James Emejo in Abuja
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has rejected the proposed establishment of farm settlements, better known as Ruga settlements across the country for Fulani herdsmen.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammadu Umar, yesterday said the federal government had commenced the establishment of farm settlements to stop the constant clashes between farmers and herders, which have negatively impacted the economy.
He said already, government had commenced the establishment of “Ruga Settlements” in 12 pilot states for the benefits of cattle rearers. He spoke to journalists in Abuja shortly after the opening of a workshop on Regional Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and associated legislation in West Africa, which was organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
According to him, the settlements will go a long way in addressing the recurrent crisis between herders and farmers, often leading to loss of human lives and wanton destruction of properties particularly farmlands.
Umar said cattle rearing continued to face challenges in the country as a result of declining pasture, and overgrazing, leading to fatal conflicts between pastoralists and crop farmers.
He said the government was determined to ensure that the concept of farm settlement worked as the impact on food and nutrition security and public safety and national security are far-reaching.
“Under the new plan, cattle herders are expected to be registered and recognised with cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme.
“These cooperatives will then be able to get rental agreements for land from state governments and also benefit from ranch resources on several terms including loans, grants, and subsidies.”
“The Ruga settlement is one of the very important things not only in Nigeria but most of the countries in the Sub-Saharan.
“It is a concept that we developed to deal with internal security and we felt that to do away with herders and farmers’ conflict, we need to settle those that breed animals.
“We want to get them a place whereby we develop a settlement for them, we provide water for their animals, we provide pasture, we provide schools for their children; we provide security, agro-rangers.
“We also felt we need to develop cattle markets whereby you don’t need to be transporting animals for a very long distance.”
But in a swift reaction, Ortom said his state had no land for the proposed Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen.
The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, explained that Ruga settlement policy was imposed on states during the National Council on Agriculture summit held in Owerri, Imo State, in April this year by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
The governor further said the Benue State delegation reminded the summit that the state had a law on ranching which had phased out open grazing.
The statement added that few weeks ago, a director of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture with his team in Benue State informed officials of the state Ministry of Agriculture that he had received directives from the Ministry’s headquarters Abuja to establish Ruga which means ‘Fulani settlement’ in parts of the state.
The statement added that the director said three local government areas of the state: Otukpo, Tarka and Ukum had been selected for the Ruga settlements.
“We find the approach of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture not only as a gross violation of the Ranching law but also as an insult to the sensibilities of the entire people of Benue State.