Ruga settlements: Presidency highlights benefits as Gov. Umahi denies inclusion of South-East, South-South /

Chairman of the South-East Governors Forum, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has said that there is no plan to establish Ruga settlements in any part of the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

Umahi disclosed this in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Emma Uzor, in Abakaliki on Sunday in reaction to controversies and insinuations trailing the federal government’s alleged plan for establishment of Ruga settlements in some states.

Same Sunday, the Muhammadu Buhari presidency denied having any plan to impose Ruga settlements on any state, describing the idea as a voluntary concept conceived to end protracted conflicts among herders and locals and simultaneously put paid to the threat of deprivation and loss of people’s freedom.

Umahi explained that the South-east zone had proposed a deal with members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, as a panacea to achieving lasting peace between farmers and herdsmen, but denied any plans by governors of the zones to cede any part of their land for Ruga settlement.

He said: “There is no plan for any Ruga settlement in any part of South-East and South-South zones; but we made a proposed deal with MACBAN that can allow the zone to become very good business with sale of grasses to the herdsmen in exchange for meat.

“There will be no part of the South-East that will be given out for the purpose of establishment of Ruga, the zone is purely agrarian with limited landmass for farming and therefore can not accommodate Ruga establishment.

“We actually proposed a deal with MACBAN to take their cattle to the Northern parts where grazing reserves were established long time ago and rely completely on the grasses grown in the South for feeding of their cattle.”

Umahi, who was the Chairman of Technical Committee on Farmers and Herdsmen clash carved from the National Economic Council headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said that the committee had recommended the revamping of existing grazing reserve in Nigeria.

He said that revamping of the already existing grazing reserves in various parts of the North as recommended by the committee was to enable farmers have unhindered access to their farmlands while herdsmen rely solely on proceeds from the farmers.

The Ebonyi governor was the Chairman of National Economic Council sub Technical Committee on farmers and herdsmen clash and he toured the states of Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Zamfara and others.

“Part of committee’s recommendations to the federal government was the revamping of grazing reserves in the North where all the cattle rearers in the South will take their cattle to these places and rely on the grasses that are grown in the South.

“The way it works is that the herdsmen will bring down their cows to the South-East and sell to us as meat while they will load the grasses which are grown here in the same vehicles with which they transported their cows to feed their cattle in those grazing reserve.

“With this proposed deal, herdsmen are expected to embrace anti-open grazing by returning to the ranches in the North and do their business on the trade by barter basis of selling cows to the South and buying grass to feed their cows in the North.”

Umahi further called for tolerance among youths of various ethnic nationalities to solve the problem of hate speech.

He admonished Igbo youth on peaceful coexistence and urged them not to insult their leaders who were doing everything possible to protect them from any form of internal and external aggressions. 

Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu disclosed that 12 states have so far applied to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for participation in the programme, adding that the number is enough for the pilot phase of the project.

The statement accused some state leaders, which it said had not applied for the project and also not on the invitation list of the government, of fuelling the controversy and advised states to cooperate with the federal government in its search for a solution to the lingering crisis.

“Stripped of the politics and howling that has attended the recent comments, there is no government plan to seize state land, colonize territory or impose Ruga on any part of the federation. Government has made it clear time and again that the programme is voluntary.

“So far, 12 states have applied to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, making lands available for the take-off of the scheme in their states. This number is sufficient for the pilot scheme.

“Unfortunately, some state governments that have not signified interest in the scheme and, therefore, are not on the invitation list have been misleading people that the federal government is embarking on a scheme to take away their lands.

“Mostly, these are state leaders that have no explanation to offer their people for continued non-payment of workers’ salaries. It is true that government at the centre has gazetted lands in all states of the federation but because the idea is not to force this programme on anyone, the government has limited the take-off to the dozen states with valid requests.

“We urge states to join the federal government at the centre in encouraging all sides to these conflicts to make efforts towards finding a peaceful resolution. As we seek a permanent solution to these unwanted conflicts, efforts must be made to ensure that no innocent person faces any kind of deprivation or loss of right and freedom under our laws,” the statement said.

The statement which further said the idea was meant to contain the roaming of cattle herders and the consequent clashes they often have with farmers, added that RUGA would help to settle the herders in an organised place with the provision of basic facilities.

Explaining that the project would also be beneficial to all and sundry who engage in animal husbandry, presidency insisted that RUGA would help to end open grazing and the security threat it posed to both farmers and herders.

It listed other benefits of the project to include a boost in animal protection including the quality of hygiene of the herd, beef and milk production as well as other accruable benefits such as job creation and access to credit facilities.

It added: “‘Ruga Settlement’ that seeks to settle migrant pastoral families simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organized place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products.

“Beneficiaries will include all persons in animal husbandry, not only Fulani herders. The federal government is planning this in order to curb open grazing of animals that continue to pose security threats to farmers and herders.

“The overall benefit to the nation includes a drastic reduction in conflicts between herders and farmers, a boost in animal protection complete with a value chain that will increase the quality and hygiene of livestock in terms of beef and milk production, increased quality of feeding and access to animal care and private sector participation in commercial pasture production by way of investments.

“Other gains are job creation, access to credit facilities, security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling.”



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