Middle Belt Forum blasts Ortom, Ishaku over rejection of Ruga ranching initiative

Says Governors are deliberately stalling peace efforts

The Concerned Middle Belt Citizens Forum (CMBCF) has faulted Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, and his Taraba State counterpart, Darius Ishaku, for kicking against the planed Ruga settlement for pastoral herders.

Ortom, Ishaku, Ragu
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Darius Ishaku of Taraba State

Ortom and Ishaku had come out to voice their rejection of the imitative by the Buhari-led government with the aim of resolving the lingering herders/farmers crises.

National President of the CMBCF, Comrade Augustine Awulu, at a press conference on Wednesday, said the governor deliberately stalling peace efforts to end the ragging menace.

Earlier, the National Democratic Front (NDF) had called on Governors Ortom, Ishaku and others to emulate the former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun and turn in every weapon in their possession to the relevant authority their own good.

Awulu of the CMBCF said Ruga settlement for the herders remains a lasting panacea to the nagging crises between farmer and cattle rearers.

Text of his statement below.

The Concerned Middle Belt Citizens Forum” (CMBCF) is again constrained to speak to Nigerians for obvious reasons. In the course of the week, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) led by President Muhammadu Buhari announced its intention to experiment with establishing “Ruga Settlements,” for pastoral herders in 12 pilot states of the country.

Surprisingly, this policy has been greeted with a strong cynicism, antagonism, and antipathy by some states governors in Nigeria from the Southeast and North Central States. We consider this absurd in the truest sense of it.

We are not principally concerned with whatever the Governors of the Southeast think about this policy which is a carefully thought-out plan and strategy to end the regime of clashes, killings, and destructions between herders and farmers in Nigeria.

We have grieved over these skirmishes enough and President Buhari had sufficiently notified us that “Whatever it will take, I am determined to bring peace between farmers and herders.” The President aims at adopting a middle course as an enduring solution between the herders and farmers. And “Ruga Settlements,” are ideal by our sense of fair judgment.

Therefore, we were not disappointed when Governors of the Southeast opposed it; but drenched in sadness when the twosome of Taraba State Governor, Arch. Dairus Ishaku and his Benue State counterpart, Hon. Samuel Ortom voiced opposition to Ruga settlements.

Northerners do not share the same cultural ties or even economic proclivities with the Southeast. Easterners are basically businessmen and women or commercialists or traders. But in the Middle Belt, we are farmers notable in crops and animal husbandry. There is little essence in emphasizing that we need one another to survive in this hostile world.

And we must necessarily see ourselves as members of the same family, bound by the same economic destiny. It is difficult to change this narrative now, as wished by some partisan State Governors, who are exploiting the herders/farmers crises to protect their unpopular decisions and blur shortcomings as state leaders.

Nigerians are aware of the history of the herders and farmers clashes in the country and its aggravation in the last few years. The States Government of Benue and Taraba have already passed anti-open grazing laws, which are in their very contents and mode of implication very defective and deficient, while they prescribed ranching as a solution.

The magnitude of the clashes and carnage between cattle rearers and farmers has exacerbated because of these faulty or grey areas in the anti-open grazing laws. And there is no way, any right-thinking leader would feel, we shall continue to exist on such fault lines. Let us state clearly that we are not necessarily faulting the laws, but the grey areas in it, which are known to the Governors who hurriedly endorsed such laws under whatever convictions.

The “Ruga Settlements” is an initiative of the National Economic Council (NEC) presented under the National Livestock Transformation Plan (2018-2027). It is conceptualized to permanently halt the age-long herders-farmers crises and to massively develop the livestock industry.

The FGN is experimenting it for herdsmen in 12 pilot states nationwide, which it disclosed through, Alh. Mohammadu Umar, the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, during an interview with journalists in Abuja, at the workshop on Regional Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and associated legislation in West Africa.

Again, we reiterate that we cannot understand the opposition of some States Governors to it, especially, those who are apostles’ of cattle ranching because Ruga settlement is the same with it in colour and operation. They are all about the restriction of cattle movements; but open to stationary operations of herders in selected camps, licensed and protected with appropriate legislation by the FGN.

The Ruga settlements would have modern facilities and amenities, and veterinary clinics for the treatment of cattle to enhance greater productivity. It is what states which have passed anti-open grazing laws have advocated in such laws.

So, where is the confusion and why the resistance to Ruga settlements? Or could it be that we hate our brother-herders so much that we think shutting the doors against their only means of economic survival would give them the grace to sing songs of praises of this fraternity? Everything about life is live, let’s live!

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