Despite harsh criticism of the planned establishment of Ruga settlements across the country, Federal Government is set to commence the pilot phase of the project in Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Kaduna and seven other states.
It was learnt in Abuja on Friday that implementation of the project will start in 11 states including Sokoto, Nasarawa, Kogi, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger.
Documents seen by one of our correspondents at 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, Federal Government is determined to go ahead with the project, notwithstanding 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 governors of these states are coming to the ministry to learn how the Ruga settlements will be implemented,” a senior official at FMARD, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
The source added, “These are the states that have fully shown 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 not interested, no problem.”
On Tuesday, Permanent Secretary, FMARD, Mr 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, “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 cattle breeders associations in Nigeria.”
On May 21, 2019, immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, announced that Buhari approved the Ruga settlement initiative earlier in the same month.
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 said 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 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 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, Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, Mr 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 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.