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.
Mutawalle, who spoke through his Director-General of Media and Publicity, Alhaji Yusuf Idris, said Ruga settlements for Fulani was the best option that could foster peace in the country.
He 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.”
Matane told Saturday PUNCH that Niger State had already provided over 40 hectares of land for the project.
According to Matane, the state would provide some facilities for the environment, including 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.
While Taraba criticised the project on Tuesday, other states listed in the pilot phase had yet to respond to Saturday PUNCH’s enquiries as of the time of going to the press on Friday.
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.
One of the signboards 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.”
Benue House orders removal of Ruga settlement sign post
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Titus Uba, on Friday said the Assembly had called for the removal of the signboards erected in the communities earmarked for Ruga settlements.
Addressing journalists in his office, Uba said the Assembly had advised Governor Samuel Ortom to direct council chairmen to remove the signboards meant for the Ruga settlements in their areas.
The speaker said, “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.”
Groups including Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Middle Belt Forum have since rejected the Ruga initiative.
Ex-Obasanjo’s aide, Falana, others reject plan
Meanwhile, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, on Friday kicked against the plan to establish Ruga settlements in parts of the country, saying it was “illegal”.
The human rights activist said the Supreme Court had held that the entire land in each state was vested in the governor.
In his reaction in a WhatsApp message tracked by SATURDAY PUNCH, the Lagos lawyer said the government could not embark on such ventures without the consent of the governors.
He said, “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.”
He said, “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.
“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).”
How Fulani converted Ruga settlements in my community into an emirate – Ex-Obasanjo’s aide
A former Senior Special Assistant to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Jonathan Asake, said the new move to create Ruga settlements in some parts of the country was an attempt to “Fulanise” the country.
Asake, who was a member of the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015, said this during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday.
He said the term ‘Ruga’ was a Fulani word and it was thus hypocritical of anyone to say it would not be exclusive to Fulani when implemented.
Asake, who is from Southern Kaduna, said in 1987, the Kaduna State Government approved Ruga settlements for the old Kachia Local Government Area, which comprises Zangon Kataf, Chikun, Kajuru and Kachia local government areas today.
However, he said overtime Fulani began to expand these settlements and today, some of them had been converted into emirates.
Asake said, “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.”