MIYETTI-ALLAH Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) on Friday disclosed that the Ruga settlements pilot project in the country was a ‘desire’ of the Federal Government.
It stated that it was initiated to create a holistic solution to the farmers/herders clashes.
Baba Uthman Ngelzarma, the General Secretary of MACBAN, revealed this during Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme.
He further claimed that Office of the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was aware of the project and its implementation, stressing that it would be beneficial to the country at large.
“This Ruga settlement model is a component part of the livestock development and transformation plan that is being implemented under the Office of the Vice-President. It is a component part of it,” says Ngelzarma.
“All must agree with me that the crisis we are facing today has become a multi-dimensional one and so the approach must also be holistic. It was the desire of the Federal Government to take a holistic approach that gave birth to the Ruga settlement model and it is not only for Fulani herders.”
The Ruga settlement was an initiative of the National Economic Council (NEC) presented under the National Livestock Transformation Plan (2018-2027).
Farmers herders crisis has for long posed security challenge to the country with several recorded casualties across the nation.
The incident has reportedly spread to at least 22 states from the 36 states of the federation.
According to the International Crisis Group, as at July 2018, the rising clash was already six-times deadlier than the Boko Haram insurgency. In 2016, the report added that about 2,000 people were killed with tens of thousands displaced in Benue and Kaduna State only.
Amnesty international further put the figure at 3,641 between January 2016 and October 2018.
While the crisis persists in selected parts of the country, Alhaji Mafindi Danburam, North East Vice Chairman of MACBAN claimed that in 2018, the association members lost one million cattle to the Boko Haram insurgency thus had to move southward.
The incident eventually led to the establishment of the cattle anti-open grazing Act which also met strong retaliation by the pastoralists.
Southern socio-cultural groups including Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo; as well as the Middle Belt Forum have all rejected the Ruga initiative. The Benue youths from different communities today, also kicked against the model during a protest in Markurdi.
“We are out marching on Benue streets this morning to protest the said plan of the Federal Government of Nigeria to establish Ruga settlement in Benue State.
“Benue State has recorded a lot of herdsmen crisis. When we heard the establishment of Ruga – for herdsmen to come and settle with us! We are out here this morning to say that we reject this.
“Our stand has remained on ranching. Benue State has a bill that says all herdsmen should ranch their cattle, anything short of that is an anomaly, and we Benue youths reject this,” Orngu Angu, President, Benue Youth Congress says during the protest.
But, Ngelzerma insisted that pastoralism is not only peculiar to the Fulani tribe but people from Jos, Kaduna among others
“In southern Kaduna, there are natives who are also herders. Even in Plateau, there are other groups that are herders. It was intended for the herders as part of efforts by the government to come up with an economic model of solving this crisis.
“This is an integrated settlement that will bring about the production of pasture grass, water, schools, markets, meat and milk processing and where it can create a sub-sector of the economy. This is something that if done properly, it will create a lot of employment.”
He further appealed to the people to support the initiative stressing that only states that approved the model would have Ruga settlements.
“It is a misunderstood concept to some people. The lands are under the control of governors. This model is a trial. It will be done in 12 states to see if it can work or not. Even we, from the side of the herders, have our reservations.”
According to Punch, when asked if it was right for the government to spend taxpayers’ money on what would benefit herders alone, Ngelzerma argued that crop farmers had similarly benefitted in the past.
However, he concluded that southerners benefit from animal husbandry more than the northern herdsmen who rear the cattle.