By Chris Gaga, Markurdi
The Federal Government yesterday said it has begun works on the establishment of “Ruga Settlements” for herdsmen in 12 pilot states nationwide.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alh. Mohammadu Umar, made this known in an interview in Abuja with newsmen on the sidelines of a workshop on Regional Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and associated legislation in West Africa.
He said the farm settlements when fully established would address the incessant clashes between Fulani cattle rearers and farmers.
Umar explained that the pilot programme had already commenced on a 31,000-hectare in Kotongora, Niger state.
According to him, the required facilities for a basic life and treatment of cattle are being provided to enhance productivity, even as he noted that the government would replicate the programme in selected states as work “is ongoing in the 12 pilot states”.
He said six settlements will be established in each of the pilot states.
Umar, who added that the centres would be expanded and adequately equipped, and 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 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.
He also said dispensaries would 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.
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 the impact on food and nutrition security as well as ”public safety and national security are huge and far-reaching, therefore 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 recognise 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.
Mr Suffyan Koroma, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Country Representative, said the workshop was organised to prepare the organisation’s representatives and respective countries and regions to work out ways to tackle the impending dangers of AMR and AMU.
“This is because the misuse of antibiotics in agriculture contributes to the spread of AMR and also undermines the efficacy of veterinary and human medicines. FAO is set to provide support to governments and stakeholders to adopt measures to minimise the use of antimicrobial and reduce AMR,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the Benue state government has kicked the purported plans by the Federal government to commence establishment of RUGA settlements in selected local governments of Benue state.
In a Press statement by Terver Akase, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, reiterated that Benue does not have the land for grazing reserves, grazing routes, cattle colonies or RUGA settlements, but accepted that the State only has land for the establishment of ranches.
Ruga which is said to mean ‘Fulani Settlement’ in some parts of the states across the country is a directive of the federal government being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture Abuja. It is said to be implemented in Otukpo, Tarka and Ukum LGs of Benue State.
The Statement reiterated the firm stand of governor Samuel Ortom against grazing reserves and other policies rather than ranching, noting that the state government was ready to support any one who is ready to establish ranching in the state.
It maintained that Benue people were totally against the federal government’s RUGA and would not accept any imposition of any policy bothering on animal’s husbandary in their lands.
“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.
“It could be recalled that the people and government of Benue State rejected cattle colonies and still reject the policy in whichever robes it is disguised,” it reads.
The CPS explained the Governor’s resolve that ranching remains a lasting solution to the incessant herders and farmers crisis which the country ought to embrace.
“We wish to remind those pushing for Ruga settlements that the Constitution of the country gives states the right to make laws for the governance of their people. Any attempt to subvert such right is a direct attack on the Constitution. Those behind such a move are enemies of peace and progress.
“The Government of Benue State is willing to support cattle owners to establish ranches as stipulated by the law prohibiting open grazing.”
Meanwhile, the need to support the full implementation of the Anti Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law has been advocated as a stand point to possible return of peace in all communities of Benue State.
Also, the need for government to create jobs for the growing population of youths in the country so as to curtail youth involvement in cultisms and other crimes has been advocated.
These were the fallout of a one day Peace Architecture Dialogue (PAD) meeting on the theme; “Transforming the Farmer-herder Conflict and Promoting the Freedom of Religion and Belief in Nigeria’s Middle Belt” as organized by Search for Common Ground in Makurdi.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Orientation, James Agbo observed that if the Benue peoples open grazing prohibition law is faithfully obeyed as been implemented, peace will be inevitable in the state
Agbo encouraged the police and other security agencies to wake up to their responsibilities of ensuring that laws of the land are respected by all inhabitants, even as he urged ‘Search’ to take the sensitization to the rural areas too.
The Ter Makurdi, Chief Sule Abenga employed NGOs such as ‘Search’ to adopt the Anti Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law as a stand point to their peace crusade in Benue.
Chief Abenga expressed believe that the initiatives such as SEARCH would help sensitize the people and concerned agencies towards advancing peace in the society.
He challenged parents to see every youth as their wards by inculcating moral values especially when such wards are engaged in social vices.
The Chief assured of the cooperation of the traditional institution at ensuring that the NGO records success in their goals.
Representative of the Benue State Police Command, DCP Ibrahim Zakari, noted that for peace to be achieved, the causes of crisis must be highlighted and tackled accordingly.
He identified some of the causes to include increase in d country’s population, recklessness on the part of cattle rearers amongst other things.
In a presentation titled, “Distinction between Cultism and Miscreant Activities to Breach of Peace in the State”, representative of the DSS,
Benue Command, Austine Audu identified peer group influence, drug addiction, poor parenting, frustration and the like as major causes that endear youth to cultism and other vices.
Audu while commending the state open prohibition law, called on government to step up action in the creation of jobs so as to disenable the youth from constituting miscreants in the society.
He challenged the media to step up enlightenmenymt programmes on the need for peaceful coexistence, even as he called for reorientation of students in the tertiary institutions against social vices.
Some Stakeholders at the dialogue meeting including the Chairman of Miyethi Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria(MACBAN), Zakari Mohammed, representative of Benue State Planning Commission(BSPC), Mrs. Nambativ Helen, representative of the Benue State Vigilante Group, Dr Daniel Bo, AFAN and other stakeholders made various contributions bothering on the peace move.
Benue State Coordinator of ‘Search for Common Grounds’, Chorbe Joshua appreciated stakeholders for their various contributions at ensuring the possible return of peace, adding that the resolutions met at the meeting will enhance the next action plan of the organization.