The recent decision by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to establish Ruga settlement for Fulani cattle rearers in parts of the country ignited a national protest, forcing the Federal Government to suspend action on the programme within last week.
Governor David Umahi, Chairman of the National Food Security/Herders/Farmers Conflict and the Ebonyi State governor who briefed the media at the end of a meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo confirmed that the Presidency suspended the policy designed to address the incessant clashes between herders and farmers across the country, because it is inconsistent with the approved National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP).
In announcing the suspension of the project, which a cross section of the populace has kicked against, Umahi, who is also Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum was quoted to have said: “We are aware that the president has suspended the implementation of Ruga programme initiated and being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. This is because it is not consistent with the NEC and Federal Government’s approved NLTP.
“NLTP has programmes of rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) resulting from the crisis and also development of ranching in any willing state of the federation; the word is ‘willing state of the federation”.
Governor Umahi said each willing state was expected to come up with a plan unique to it based on the challenges that it had in respect of the farmers/herders crisis.
However, the question in the mind of analysts is: After the suspension of the Ruga project, what better solution can the FG find to the herders-farmers clashes? It is, also worthy to note that the government only suspended the project, but did not announce its cancellation.
Ortom Hails Suspension
In his reaction, Samuel Ortom Benue State governor, described the suspension as victory for all peace loving Nigerians.
Ortom, who spoke through Terver Akase, his Chief Press Secretary, said the rejection of Ruga was not personal, but rather a struggle by the people against impunity and injustice.
Akase said: “Governor Ortom commended President Muhammadu Buhari for heeding the call of the people for the suspension of the Ruga settlement patterns.
“He said the decision to suspend Ruga showed that president Buhari has heard the voices of majority of Nigerians on the matter.”
The Benue State governor quoted from the Holy Bible, the book of John 8: 32: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” and maintained that truth has prevailed on the Ruga issue.”
He, however, enjoined government to take a step further to encourage pastoralists and other livestock owners to embrace ranching as the best model of animal husbandry.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo Applauds FG’s Action
Chief Nnia Nwodo, President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, one of the critics of Ruga, described government’s decision as heart-warming, noting that it was the first time the current government had deferred to people’s opinion on public issues.
He said issues surrounding Ruga indicated the importance of consulting the people before taking certain decisions that will affect them.
According to him, “Ohanaeze Ndigbo is as worried about the restoration of peace between farmers and herders in the country as the Federal Government and believes that the ultimate solution to it is to embrace ranching.
“Government should carry out an audit of foreigners in the country and ascertain those with genuine entry papers, deport those illegally in the country as well as ensure that the nation’s borders are properly controlled and manned to avert further massive infiltration.”
As a process towards healing the present wounds and uniting the country, the Igbo leader advised that adequate compensation be paid to relations of victims of the unwarranted killings in the country in recent times.
Northern Coalition Gives FG 30-Day Ultimatum To Reverse Decision
However, northern youths under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Group (CNG) issued a 30-day ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the Ruga policy across the country, warning that the group would resort to a line of action after the ultimatum.
Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, CNG spokesperson, who addressed newsmen in Abuja last Wednesday, slammed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for disowning the project.
In a communique released after a meeting, the group said: “While we warn all state governors that stand against the implementation of the Ruga initiative to desist and give peace a chance, we place President Buhari and the Federal Government on notice that they must act to halt and completely stop this raging madness within 30 days beginning from today, Wednesday July 3, 2019.
“The Nigerian security agencies are also placed on notice to check and bring under control the current unbridled inflammatory remarks by southern leaders in the same manner they swiftly coined a tag of ‘hate speech’ around the Kaduna Declaration.
“We warn the elders, political and religious leaders of southern Nigeria to urgently halt the inciting remarks that provoke hate against the North, keeping in mind that no single person or group has the sole monopoly of unguarded remarks that instigate hatred.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we advise the federal authorities and the southern leaders to heed the 30-day notice failing which we would most definitely be left with no option than to consider resorting to our decisive line of action.”
It slammed those it called enemies of the North, both foreign and local, who he said had worked strenuously to ensure that the region remains backward, divided, weak, confused and bewildered by myriads of challenges and problems so that it cannot survive long in the event of a breakup.
“This conspiracy has been perpetrated with the active connivance of some leaders from the North, accommodated by the cowardice of those that present themselves as northern political leaders today and feeds on the negligence and insincerely of the federal authorities.”
We Won’t Seize Land From Villagers -Lalong
However, Simon Lalong, the Plateau State governor, has reassured his people that there was no plan to forcefully take over lands from natives for ranching programme in the state.
He said the now suspended controversial Ruga settlement had the same similarities with ranching programme which many believed would resolve the conflicts between farmers and herders in the state.
He also got a thumb up from the Plateau Regeneration Group for the establishment of ranching policy in the state to halt farmer/herders clashes.
In a statement, Pam Datri, the National Publicity Secretary, Plateau Regeneration Group, said the attempt by politicians to drag ranching policy into politics should be discouraged in the interest of peace and unity of the state.
FG Should Enact A Law Against Herders Carrying Guns – GDPN Chief
Nze Josephat Chidebere Mbanwe, former House of Assembly aspirant and member, Grand Democratic Party of Nigeria (GDPN), Ohaji/Egbema LGA in Imo State, in his reaction, said: “First, I want to commend the President for hearkening to the outcry that trailed the now ill-fated RUGA project.
“That is what is expected of a leader, allowing the voices of reason to prevail. Now that he has discarded the idea, I want the Federal Government to enact an enabling law that will make it a punishable offence for the Hausa Fulani herders to operate their business with weapons, especially AK47. There should be a time limit beyond which they cannot graze their cattle around.
“Again, before the herders move into any community, the community leader with his cabinet members and the President General, should be put on notice. Security agencies should arrest herders moving at odd hours with their cattle. The Federal Government should also provide uniformed attires for the herders to be easily identified by farmers.”
FG Should Restrict Movement of Herdsmen – ACD Stalwart
Ezinne Veronica Ukwunna, a chieftain of Advanced Congress for Democratic (ACD), Mbaitoli council area, also in Imo State, opined: “The Federal Government should just restrict herders for some parts of the country. They should understand that the South East and the South South are not meant for grazing, culturally and traditionally.
“Here, we have farmers who produce food for us and the cattle herders should be forbidden from coming here to avoid clashes with the farmers.”
Resettle Herdsmen In Sambisa Forest – Agriculturist
Chief Laleye Oladipo, Minna-based agriculturist, stated: “If I get you right, after suspending the Ruga project, what again can we do as better way to check the herders and farmers’ clashes? The only solution is ranching. Since we have rejected Ruga, apparently because of the name, then maybe we continue to kill ourselves fighting over grazing lands for the Fulani herdsmen.
“Alternatively, I think I am in support of someone suggesting that the Fulani herdsmen should be re-settled at Sambisa forest. But, the problem is: Will Sambisa forest be enough for all the cows in Nigeria? If the idea is okay for the handlers of the policy or the Federal Government, maybe they can give it a trial and they can always look for additional forests elsewhere for them to use as grazing lands.
“It is unfortunate that the concept was misunderstood or that the handlers did not come out clean the way Nigerians can understand what ranching is really all about. To me, personally, I know the President has good intentions. But, because of stereotype many Nigerians have about average Fulani man, who is seen as a terrorist, bandits or having penchant for shedding blood, we have decided to throw away the baby with the bath water.”
FG Should Be Neutral In Handling Herders/Farmers Clashes – Journalist
Kola Olabisi, an Osogbo, Osun State-based journalist, advised the Federal Government to be neutral in handling herdsmen-farmers clashes across the country.
Speaking on better solution the Federal Government could find to the herdsmen/farmers clashes, Olabisi noted that rearing of flocks by herdsmen was a private business and the Federal Government needed not t assist the herdsmen by carving out land for the Fulani in the name of trying to find lasting solution to constant clashes between them and farmers.
He stressed that the Fulani should learn how to live in peace with other tribes and ethnic groups in the country in the interest of their business, not trying to lord over other tribes through the botched Ruga settlement.
He explained that though Ruga settlement had its merits, but it would degenerate to crises if the herdsmen failed to learn how to live in peace with other Nigerians because of their flocks.
According to him, “The reason the problem has been escalating is because the government has failed to take appropriate step and has appeared undisturbed by the crisis.
“Already, herdsmen are everywhere across the country and have been trying to cohabitate with other tribes and ethnic groups until recently when they feel that because their kinsman is in power, they can use that opportunity to expand their coast across the federation. This cannot work, except we all agree to cohabit as members of federal state, which requires that all ethnic groups must cohabitate.
FG Should Stop Interfering In Personal Businesses – Don
Dr. Sylvanus Odugbe, a Benin-based university lecturer said: “The Federal Government has no business dabbling into cattle rearing, because, it is a private business being undertaken by individuals. And it has been so until this President Buhari-led administration came to power.
“The problem will continue until the Federal Government stops interfering in the business as if all Nigerians will die the moment they stop eating cow meat. It is a shame to discover that the Buhari government regards animals more than human beings.
“This is why the money the Federal Government has spent on the cattle issue in the last four years is more than what has been spent on education within the same period. The lives that have been lost in herders’ invasion of communities and farmlands across the country cannot be quantified in monetary terms.
“The only solution to the problem is for the Federal Government to take a stand on the issue by making the herders to realise that their business is a private one like every other animal rearing business and that if they want a place to rear their animals, they should negotiate with the communities on individual basis.
“The Federal Government should also make a law to restrain the herders from invading communities and farmlands to destroy crops and that any of such incidents, the perpetrators will be made to face serious sanction and with that the problem will be solved.”