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 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.
Recall that Federal Government had last year planned to establish cattle colonies for herdsmen, but many states kicked against them.
But On May 21, 2019, immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, announced that Mr Buhari had approved the Ruga settlement initiative earlier in the same month.
“Just 10 days ago, Mr 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.
No land for Ruga settlement in Benue, Ortom tells FG
But Mr 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, Mr Terver Akase, explained that Ruga settlement policy was imposed on states during National Council on Agriculture summit held in Owerri, Imo State, in April this year by 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 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 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, Federal Ministry of Agriculture attempted to impose Ruga settlement on the states but Benue State delegation seized the opportunity to remind the summit that Benue State had 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.
“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 govt won’t accept Ruga settlement for herdsmen’
Also, 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.
Special Adviser on Media to the state Governor, Mr 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 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 S’East govs
Reacting, Special Adviser to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Mr Louis Amoke, said the state was in full support of 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, Mr 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 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 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, 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.”