Failed RUGA Project: Onaiyekan Urges FG to Establish Farm Settlements

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• Says restructuring can’t be wished away

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan has advised the federal government to convert the crisis situation generated by its failed RUGA settlement policy into a worthwhile venture by deploying the budgeted fund to establish farm settlements in states that will accommodate all youths interested in taking part in one form of agricultural activity or the other.

He also maintained that unless the leadership in the country recognises the need to embark on genuine restructuring of affairs, the country will continue to grapple with one avoidable problem or the other.

Speaking on the suspended RUGA settlement programme, Onaiyekan said that the initiative was wrongly conceived and presented.

He described the RUGA initiative as a very vague project, with no clear-cut explanation as to what its intent and purposes were.

He said that it was due to the opaque nature of the contraption called RUGA that led to its total rejection by the people, adding that even some state governors who tried to support it did so out of fear and compulsion and not because they believed in it as a good policy.

“This RUGA thing is reminding me of the proscription of the Shi’ite movement. Again, government makes a flamboyant statement that it was going to establish a RUGA settlement in all the states and they provoked a major crisis, confusion and then they begin to withdraw. Some people said don’t withdraw, just cancel. Again, at that time, I remarked, let us thank them for suspending, it is already a step forward and may be suspending is government’s way of saying ‘we are sorry’. And so we should pursue the suspension to its logical conclusion,” he said.

Onaiyekan noted that the federal government still has opportunity to turn the failed policy into a major agricultural revolution that will engage millions of unemployed youths in various agricultural ventures.

According to Onaiyekan, a failed policy like the proposed RUGA settlement can be transformed to bring about great fortunes for the country if the President can approach it in a more inclusive manner by getting the support of state governments to establish farm settlements in their respective states where facilities such as land for various agricultural projects, including plantations, poultry, animal husbandry, other farming practices can be provided for the benefit of all Nigerians and not just a settlement for the Fulanis.

Onaiyekan said that such a settlement with good housing and other infrastructure can be provided using the initial budget meant to set up the RUGA settlement.

Onaiyekan also commented on the screening of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees by the senate, and the concerns raised over the “bow and go” syndrome, expressing the hope that the beneficiaries of this legislative benevolence will strive to prove their mettle by providing good governance.

He, however, noted that a situation where some persons who were roundly rejected by their people during the election get rewarded with ministerial positions did not augur well for the quest for good governance in the country.