By Peter Duru
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has called on the federal government to outrightly cancel the planned construction of the controversial Ruga settlements for herdsmen across the country and seek solutions to the causes of their violence-ridden seasonal migration from the North to the South and back.
He cautioned that the idea of establishing ruga settlements for herdsmen from the North and their brothers from Mali, Senegal, Niger, and Libya was not a solution to the farmers/herdsmen conflict but rather a great danger that could threaten the existence of the country.
The Governor spoke yesterday while declaring open the 43rd annual conference of the Soil Science Society of Nigeria at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi.
Ortom observed that desert encroachment and lack of sufficient vegetation, which were responsible for these movements, could be remedied as was done in Israel, where a complete desert was transformed into a rich agricultural hub.
He stated that if the sandy Negev desert, which had no water or vegetation could be so transformed, there was no reason the same could not be done in the north of Nigeria that had water and vegetation but faced the challenge of desert encroachment.
He noted that “if the sandy Negev desert, which had no water or vegetation could be so transformed, there was no reason the same could be done in the north of Nigeria where there are water and vegetation but the only problem is desert encroachment.
Represented by his Deputy, Benson Abounu, he urged “the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources to engage the services of the Soil Science Society of Nigeria to study the soil in the far North bedevilled by desert encroachment, and find solutions to the encroachment.
“Doing this will help transform the North into a rich vegetation belt, ideal for pastures and crop cultivation as the case in the south of the country.”
Governor Ortom charged soil scientists in the country to rise to the challenge of meeting the expected growing demand for food occasioned by the negative impact of climate change on food and nutrition and the limitations imposed by insecurity.
Earlier, President, Soil Science Society of Nigeria, Prof. Bashiru Raji, said the theme of the conference, “understanding Nigerian soils for sustainable food and nutrition, security and healthy environment” was chosen to reflect the topical issue of soil management in enhancing food and nutrition security in the face of climate change, rising insecurity, kidnapping and increasing herdsmen and farmers clashes.