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Crisis of nomenclature as government’s search for solution to farmers-herders’ clashes remains fruitless

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 04, 2018 A young herdsboy leads animals to feed in the bush in Lafia capital of Nasarawa State, northcentral Nigeria on January 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI


As soon as President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn-in in 2015, hell was let loose as herdsmen began to unleash havoc on farmers and communities in Benue, Plateau and Kaduna states, to mention but a few.While Nigerians called on the Federal Government to check the menace with military and police actions, the government presented another idea – the establishment of cattle colonies across the country.
  
But the idea of cattle colony attracted massive condemnation, especially from the southern part of the country as well as middle-belt areas. Cattle ranching came into the forefront of the national discourse between 2017 and 2018, with the former Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh trying fruitlessly to explain the concept as part of what the government considered as a holistic solution to the persistent farmers-herders’ clashes.
  
In an interview with The Guardian on December 27, 2018, Ogbeh explained the plan, saying: “In 2016, six months after I became the minister, I raised a warning that there could be trouble emanating from herders and farmers and that the problem would escalate if we did nothing.
  
“I wrote a letter to every governor in the country,” he added, “asking if they would allow us to create ranches within their territories. Only 16 of them replied. Of the others, some said they were not interested and others did not respond at all.”He explained further that when the states rejected the proposal, the next question was what to do. “We have 451 grazing reserves in our record as far back as 1960, and about a half of them were on the gazette.
   
“They are still there despite encroachments. Of what is left, we have over 4 million hectares of land mainly in the north. There are a few in the Southwest, precisely at Akunu in Ondo State, and in Isheyin in Oyo State. I have been there. The governor of Oyo State is not too keen, but the governor of Ondo State is interested.”

Again, on May 27, 2019, a day before his handover, Ogbeh disclosed to The Guardian that “the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank are supporting us. The FAO has given about $500,000 as a support to start ranch development.
  
“The big job of developing ranches in 12 states where the problems were most intense, where we will build cattle settlements, is from the natural resources funds and the agricultural levies,” Ogbeh had explained.He revealed that the ranches would cost about N600 to N700 million per location, and there are about 12 of them in 12 states. The states, among others, are Niger, Kaduna, FCT, Nasarawa, Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, Kwara and Kogi. 
  
“The idea is, keep these cattle in one place, build dams to store water, dig boreholes for them, confine them, plant grasses for them, build vet clinics, and then give space to them to set up their huts and stay in one place and breed their cattle. In the process, also incorporate primary schools for their children. In Niger State, they have even requested that we give them secondary schools.
  
“We will also bring the private sector operators in to harvest milk and process the milk. Their wives would not have to hawk the milk, which has also created a new problem. Many of these women get assaulted and raped,” he added.
  
Meanwhile, on July 18, 2018, Chief Afe Babalola said in an article that “government proposal for cattle colony is unconstitutional, discriminatory and offensive. How can a private business become the burden of a central government? Cattle farming is a private business, the responsibility for which should be borne by the owners. Government should encourage herders to acquire lands and moderate their practice in conformity with global best practice.”A former Oyo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Prince Oyewole Oyewumi, had expressed a similar view in a chat with The Guardian. 
  
“In terms of grazing or ranching, we do not have any objection to the establishment of ranching. We see ranching in the state as purely a private sector affair.“If the Federal Government or the World Bank has provided some funds to support ranching, it is very welcome. I believe that that kind of fund can be useful to private investors.”   

The controversy that trailed the proposal for ranching forced the government to go back to the drawing board. The result was another proposal for the creation of Ruga settlements on a voluntary basis across the states of the federation. The proposal, like the initial ones, did not go down well with some sections of the country especially the South. The agitations against the policy have again forced the government to suspend the policy; even at that, many Nigerians still call for the outright cancellation of the policy. That question now is what next? How would the government come up with an acceptable policy towards a lasting solution to the herders-herders clashes that has sent many Nigerians to their early graves and destroyed properties worth billions of naira?

A former Director of the Department of Animal Husbandry Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Ademola Raji, is of the opinion that Nigeria should go back to the basis, saying grazing reserves had always been created as far back as 1950s and they are located in virtually all the states of the federation.The grazing reserves, he said, were created for all Nigerians, saying, “as long as you had grass-eating animals, you could take them there to graze.”He said clashes are not as a result of herders moving around, “they are caused by some people who are not traditionally herders. That is why the government should fish them out.”
  
He added: “The government should track herders coming into Nigeria through the international grazing routes. Based on the ECOWAS treaty, they can come in, but we must identify and profile them. “In Jigawa State, there has not been any clash between farmers and herders. Why? Former Governor Lamido did what we are talking about. If any herder comes to that state, the community identifies him. The bottom line is that we have neglected agriculture for a long time.”
  
General Manager of the Kaduna State Agricultural Development Agency (KADA), Mr. Sabiu Ismaila, also said that naturally, Fulani people are Nigerians and the government should protect lives and property of all Nigerians.“Not all of them are criminals, though some of them are. And it is possible that they have been penetrated by foreign machineries causing problems to the people.
  
“The government also has to protect even these herdsmen against dubious persons that would pretend like normal herders but are cattle rustlers. Real herdsmen are also losing,” he said.He said efforts had not been made to arrest people involved in the crimes.
  
“Are they actually Nigerians or foreigners?” he said, adding: “I want Nigerians to harmonise and let people understand and be patriotic about what we are doing. We have a lot of sentiments about ethnicity, religion and others.”President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Kabir Ibrahim, said the Ruga proposal was only one of the efforts at settling the herders with a view to bringing about peaceful coexistence between them and farmers. 
  
“But it is clear that bad press necessitated its suspension but it’s only another name for ranch, no more no less.“More efforts must be put to foster peace between herders and farmers by making the herders semi sedentary,” Ibrahim told The Guardian.
  
AFAN chairman in Lagos State, Mr Femi Oke, advised the Federal Government to consult with farmers’ associations under AFAN to find lasting solutions to the crisis.He also suggested that a real farmer should be appointed as a minister of agriculture in the new Buhari-led government so that practicable solutions would be experimented based on the knowledge of the situations of the parties involved.
  
Oyo State chairman of AFAN, Mr Olumide Ayinla, said Fulani herdsmen could develop cattle ranches in their states of origin, stressing that government’s resources should not be committed into private businesses.“If the government wants to spend such huge funds on animal husbandry, poultry, fish, pig and goat farmers should benefit too,” he said.

‘FG Must Carry All Stakeholders Along’
From Isa Abduulsalami Ahovi, Jos

Although the Plateau State government made the Ruga settlement scheme voluntary for the local councils, two local councils in the state, Kanam and Wase, have endorsed the project and are ready to donate lands for the scheme.The state government actually wanted to know the local governments that wanted to key into the scheme, but only the two councils showed their interest and willingness to donate lands for the programme.

Despite the negative reactions that have greeted the scheme, Governor Simon Lalong, who was in Egypt to represent the Northern Governors Forum when the policy was announced, applauded the scheme, saying that it is voluntary and not mandatory. He told reporters in Abuja that the scheme is laudable.

Speaking with The Guardian, a civil servant in the state who pleaded anonymity, said that adopting the scheme would reduce unemployment by creating an opportunity for many youths and graduates to engage in live-stock farming.“It will also boost the production of beef which increases protein. The organic manure from the cattle can increase farming production. The milk will also be a source of income and export for the state. It will restrict grazing of cows where they destroy crops thereby causing conflicts between herders and farmers. It will break the barrier of ethnicity, religious crisis and will promote social interaction between the hosts and the guests,” he said.

But a resident in the Kanem and Wase axis of the state, Baba Ahmadu, who is a civil servant with the state government, opposed the idea, saying farmers in the state would not give out their land for Ruga settlement.“I am yet to know of a land that has been given for Ruga settlement from the 17 councils, districts, wards and chiefdoms in Plateau State. If the government has received any land from any of the communities and given it out, it is possible that the arrangement must have been carried out without any form of participation by the stakeholders.

“I don’t believe that the House of Assembly has passed any law which guarantees the use of a land in the state for Ruga settlement. Plateau is an agrarian state and about 80 per cent of its population are rural farmers.“That is the more reason land dispute dominates most cases in the state judiciary. The people involved in this are largely into farming of food and cash crops, not animal husbandry. I do not think that majority of those farmers will buy the idea of giving out their lands for Ruga settlement.”

Ahmadu said that he does not see the creation of Ruga settlements as a solution to farmers-herders clashes in the state, noting that the policy benefits herders at the expense of farmers.The National   President of the Association of Middle Belt Nationalities (ASOMBEN), Mr. Sule Kwasau, who spoke in his personal capacity, kicked against the scheme. He said that he was happy about the spontaneous opposition to the policy in some sections of the country.
 
“The implications of this policy are not lost to discerning minds. One, we have a similar thing in Cassia local government here in Kaduna from grazing reserves; it later became a colony called Ladoga. Now, this land that they settled the Fulani herdsmen belongs to the indigenous people of Zangon Kataf and part of Cassia.

“Go and see how they have settled there. They have some of the best roads, best schools and now they are given a district. They are asking for an Emirate. The paramount chief where Ladoga is situated was the late Agwom Adara. But the district head of Ladoga is not answerable to the paramount chief. He is answerable to the Emir of Zaria.

“Now, if Nigerians refuse to learn from this experience, one day you will hear of creating an emirate in Ekiti, Rivers and the rest of the states,” he stressed. Kwasau commended the Benue State government for raising the alarm that sparked the spontaneous reactions that greeted the plan from all over the country. “My annoyance is that the stakeholders are never carried along. You want to come with the policy of forceful or surreptitious acquisition of land and you don’t take cognisance of the interest of land owners. Assuming a decision were to be taken today on cows or cattle, can government go ahead and formulate a policy on cows and cattle without reference to Miyetti Allah?”

Our Governor Was In A Hurry To Endorse Scheme, Say Kogi Residents
From Ibrahim Obansa, Lokoja

Stakeholders are divided in Kogi State on the RUGA settlement proposed by the Federal Government. While the state government and those favourably disposed to the idea said that it would attract investment, generate employment and yield revenue for the state, those opposed to it said government has no business using tax payers money to build a special settlement for the cattle rearers. They argued that if the idea was allowed to sail through, it would embolden other ethnic groups to take up arms against the state so that they could also be compensated by the government.

The Kogi State government had earlier in 2018 keyed into the cattle colony arrangement of the Federal Government, which stakeholders say is the same thing as the RUGA settlement policy.Governor Yahaya Bello had then allocated 15, 000 hectares of land in two local councils of the state, Ajaokuta and Adavi, for that purpose. According to him, Ajaokuta LGA gave 10, 000 hectares, while Adavi gave 5, 000 hectares of land.Bello noted that the government had done effective sensitisation of the people, which he said had made them to key into the programme.

While speaking last year during an Agriculture Summit, in Lokoja tagged, ‘Moving Agriculture To The Next Level’, Bello also pledged to make the state the Holland of Nigeria in terms of dairy milk production and other livestock products, saying that would only be possible if the state government took advantage of the ranching programme of the Federal Government.

Speaking with The Guardian in Lokoja, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Onogwu Muhammed, said the state government would subscribe to any policy that would bring about economic transformation, peace and security to the state. He noted that as long as the Ruga settlement would be an organised location where migrant pastoral families, cattle herders settle to carry out animal husbandry, the government and the people of Kogi State would not jettison such idea. 

“The top priority of the Bello-led administration is the security of lives and property of the citizens including all residents within the geography of Kogi State. This government has made remarkable achievement in this regard and in other sectors. We will want to sustain the peace and security the people are enjoying in the state. Therefore, any policy that is geared towards that direction should be embraced. 

“We have had clashes between farmers and herders in the past and it is difficult to trace the nomads any time such incidence happened because they don’t have a permanent location. But with the Ruga scheme, it will be easy to track the herders when there is the destruction of crops by cattle. Therefore, there will be elimination or drastic reduction in conflicts between herders and farmers, while also curbing open grazing of animals that continues to pose security threats to farmers and herders in the country,” he said.

Agreeing with the submission of the CPS, the Director General, Media and Publicity to the Governor, Kingsley Fanwo, said RUGA was a welcome initiative that was well thought out by the Federal Government, saying the state would key into the scheme. “We consider it beneficial to all parties. Herdsmen will not have to move around any more as all facilities needed to raise their livestock will be provided. It will also create employment opportunities and reduce farmers-herders clashes that have threatened the security of the nation for a long time. 

“It will also help with integration, as locals who are interested in livestock rearing will also have the same access to Ruga. The economic implications are massive. Investors will find it easy to invest in the dairy business. So, Kogi State will be taking part in this project. Ruga is the manifestation of that holistic plan. It will surely end farmers-herders clashes and encourage farmers to produce more,” he submitted.Also, a middle aged man from Emiworo in Ajaokuta local council of the state, who preferred anonymity, said if the establishment of Ruga in the state would curb the activities of criminals and reduce mayhem arising from herdsmen-farmers clashes in the state, then it is a welcome development.

He, however, said that the Fulanis have been living among the people of the area for several years without any problem until some elements came into the area. He cautioned the state government against the seizure of ancestral lands for Ruga settlement without adequate compensation to the land owners. He added that the Fulani must also be made to respect the culture of the people.

But a woman from the area who simply identified herself as Madam Rafatu, said the state government must ensure that it is only the Nigerian Fulani that are welcomed into the state. She noted that the Fulani that are causing havoc are not actually from Nigeria. According to the woman, the Fulani have the habit of inviting their kinsmen from other countries once they are given the opportunity.

Director-General, Kogi State Information Services and Grassroots Sensitisation, Alhaji Abdulkarim Abdulmalik, however, said there was nothing to fear as government had taken measures to ensure that the headers abide by the rules of engagement and boost the confidence of the people of the state in the programme. Abdulkarim said the establishment of cattle colonies, which is the same thing as Ruga settlement, would rather enhance security of lives and property across the country.

He noted that the migration of nomadic herdsmen from one place to another with their cattle causing hostilities and devouring farm produce with impunity was now a major source of concern to the people in the communities.The DG said the time had come to curb the menace arising from the indiscriminate movement of the herders and their cattle, saying the government felt it was better to curtail their movement.

“Government says let them have a designated place where they would be restricted with their animals whereby they would not be able to move beyond the designated place and if they do and anything happens they would be liable,” he emphasised. Abdulmalik said those opposed to the creation of cattle colonies or Ruga settlements were misconstruing the position of the present government to integrate the nomads into a traditional structure in collaboration with their leaders at the state, local government and community levels.

He recalled that cattle ranching was an old traditional practice in animal husbandry, saying that cattle colony or Ruga settlement shares some similarities with Obudu Cattle Ranch, which was established in the 50s by the Premier of the defunct Northern Region, late Sir Ahmadu Bello.“If we buy into the government’s proposal, we would have started the process of modernising the breeding of cattle. All that is needed is to appreciate the wisdom in the policy,” he said.

According to him, the present administration in the state had already convened a stakeholders meeting as a step to define the rights of the parties.The traditional rulers, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the local government officials, youth leaders, religious leaders and organisations all participated in the meeting.

On the issue of land ownership and the aversion to ceding land to the Fulani for the purpose of the cattle colonies and ranches, Abdulmalik said availability of land for Ruga settlement in the state in particular and the country as a whole would not pose any difficulty.He further said that government would also come up with a law on the minimum age for the herders, adding that the involvement of under-age in rearing cattle would be prohibited in the state.

He stressed that the government has a responsibility to ensure peace in the state, saying that government could not allow mayhem to continue everywhere in the society.According to him, even the herdsmen may not be happy with the proposed cattle colony or Ruga settlement because they are used to roving around.Some residents of the state have, however, flayed the governor for buying wholesale into the Ruga settlement policy without allegedly consulting widely.

They wondered why the Bello administration had to offer land for a project that is being opposed by majority of the states.Speaking with The Guardian, Mallam Sule Nda said: “Many states have rejected the idea. I wonder why Governor Bello was in such a hurry to key into the programme.”He alleged that without the necessary consultation, the governor enthusiastically welcomed the policy.

Nda decried the high security risks and long-term implications of the policy. He called on the people of the state to reject the scheme in totality and therefore demand its immediate reversal. “Farming is the mainstay of our economy. We cannot submit our collective patrimony or donate our God-given land to herdsmen, who at best are private businessmen. Kogi people reject it,” Nda said.

We Won’t Play Host To Ruga Settlements, Say Nasarawa Communities
From Abel Abogonye, Lafia

Nasarawa is one of the states in the Northcentral zone that volunteered to pilot Ruga settlement scheme. Few months to the end of the tenure of the immediate past governor, Umaru Tanko Almakura, he earmarked some areas in the state where the scheme would commence despite opposition from certain quarters in the state.

The proposed areas include Andaha in Akwanga local council, Gitata in Karu local council and Wamba in Wamba local council.Other areas also include Awe in Awe local council, Keana in Doma local council and Asakyo in Lafia local council. Residents of the affected communities have expressed their reservations concerning the scheme.

Community leaders and prominent personalities in the areas have kicked against the establishment of Ruga settlements.
A community leader, Mr. Yinusa Adamu, alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari was only interested in protecting the interest of his kinsmen.

According to Yinusa, “we don’t have anybody to challenge this decision to establish the Ruga settlement and this is why the state government is going ahead to say they will pilot the scheme.“No indigenous farmer or community leader is in agreement with the decision except those who are settlers and are claiming to come from Nasarawa State.”When The Guardian visited some of the communities where the scheme would be implemented in the state, the residents said the decision was not with their consent and that they see nothing in their interest as far as the Ruga scheme is concerned.
All efforts to get the side of the government on the benefits and possible challenges the scheme would pose; and how it would handle such challenges was turned down.

Bagudu Defends Ruga Settlement Initiative
From Ahmadu Baba Idris, Birnin Kebbi 

Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu has said the opposition that led to the suspension of the Ruga settlement programme by the Federal Government was uncalled for. A statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Abubakar Mu’azu Dakingari, said the idea was not to acquire grazing reserves in whatever form for herders as being portrayed by the critics.

Bagudu stated that in his position as the Vice Chairman of National Food Security Council, the concept of Ruga settlement was aimed at settling Fulani nomads and other cattle herders into a permanent abode to minimise migration from one place to another.He said the initiative was geared towards eliminating conflicts between herdsmen and farmers.

Bagudu explained that Ruga settlement had served as hamlets to the Fulani herders for hundreds of years and as such was not a new innovation aimed at bringing discord to other tribes in the country.He said the main objective of settling Fulani nomads in one place, apart from ending conflicts with farmers, was also to allow their livestock to produce adequate meat to satisfy the protein requirement of Nigerians. 

He, therefore, debunked the insinuation that the government intended to buy land for a particular tribal group at the disadvantage of other ethnic groups. Bagudu said his administration had shown the way for agricultural revival in Nigeria, affirming that the government would continue to support and encourage farmers to increase production of both food and cash crops.He added that his administration would accord priority to livestock production and fisheries development, through the provision of necessary inputs and introduction of modern techniques in livestock production and fisheries.

 


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