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RUGA controversy rages: Govs Forum dissociates self from herdsmen settlements — Fayemi

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•It didn’t come out of NGF — Fayemi, Chairman
•Taraba restates opposition, insists on cattle ranching

By Emma Amaize, Dapo Akinrefon, Livinu Nwabughiogu, Femi Bolaji, Gabriel Ewepu& Chris Onuoha

AMID the raging controversy over the commencement of the establishment of Ruga settlements for herdsmen across Nigeria, Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, and Ekiti State governor, Mr. Kayode Fayemi has said the creation of the communities was not proposed by the NGF.

Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State

He also said that accepting the proposal is voluntary, adding that Ruga is the brainchild of the National Food Security Council.

Fayemi further said he was surprised that Taraba State governor, Mr Darius Ishiaku, kicked against Ruga, adding that the governor is a member of the council that mooted the idea.

The Ekiti State helmsman, who said these on a Channels Television programme, described Ruga as a response to the problem of settlement herdsmen face.

Voluntary arrangement

His words: “Frankly, I will be surprised if you say the governor of Taraba State said that. Because the governor, my good brother, Governor Darius Ishiaku is on the National Food Security Council. He is a member of that council, and I believe this decision came of out the deliberation of that council. If anyone is saying that he doesn’t want it, to the best of my knowledge, it is a voluntary arrangement.”

Also speaking on a statement by the Benue State government on the matter,  Fayemi added: “I am not going to get into any discussion over whether it is the right thing to do or not. It didn’t come out of Nigeria Governors Forum. It came out of the National Food Security Council’s agenda. And the National Food Security Council’s responsibility is really to ensure that we protect food production and help those with challenges. This is a proposal and a way of addressing the problem for those nomadic who need temporary shelter.”

FG should support our anti-grazing law—Taraba State govt

Meanwhile, Taraba State Government said the plan to cede part of its land for the project is against the law, saying the federal government should support its anti-grazing law to succeed.

In a telephone conversation with Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ishiaku on Media and Publicity, Bala Dan Abu, urged the government to support the state’s ranching policy.

His words: “The plan of the Federal Government is against our existing open grazing restriction and establishment of ranches law.

“The Federal government’s plan to take some portion of land in Taraba for the purpose of Ruga settlement is against the Land Use Act which gives the state full authority over its land.  We are rather urging the government to support our own law that encourages the establishment of ranches by giving it the necessary backing.”

My constituency will not support it—Ossai, Delta Rep

Also speaking on the matter, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr Ossai Ossai, said: “If the government is coming up with a programme of taking land from states, I don’t think I agree with that policy. It is being speculated but I believe that if the policy is coming from the federal government,  my constituency will not support such. On the issue of pilot states, I believe that a good ranching system can start from where the people come from. If the government creates a good ranching system in places like Sokoto, Kano, Maiduguri, Yobe, Adamawa and places within this region, it should monitor how it grows in the next 15 years.  If the federal government really wants peace, it should start from the north and see how the pilot system grows.”

Nigeria belongs to all of us —Sarkin Fulani

In a related development,  Sarkin Fulani of Lagos State and the Chairman of the Association of Fulani Chiefs in the South-West,  Alhaji Mohammed Bambado debunked the claims that he has transmuted into an Emir in Lagos State.

The Fulani leader, who said this yesterday in Lagos, explained that it is impossible for settlers to claim equal rights with owners of where they inhabit.

He said the insinuation was the handwork of those bent on truncating the relationship between the people of Lagos State and the Fulani residents.

“Having a Sarkin Fulani in any state is like having Eze Ndigbo as well as Yoruba Obas in other states across the nation. There is no way these ethnic leaders can claim equality with the owners of the land. Those behind the rumour would fail woefully in their attempts to destroy this country that belongs to all of us.”

Bambado, who challenged anybody to show any insignia around his palace that suggests that he is now an Emir in Lagos to come out with proof, urged the people of South-West and the whole country to disregard the insinuations from those he described as enemies of Nigeria.

They want to take our land —Fani-Kayode

In his reaction, a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said: “First, it was political sharia, Boko Haram and herdsmen. Now, it is Ruga cow settlements. The federal government said it wants to establish Ruga settlements all over the country for the Fulani and their cows? Is cattle business government business? They have taken everything from us. And now they want to take away our land. Well, I have news for them: This will not happen without a fight. It can only happen over our dead bodies.”

Sunday Vanguard recalls that the controversy was ignited last Monday after the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture, Alhaji Muhammadu Umar announced that the federal government would implement cattle settlements in 12 pilot states for the benefits of cattle rearers.

He said: “It is a concept that we developed to deal with internal security and we felt that to do away with herders and farmers’ conflict, we need to settle those that breed animals.

“We want to get them a place whereby we develop a settlement for them, provide water for their animals, provide pasture, provide schools for their children; and provide security, agro-rangers.

“We also felt we need to develop cattle markets whereby you don’t need to be transporting animals for a very long distance. Under the new plan, cattle herders are expected to be registered and recognised with cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme.”

Also, the Centre for Vulnerable and Underprivileged, CENTREP, a Delta State-based rights group, yesterday, said the Ruga programme would increase the clashes between farmers and herders nationwide.

Executive Director of the group, Mr. Oghenejabor Ikimi, in a statement, said: “We make bold to say that as beautiful as the above programme may appear to be on paper, same is not a holistic approach to solving the root cause of the farmers/herders clashes nationwide, but an attempt by the government to establish Fulani settlements across the 36 States of the federation.’’

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