• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Osinbajo, Umahi, RUGA and Southern Nigeria

Ruga

The audacious attempt to grab lands across the 36 states of Nigeria for the Fulani is unravelling for its brazenness, thoughtlessness and selfishness. The idea of Ruga settlements for herders came into public consciousness in the last week of June 2019 with The Presidency claiming that it would solve the herder-farmers crisis that has characterised the Buhari government. The narrative has changed from day-to-day.

More significantly, the bullying and avariciousness of Ruga are clearing cobwebs that have blocked the sights of political leaders of Southern Nigeria. They can see the manipulations and intent of persons with whom they thought they were on the same journey. The Igbo proverb speaks of two persons who set out on a ghost-hunt only for one of the parties to realise that he was the target of the hunt.

After obfuscating in Washington on behalf of the Federal Government on the matter of increased criminality in the land, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo returned to Abuja to the unveiling of the Ruga manipulation. The professor of law played the trapeze artist. Osinbajo washed his hands off the scheme, insisting instead on the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) approved by state governors under the National Economic Council on January 17, 2019.

Osinbajo’s spokesman Laolu Akande clarified, “The National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) 2019-2028 is a programme to be implemented in seven pilot states of Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara as decided by NEC in January, being states in the frontlines of the farmer-herder crisis. Afterwards, six other states have indicated readiness to also implement the plan; they are Katsina, Kano, Kogi, Kwara, Ondo, and Edo states.

“The plan has six pillars through which it aims to transform the livestock production system in Nigeria along market-oriented value chain while ensuring an atmosphere of peace and justice. The six key pillars include-economic investment, conflict resolution, justice and peace, humanitarian relief and early recovery, human capital development. Others are cross-cutting issues such as gender, youth, research and information and strategic communication. In all, the Federal Government will not impose on any state government regarding its land.”

The Osinbajo denial of involvement in the policy and implementation of Ruga Settlements was the first crack in the wall. The crack widened with Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi adding his voice to the disclaimer. Umahi is central to the NLTP as chair of the technical committee that propounded the idea. He is also chair of the South East Governors’ Forum.

Umahi asserted that governors of the South East and South-South would not give their lands for any Ruga Settlement but would be part of mutual exchange of value between North and South. “The way it works is that the herdsmen will bring down their cows to the South-East and sell us as meat while they will load the grass which is grown here in the same trailer with which they transported their cows to feed their cattle in those grazing reserve which should be made comfortable for them. With this proposed deal, herdsmen are expected to embrace anti-open grazing by returning to the ranches in the north and do their business on the trade-by-barter basis of selling cows to the south and buying grass to feed their cows in the north.”

Garba Shehu, speaking for the Presidency, insisted that the Federal Government conceived the Ruga Settlements scheme for charitable purposes. It would stop open grazing of cattle, resettle the Fulani and all herders and increase productivity in animal husbandry. He then disclosed that the Federal Government had gone beyond its constitutional remit by gazetting lands in all 36 states of the Federation for the purpose. However, in blatant contradiction of itself, the Federal Government would only establish Ruga Settlements with our money for states who choose to be part of it.

From Governor Kayode Fayemi through Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, Godwin Obaseki to Prof Wole Soyinka, a strong Nay has resounded. The evolving concerted Southern resistance to the land grab called Ruga Settlements should remain firm. There would be a few misguided persons who would offer the lands of their people in sacrifice.

Hear Akeredolu: “A lot of our land is already earmarked for forest reserves. The FG must understand why we need to be strategic in our decision making. We implore the FG to revisit the proposal based on feedback from the different States & act accordingly.”

The hubris attending the proclamation of the Ruga Settlements also speaks to the lack of sensitivity, even intelligence, of its evangelists. It is rude and unintelligent in the face of modern approaches to the same matter and given the abundance of land and favourable ecological factors in the North. It also lacks coherence. The same Federal Government had declared that these terrorists masking as herders are foreigners. Why should the people of Nigeria give up their lands to foreigners?

 

Chido Nwakanma