Unease Trails FG’s Floating of Ruga Settlements

Unease Trails FG’s Floating of Ruga Settlements

…It’s a Highly Discriminatory Policy, says HURIWA Against the backdrop of the perennial herders/farmers skirmishes which has led to bloodletting in many parts of the country, unease appears to have dogged the revelation that the Federal Government had begun to establish “Ruga Settlements” for herdsmen in 12 pilot states nationwide as many Southern and Middle

…It’s a Highly Discriminatory Policy, says HURIWA

Against the backdrop of the perennial herders/farmers skirmishes which has led to bloodletting in many parts of the country, unease appears to have dogged the revelation that the Federal Government had begun to establish “Ruga Settlements” for herdsmen in 12 pilot states nationwide as many Southern and Middle Belt states do not seem warm to the idea.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Mohammed Umar who disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja on the sidelines of a workshop on Regional Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Associated Legislation in West Africa, said that the farm settlements when fully established would address the incessant clashes between Fulani cattle rearers and farmers.

The pilot project envisage the establishments of Ruga Settlements in 94 locations in Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nassarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba, Ekiti, Niger and Zamfara states. It is also expected to cost gulp N179 billion in 10 years with N70 slated to be spent in the first three years, according to the National Livestock Transformation Plan.

Umar explained that the pilot programme had already commenced on a 31,000-hectare in Kotongora, Niger state adding that the required facilities for basic life and treatment of cattle are being provided to enhance productivity.

He also said that the government would replicate the programme in selected states as work “is ongoing in the 12 pilot states,” disclosing that six settlements will be established in each of the pilot states.

Umar who further said that the centres would be expanded and adequately equipped, assured the beneficiaries that government would do all that was necessary to enlighten the herdsmen on how the use of ranches could make cattle rearing more profitable.

He said that the government would sensitise the herdsmen to the social and political benefits derivable from such settlements.

The permanent secretary explained that various spots would be established for the pastoralists to be able to milk their cows. Dispensaries would also be established to prevent the misuse of antibiotics.

The “Ruga Settlement” idea was an initiative of the National Economic Council (NEC) presented under the National Livestock Transformation Plan (2018-2027).

It was an initiative to stop the age-long herders-farmers crisis and to massively develop the livestock industry.

The initiative seeks to promote ranching as the way forward for cattle rearing in the country.

Umar said that, “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.”

According to the permanent secretary, nomadic livestock production in Nigeria is facing major challenges and is at crossroads due to declining availability of pasture, overgrazing, and expanding fatal conflicts between pastoralists and crop farmers.

He said that the impact on food and nutrition security as well as “public safety and national security are huge and far-reaching, therefore the government is bent on making the plan to work as it has commenced.”

“Under the new plan, cattle herders are expected to be registered and recognised with cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme.

“These cooperatives will then be able to get rental agreements for land from state governments and also benefit from ranch resources on several terms including loans, grants, and subsidies,’’ he said.

“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.

“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.”

President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier approved the establishment of Ruga settlements in the country for herdsmen across the 36 states of the country. This means that states would give out lands which will serve as settlement for herdsmen.

According to the immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, this would stop open grazing by herdsmen and end herdsmen-farmers’ clashes across the country.

He 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.

The Federal Government had last year planned to establish cattle colonies for herdsmen, but it met stiff resistance from many states.

“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 said.

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.

Governor of Benue state, Mr Samuel Ortom has said that the state has no land for herdsmen settlements being implemented by the Federal Government across the country.

In a press statement issued Tuesday in Makurdi, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Terver Akase narrated that few weeks ago, the director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Makurdi went to the state Ministry of Agriculture with his team demanding for compliance with the directive of the Federal Government to establish Fulani settlements, one each in the three senatorial districts of the state.

The local governments selected by the Federal Government in the state for the establishment of the settlements according to the governor’s spokesman, are Ukum, Tarka and Otukpo respectively. The statement said the permanent secretary in the state Ministry of Agriculture drew the attention of the director and his team to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 being implemented in the state.

The permanent secretary further directed the attention of the director to the Land Use Act which confers on the Governor the powers to administer land in all parts of the state. According to Akase, the director who left with his team came back few days later with contractors to commence work on the settlements in the state.

“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,” the statement said.

The statement further recalled that the people and government of Benue state had earlier rejected cattle colonies and still reject the policy in whichever robe it is disguised. “We are willing to support cattle owners to establish ranches as stipulated by the law prohibiting open grazing. But, we do not have land for cattle colonies, grazing reserves, grazing routes or herders’ settlements,” the statement added.

The Midwest Movement which comprises of the government of Edo and Delta states has also rejected the proposed RUGA settlement for Fulani herdsmen by the Federal Government in its region.

The region’s decision was revealed in a statement jointly signed by both state members.

Titled “REJECTION OF FULANI RUGA SETTLEMENTS IN MIDWEST TERRITORIES OF DELTA & EDO STATES,” the statement reads in full:

“The attention of the MIDWEST MOVEMENT, the pan-Edo/Delta group of distinguished sons and daughters drawn from the Ethnic Nationalities of the old Midwestern Region, has been drawn to the renewed plot by the Federal Government to forcefully or tacitly annex swaths of lands belonging to various ethnic nationalities in States across Nigeria, in a bid to settle Fulani herders in colonies to be known as RUGA Settlements.

“The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Umar reiterated this untoward plan, on Tuesday 25th June 2019 in Abuja. Reportedly, The Federal Government within the next five years, plans to establish these said Ruga settlements in states across the country.

“The Midwest Movement totally and unequivocally rejects this brazen “21st century Colonization” in its entirety!

“We call on the Federal Government to immediately rescind its planned veiled colonization of our peoples, while enjoining the Governments of our home-states of Edo and Delta to reject same in clear and unequivocal terms. While not opposing the desire of the Federal Government to settle nomadic herdsmen (and any other such groups whatsoever), these should be done in areas and land that are native to such groups.

“The planned aggregation in whatever guise, of the lands of the 12 ethnic nationalities of the Midwest Region of Nigeria, without recourse to consultations with the traditional and bonafide owners, is akin to an invasion.

“As peace-loving people, and firm believers in a One Nigeria where peace, justice and equity reigns, the Midwest/Bendel peoples of Delta and Edo States firmly advice the Federal Government against the perpetuation of any policy that may impact negatively on the seeming already strained unity of the Nigerian federation.

“We call on Mr. President, the Governors of both Edo and Delta States, our national legislators, our leaders, the international community and all persons of goodwill to help keep Nigerians and its indigenous peoples safe.

God bless Nigeria.”

Also reacting on the issue, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA asked the President Buhari-led Federal Government to opt for “fairness, equity and equality of rights for all ethno-religious affiliations as a way of ensuring restoration of peace and stability in Nigeria.”

HURIWA criticized the Federal government for its opaque nature of working out “a highly discriminatory settlement policy to benefit only the Fulani speaking ethnicity amid ballooning poverty, crises of underdevelopment and lack of economic opportunities which afflicts the over 350 ethno-tribal communities that make up Nigeria.”

A statement by its National Coordinator, Mr Emmanuel Onwubiko reads: “Government needs to even appreciate the import of the United Nations Vienna Declaration of 1993 which states thus:”all human rights are universal, indivisible, inter-dependent and “democracy, development and respect for human rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing”.

The Rights group reminded Buhari’s administration of an “outstanding case of unambiguous unfairness and injustice meted out to the largely unarmed Igbo speaking followers of the self determination group known as Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) proscribed by the government whereas the hierarchy of Miyetti Allah cattle owners known as MACBAN which actively supports armed fulani herdsmen is an ally of the Presidency.”

According to the organisation, “It makes no sense for the Federal government to embark on an adventure of deception and deceits as a way of resolving the growing phenomenon of violence amongst the different ethnicity” just as the Rights group expressed doubts on “the workability of the one sided panacea of establishment of settlement for Fulani ethnicity whereas the real victims of the widespread blood cuddling herders’ violence – the farming communities all across the country are left to sulk their wounds unsympathetically. What is goose for the goose is good for the gander.

“The unequal treatments of equals by the central government under Presidency of the Fulani born Muhammadu Buhari is at the core of the different ramifications of agitations threatening peace, security and stability of our nation state. This fundamental injustice incubated and fertilized inside the Presidential villa and publicised as state policy is intrinsically and inherently unconstitutional”.

“Fairness, equity and equality of rights as clearly provided for in a plethora of constitutional provisions are the sine qua non for finding lasting, sustainable and effective mutual and harmonious solutions to the crises that have arisen due to the activities of suspected armed Fulani herdsmen targeting farming communities in the country”.

HURIWA blamed government at the center squarely for the “breakdown of law and order characterised by high crime rate and the widening spectre of armed kidnappings, banditry and dare devilish atrocities unleashed by freelance armed hoodlums all across the Country.”

The Rights groups said the “piecemeal approach” adopted by President Buhari whereby the government occasionally embarks on “secretive monologues with only representatives of Fulani ethnicity, cannot deliver the positive and constructive results expected to restore normalcy in the flash points of these incessant armed Fulani attacks.”

HURIWA therefore asked Buhari to adopt a “much more holistic, transparent and open mechanisms such as the convocation of a national security parley whereby credible and transparently chosen leaders of the various communities in Nigeria including the Fulani ethnicity and credible civil rights advocacy groups will meet for at least two days to brainstorm on the most workable panacea to the incessant attacks unleashed by suspected herders targeting farmers just as government must as a matter of legality, arrest, prosecute and punish all the non-state actors responsible for these intermittent but vicious violence.”

“The Federal government can’t continue with the divide-and-rule approach that it has adopted but must open up to all the communities so a national funding platforms are created to provide palliatives to all the communities affected by the violence unleashed by armed herdsmen just as these flashpoints are located all across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria,” it said.

HURIWA also faulted the discriminatory policy of establishment of settlements for only one ethnic group which offends both the Constitution and the Land Use Act of 1978.

The Rights group said the development of private businesses should be private sector-driven just as it asked the government to approach banks and other funding agencies so credible stakeholders needing bailout to set up farming settlements including herders and farmers. It said they should be assisted with soft loans repayable over a period of time and guaranteed by the Nigerian State.

“This is a much more transparent form of providing funding lifeline than the discriminatory allocation of tax payers’ money to one ethnicity only because the President is Fulani by biological affinity,” it said.

“The drafters of the constitution were mindful of the harmful effect of government adopting discriminatory policies which informs the decision to insert section 42(1) into the constitution as follows: “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-

“(a) Be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject; or

“(b) Be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.”

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