What Could’ve Been for Ruganomics

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Saturday COUNTERPOINT

Everybody had an opinion on what had been the Federal Government’s intervention in the bovine industry – from the mundane to the profound. That was until the Muhammadu Buhari administration pulled back mid this week, and suspended the vexatious project.

Of course, while the ding-dong lasted, a lot of people’s fears were influenced by what they believed was the presidency’s clannish slant in past appointments and seeming failure to reign in the alleged excesses of Fulani pastoralists – leaving a section of the Nigerian populace to believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is “low-handedness” in clipping wanton clashes and killings between the pastoralists and the sedentary agriculturalists. 

Many even quarreled with the term, RUGA, insisting that it’s Hausa for “cow settlement’! The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes RUGA as “an anatomical fold or wrinkle especially of the viscera”. My interjection that RUGA has a meaning in Yoruba too: walking with a pompous gait – like a peacock – was brushed aside as disingenuous. 

However, RUGA is simply an acronym for “Rural Grazing Area”, I believe! 

The following were some of the arguments that fuelled passion on both sides of the divide…before the ‘about-turn’.

Not Every One In Taraba Was Excited

 Contrary to information we were fed about Taraba being one of the 12 states in support of the RUGA experiment, some voices of dissent have arisen. According to a report monitored on an online publication:

“Youths in Jalingo, Taraba State, have taken to the streets, rejecting the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government’s planned Ruga settlements in the state.

Comrade Udi Adamu, Chairman of National Youths Council of Nigeria (NYCN), led the protest, saying: ‘Ruga is a misplacement of priority in the face of poverty, insecurity, armed banditry and unemployment.’

‘Ruga settlement scheme is a threat to tribes in Taraba State and the Nation at large…the whole idea is to grab lands from the original inhabitants for the benefit of the Fulanis.’

The protesting youths insisted that the ranching model proposed by Governor Darius Ishaku was the panacea to real peace in the state.

‘Taraba people are opposed to ruga,’ Adamu added.

They, therefore, urged the state government to enforce the anti-open grazing and ranching law established in 2017.”

What the Government Had In Mind?

Here’s the edited perspective of Dr. Shamsudeen Usman who was once Deputy Governor of Central Bank and Minister of National Planning under Presidents Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan (2009-2013). If the social media can be trusted, that is.

“Under the Nigerian Constitution, all lands belong to the States and not the Federal Government, as has been legally established in the case of LASG v. FGN, on the issue of Banana Island. So if any of the States refuse to grant the land, there’s nothing the FGN can do.

Now to the facts: I just spoke to the FGN Perm. Sec. (Agriculture) who is alleged to be the source of all this. This is his take:

– There is no intention, not even mention, of extending the scheme to all 36 States. The Governors were sounded out and only 12 (all Northern States) agreed to participate.

– Benue State isn’t among the 12.

– The idea is to set up ranches where the whole beef and meat value chain will be provided for: basic infrastructure, like roads, schools, markets (I can guarantee you that a substantial number of the market participants would be Igbo),  vet clinics, meat processing factories, tanneries, etc, based on a similar, successful model in Tanzania.

– A number of international organisations, such as the FAO and IFAD are already on board, interested in providing technical and other assistance and;

– A number of international companies,  including Italians, are interested in investing (you know Italy and leather).”

Think Business Opportunity

This long piece was “hacked” to accommodate its salient points within the armpit of available space.

“Interestingly, it is the food security angle with respect to nutrition, health, protein, jobs and employment that the true definition of the herdsmen challenge of Nigeria lies. 

There are over 26 million heads of cattle in Nigeria today, valued at well over $16 billion USD according to FAO – a United Nations Agency. 90% of Nigeria’s cattle stock are imported – I mean literally walked into the country from neighboring nations of Chad, Cameroon and Niger. Most of the meat you eat are gotten from animals that were born in Central Africa Republic, Burkina Faso and Mali. Animals are born in Nigeria by chance. Imagine the Forex loss due to this, shouldn’t we look closely as we do rice and poultry?

On the consumption side, it is  estimated that annual domestic and imported slaughtering is around 7.5 million cattle with a livestock value of $5bn. Nigeria is currently consuming 360,000 tons of beef a year, a volume that is predicted to rise to 1.3 million tons by 2050. In Lagos alone, data shows between 6,000 to 9,000 heads of cattle are slaughtered every day. Over 60% of beef consumption in Nigeria takes place in the six south-western states and Edo. 

– The pastoral industry that grows and transports the animal from border posts to market today employs 15 million pastoralists. Any solution as such must consider the change impact of this, which is beyond jobs but also has to do with a way of life of indigenous people which is protected by international convention…

–  When the (cattle) arrive in the market, (they arrive) relatively more expensive than other places in the world. A (head) cattle we sell for equivalent of $1000 in Nigeria, goes for (one) third of that price in the United States, if it sells at all! 

– Lastly, the impact of years of lack of investment in agriculture had worse impact on livestock farming than crop farmers in Nigeria. Crop farmers are easy to locate, hence even years of political intervention in agriculture no matter how half-hearted always easily impacted the crop aspects of Nigeria’s agriculture. 

First, what we need to solve this problem is to have cooler heads prevail, drop the demagoguery and the seemingly open season of demonisation….

 In the South, especially the South West (where most of the meat is consumed)… what prevents (our) governors from investing and employing our roaming youths some of whom are increasingly hooked (on) codeine? 

(Extracted from an article, “On RUGA, Cattle Herders, Fulanisation and Dangers of Hysterical Reactions” by TMZ Busanga, founder of Lofty Inc., an engineer)

RUGA, A Monumental Tragedy! 

Some columnists are trenchant in their condemnation of RUGA. Here’s a blithering example culled from the online platform of a national newspaper: 

“The governable space in Nigeria is shrinking and we are daily looking like a failed state. It’s now one month and three days that President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in for a second term and there is no cabinet in place. The only appearances of government that we see are measures that remove faith in corporate Nigeria like the Fulani Radio and negotiation with Miyetti Allah. The latest is the Ruga settlement that has polarised the country and made it more divided than it was before amalgamation. The brazen audacity of coming up with a project in Hausa word is the crudest assault on inclusivity in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria. Ruga is a Hausa term that means cow settlement. The in-your-face attitude in coming up with this concept is a summation of all that is wrong with Nigeria being elevated under this administration. To start with, the very idea of the Ministry of Agriculture is a misnomer in a federal system with so much diversity like Nigeria. The only land that belongs to the Federal Government in Nigeria is the Federal Capital Territory which makes the Ministry just a money-siphoning entity given the amount we vote for it yearly… The truth of the matter is that the Fulani hardly eat cow meat as they know it’s not healthy for human consumption. They are more at home with lean meat….”

Now that it’s shelved, would you call it a great chance missed or good riddance?