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The RUGA masterclass in policy misformulation

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FILE PHOTO: Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele speaks during the monthly Monetary Policy Committee meeting in Abuja, Nigeria May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

The Nigerian Government’s recent abortive attempt at deploying its RUGA objective was a masterclass in how not to roll out any policy, let alone a controversial one. It was so for many reasons.

First of all, there is no short-cutting the best practices of policy formulation and deployment. The government should have initially published a paper highlighting the issue, setting out its intentions and inviting contributions from stakeholders. It should have held consultations and then published a draft version of the policy. Thereafter, it should have further feedback and only then published and gazetted the final version, and made it easily accessible.

RUGA had none of these, emerging as little more than a press release. And when its tenuous link with the National Livestock Transformation Programme was rebuffed by the Vice-President’s office, the absolute lack of a coherent focus was more than apparent.

Frankly speaking, RUGA was deployed either naively or brazenly and, either way, Nigerians should be very concerned. Naively, because of the government’s apparent surprise at the pushback and demand for extensive clarification; or brazenly because it did not care about the patent shortcomings of the scheme. As for the National Livestock Transformation Programme, which is far more comprehensively detailed, I challenge every reader to run a google search and try to find it online. It is nearly as difficult, but not quite, to find the documentation as it is any written articulation of RUGA.

The starting point for any credible advocacy for RUGA is an unequivocal acknowledgement that farmers – landowners – have been wronged; that herders are not entitled to graze wherever they want. Indeed, framing the problem as a “farmer-herdsmen conflict” is a huge travesty. In times past, when armed robbers laid siege to neighourhoods across the country, no one described them as resident-robber clashes because, of course, that would have been ridiculous.

So, ditch the disingenuousness and call the situation for what it is. This should also be the first step of tenderising the general public into acceptance and the message should be broadcast in the native languages of the herdsmen on those world-renowned transistor radios of alleged sophistication.

If the policy had been anything near robust or transparent, it would also have acknowledged our so-called “fault lines” — fault lines that only exist because of our history as a nation. Fault lines that the government continues to reinforce, in the words of boxing champion Deontay Wilder, “till this day!” The government is ever quick to accuse others of playing politics with said fault lines but law enforcement agencies will invite Ralph Uwazurike for questioning for saying one thing yet completely look the other way when Miyetti Allah spokespeople (representatives of the herdsmen) say the same thing with greater ferocity and dismissiveness.

What should have happened was that the reasons underlying the suspicions and fragile cohesion that underpin our union be acknowledged, at least tacitly, and measures to reassure host communities that their well-being would always be the priority included in the policy. The propounders of RUGA instead carried on as if there was nothing controversial about the large-scale resettlement scheme. Yet, while the median age in Nigeria is 19, there are millions of people who still remember what the Ogere area of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway was before it became a tanker-driver hamlet.

The government has tried to dispel the idea that RUGA (never mind what the word means in the Fulani language) is only for Fulani cattle-rearers, saying that it is open to everyone in the country. But this is again disingenuous. The primary beneficiary is clear to everyone.

Meanwhile, in what may or may not be unrelated news, the Central Bank of Nigeria has announced that it will no longer provide forex for the importation of milk, in a bid to boost local milk production. Godwin Emefiele, ostensibly in charge of bank regulation and monetary policy, believes that Nigeria can be self-sufficient in milk production, with no evidence of consultation with industry experts. “When we make a policy, we want Nigerians to respect it!” he demanded at his press conference.

Mr. Emefiele and his employers would do well to note that Nigerians are not mindless cows. We know that we will need to treble current levels of local milk production to be self-sufficient. We know that it is the very poorest in our society that will bear the brunt of the inevitable rise in the price of milk. So, of course, we will not dumbly respect policy that has yet to be properly articulated and cannot withstand even the most perfunctory scrutiny. This is 2019 and the governance of today must reflect the times.


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