Instead of subsiding, the dispute sparked by the planned establishment of Ruga (cattle settlements) for herders in some states keeps growing.
To the Presidency, it is all a storm in a teacup as the project will eventually stop the herders-farmers clashes that have caused so much tension
But the proposal continued to draw flaks from many quarters, even as Bauchi, Niger and Plateau states differed on Monday.
In Jalingo, some youths protested the proposal. They said the proper thing was for herders to build ranches for their flocks.
Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, who was in Orin-Ekiti to sympathise with the family of a hunter, who was allegedly killed on Saturday by yet to be identified gunmen, insisted that no land would be ceded to “outsiders”.
Fayemi, who doubles as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said the killing of Emmanuel Ilori, whom he described as one of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the town, saddened his heart.
Ilori was murdered while hunting with his colleagues.
The governor, who spoke in Yoruba, said that the attack was being investigated. He promised to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators to book.
Fayemi said that traditional hunters and security agencies would henceforth work together to ensure adequate security in the state.
According to him, more soldiers, armed policemen and other security personel would be deployed in the state.
He faulted the local chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for giving political colouration to the incident by alleging that he was planning to give Ekiti land to “outsiders” in exchange for a future political ambition.
He said the allegation lacked validity, insisting: “Nobody is coming to take our land in Ekiti. The governor of Ekiti State has power over the land of Ekiti and it is the person that the governor gives land in Ekiti that can use the land of Ekiti.
“If there are negative comments being peddled around, that some people are coming to take over Ekiti land, take over Orin land, take over Ido land, it’s a mere hearsay.
“It cannot happen in Ekiti, except I am no longer the governor of Ekiti State and there is nobody that can be governor in Ekiti that will cede Ekiti land to outsiders because our land is not even enough for us.
Fayemi: security matters most
“Adequate security of our people is what concerns me most in Ekiti and Nigeria, and I want our people to ignore lies and falsehood some individuals are spreading around.
“There is nobody that will be governor in Ekiti that will allow outsiders to take over our communities from the people here or say that people coming from elsewhere should come and take over Ekiti (land).
“Those saying these are only playing politics with the matter. This is not politics; security is an issue that concerns all of us.”
Fayemi went on: “Some individuals have been spreading baseless rumours to cause disaffection because they are no longer in power and it is their wish that Ekiti should be consumed by anarchy. I want to assure you that our government has not stopped work on security. One of the steps is that our local hunters will work with our security agencies.
“Not up to three weeks now, our Kabiyesis (traditional rulers) and community leaders held a meeting and we deliberated on measures and ways to tackle security challenges.
“No single individual or group can do the work of security; the local hunters know their areas and terrains very well than the men of our security agencies and it will serve the people well if they work together.
“I am in Orin today (yesterday) to sympathise with you and tell you of the steps being taken by the government. There is no way we can be happy in Ekiti hearing that one of our people was killed, more so when the victim was one of our party leaders in Orin.
“Since the incident happened on Saturday, you have seen more soldiers and policemen here in Orin and they are on the trail of perpetrators and we will not relent in our efforts until they are found.
“Government will do everything possible to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened and from now, you will see more security people not only in Orin but in other parts of Ekiti. They are not here to fight you but to protect you.
“Those responsible for this shall be made to face the full wrath of the law. Other steps that will be taken will be revealed in due course.”
Speaking, the Eletin of Orin Ekiti, Chief Francis Falua, appreciated the governor’s visit and identifying with the people in their moment of grief.
Falua urged the government to ensure that the perpetrators of the dastardly act are arrested and brought to justice.
Ruga row uncalled for, says Lalong
To Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, the controversy over the establishment of Ruga settlements is uncalled for.
According to him, it was the same as ranching.
He told State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja, that his state has nothing like “Ruga”, but Livestock business.
Lalong said that there was nothing different between the Ruga project and the ranching under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
He said: “I think, the Ruga thing should not be anything that should bring controversy with the level of sensitisation we have already made.
“I am a member of the food security committee. I am a member of the herdsmen/farmers committee. We have gone a long way on this issue and we have said that the only solution that can address some of these insecurity issues between herdsmen and farmers is the ranching policy.
“You remember that one time we have gone far when some people called it colony and called it this and that, and it created controversy.
“Again, we have gone far under the leadership of Mr. Vice President, and then we are hearing other terms, what they are talking about it’s the same thing that we are talking about.
“But I think when they mentioned Ruga, it may be particular to a particular tribe, but what we are doing is all-encompassing, it’s for the benefit of Nigeria. I have said particularly in my state that animal husbandry, live stocks rearing is not a prerogative of one tribe.
“Everybody must get involved in it and that is what we have done in our state when we registered for it. We said we are going to put these structures to enable us to encourage youth, train youth.
“Right now, we are training permanent secretaries, retired civil servants who would also get involved in it so that we can address some of the insecurity that we have in the nation.
“So, when somebody mentioned another word, people would not wait to question and find out who and who are bringing those words, that is just the simple fact.
“But if you go to what we have done because they have mentioned some states, which are included; yes, those states applied, those states said we have land for it. It’s not Federal Government that is imposing it on any state.
“To the benefit of Mr. President, the President has not imposed that on any states; it was voluntary. And they said any state that is prepared to do that to address insecurity in his state should come and apply.
“So, some of the states applied and we are at the level of the pilot scheme and some mischief makers would start bringing terms to cause confusion in the country. It’s very unfortunate.”
Asked if the Ruga project controversy was politically motivated, Lalong said: “I don’t know whether it is political. Of course I am a member of the committee. By the time we addressed that issue, some people said yes we would prefer to do open grazing in our state, some said we would prefer to do ranching in our state and some said in our state we would call it Ruga model.
“So, the different states, with their different approaches, but Ruga term is not general to everybody. In my, state we call it livestock something; it’s not Ruga and we have explained it to people.”
Also asked if he was not worried over the allegation that the Federal Government was funding the project, he said: “No, I was here one time when people asked why is the Federal Government was subsidizing agriculture, subsidising ranching? And I also asked why is the Federal Government subsidizing agriculture?
“This is a policy that we felt that it is not only for economic sense, but it would also address the issue of security. So, if it is going to address insecurity in a period the country is confronted with serious security challenges, then Federal Government would come and assist those who want to do it.
“They are not imposing it on any state. I am a member of this committee under the chairmanship of the vice president; the Federal Government has not imposed that on any state.
“They said if you have land for pilot scheme, they can assist, and donor agencies are coming from all over; it is not a Federal Government project. The World Bank is involved; the African Development Bank (AfDB) is involved.
“So, if you have a scheme like this that can tackle poverty, bring revenue and also address insecurity, you will need to go into it but with due consultation from your state.
“In my state, it took me three months to do sensitisation and we all agreed that we should bring this concept to empower people. It is not meant to empower one tribe it is for everybody and that would address the issue of insecurity because we don’t want people moving from one place to another, looking for grass.
“The fact that the Federal Government is to bring the subsidy was a request from the committee chaired by Mr Vice President. Goodluck Jonathan did it and he budgetted about N10 billion but we didn’t see the money. If he has done that at that time, we would not be fighting insecurity among herders and farmers today.”
Niger offers land for Ruga
In Minna, the Niger State government offered the Bobi Grazing Reserve in Mariga Local Government Area as pilot for Ruga settlement in the country.
Expressing readiness to spearhead the project, the state called on other governments in the North to accept the establishment of Ruga settlements to stop the continuous farmers/herders crisis.
The Secretary to the Niger State Government (SSG), Alhaji Ahmed Matane, who unfolded the government position on the controversial issue, said the state has 43,000 hectares of grazing reserve which can be developed for pastoralists.
Matane said that the North has the largest landmass and that if developed into grazing reserves, would create a buffer to reduce the crisis that have been occurring in several parts of the country.
He said: “If the northern states can develop their grazing reserves and build the infrastructures, the pastoralists will not need to go south wards because they will have enough pasture and Water they can use and need.
“The north is the only area of Nigeria that has large lands that can be overlooked into pasture and which would create a buffer to reduce the crisis. Unless we deliberately develop these grazing reserves, we will continue to have this crisis.”
The SSG said that Nigerians would be the major beneficiary of the settlements as cattle rearing is a multi-billion naira business which can be a source of foreign exchange.
Benue insists no land for grazing
In Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom tackled the Federal Government over its claim that it has gazetted land in the state.
He said the claim was far from the truth and also challenged the Federal Government to show proof of gazetted land in the state by showing the titles.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ortom, Tervwr Akase, reminded the Federal Government of the existence of an Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 in Benue State.
The statement reads: “We read the statement issued yesterday by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity Garba Shehu in which the Presidency stated that it has gazetted lands in the 36 states of the federation to establish Ruga settlements for herdsmen.
“It is true that government at the centre has gazetted lands in all states of the federation.
“We wish to make it clear that no land in Benue State has been gazetted for grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colonies and Ruga settlements, contrary to the Presidency’s claim.
“We expect the Federal Government to publicly tender documents of the claimed gazetted lands in Benue State to put the matter to rest.
“The Federal Government should show titles to the lands it claims to have in Benue State, the evidence of compensation it paid to owners of such lands, as well as the purpose for which the lands were acquired.
“The Benue State government has already made known its stand on the Ruga settlements matter that the state will not be part of the project. This was why the government and people of the state rejected the attempt to impose the Ruga settlements projects on them without the consent and approval of the Governor who controls and administers all lands in the state in trust for the people.
“We wish to restate that there is a law in Benue State which encourages ranching and prohibits open grazing of livestock.
“The law is a win-win for herders and farmers, as it protects all. Anyone who intends to establish a livestock ranch in Benue State is encouraged to follow the procedure stipulated by the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.”
Bauchi backs project
Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed, who also visited the State House in Abuja yesterday, said his people were entirely in support of the Ruga settlement project.
The former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister noted that the Ruga project will help address the issues of insecurity.
According to him, Bauchi State needed the Ruga project because the population of the state is 60 to 70 per cent Fulani.
The state, he said, will always key into any Federal Government’s projects.
He said: “Sixty or 70 per cent of the population in Bauchi are Fulani and, therefore, we must leverage on all these.”
He said he was at the Villa to confer with the President on some of the insecurity challenges facing the state.
Mohammed said: “We have illiteracy, insurgency and so many things that are bombarding us in terms of social challenges and security challenges. Definitely we will do that.
“The President is there for all of us; he is not a partisan President. I am the leader of the people many consider more APC than PDP.
“There are issues that are within us and there are issues that are beyond our capacity. Therefore, we must establish partnership. I have come to discuss very serious issues concerning Bauchi because people in Bauchi have given me that leadership.
“I must establish relationship with the Federal Government because of the serious challenges that we have, challenges in development, social issues and security issues.”
In Taraba, some youths protested the proposed Ruga settlement.
They called on the state government to fully implement the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law passed by the Taraba State House of Assembly.
Taraba youths: Ruga is threat to peace
The protest took place at the Jolly Nyame Stadium, under the leadership of Taraba State Chairman of the Nigerian Youths Council, Udi Adamu
The youths, in one voice, described the Ruga settlement as a coined idea and misplacement of priority over rising poverty, insecurity, armed robbery, banditry and increasing unemployment in the land.
Some of the local government areas involved in protests included Lau, Zing, Ibi and Sarduana.
Udi described the Ruga settlement scheme as a threat to tribes in the state and Nigeria at large, adding that herdsmen troubling the state are alien tied with the ulterior motives to grab the land from original owners.
He expressed doubt over explanation Ruga settlement will mitigate kidnapping and killings by herdsmen.
The protesters said they remain unshackling and unwaveringly with the Taraba State government on the Ranching Law, which they described as the best way to settle herders/farmers clashed in the state.
The youths urged Governor Darius Ishaku, to enforce the Open Grazing and Ranching Establishment Law 2017 for the sake for peace and harmonious living.
Udi appealed to the youths to remain law-abiding and support the government genuine programmes and policies, geared towards emancipating the people out of bondage of poverty and oppression.
Obaseki assures Edo people
In Edo the PDP accused Governor Godwin Obaseki of secretly conceding land to the Federal Government for the controversial settlement.
It said the governor’s silence on the issue at a time other state governments are rejecting the establishment of RUGA settlement in their respective states was worrisome.
The PDP, through its chairman, Dan Orbih, vowed to use all possible means including legal actions to defend the interest of Edo people in respect of the RUGA settlement.
But the governor defended his policy, saying his plan for agricultural development involved all value chain both crop production and animal husbandry.
According to Obaseki, his plans were developed long before the Ruga settlement idea came up.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Crusoe Osagie, the governor said the safety, security and prosperity of Edo people were top priority and non-negotiable in all his agricultural programmes.
Obaseki assured Edo people that he would not cede their rights and land to anybody, as his programmes as a sovereign state do not run on the back of any external entity.
He said, “Edo people should disregard any contrary information circulated by the Edo State Chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or any other group or individual.
“As for the Benin Central Hospital, it is up and running and is providing tertiary healthcare services which it was set up to provide.
“It’s phased opening is in line with the vision of the state government and in the coming weeks and months, other phases will be unveiled to complement the primary and secondary health centres across the state.
“Governor Obaseki will continue to put the interest of Edo people first in all his policies and programmes, as he has demonstrated in the past two years and seven months.”
The Ekiti Parapo denounced kidnapping and other vices
Members of the Lagos chapter of the socio-cultural group, urged their kinsmen to join forces with the government to finding a lasting solution to the security challenges.
After their meeting in Lagos, they resolved to communicate its position to Governor Fayemi on how to nip in the bud cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and other social vices in Ekiti.
Their President, Dare Ojo, said the issue of kidnapping had become rampant in Ekiti and a source of worry to everybody, including those at home and the Diaspora.
On Ruga, he restated the group’s opposition to the establishment of cattle colonies in the state, noting that cattle herding and settlement should be treated as a private business.
“The issue of Ruga or cattle colonies is alien to the Ekiti tradition. By implication, we have always bought cows for our events, we have always reared cattle in our environment and we have always lived with them mutually.”
The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) kicked against the project, which it said was dead on arrival.
It said an inch of Yoruba land would not be ceded for such.
According to a statement, Council President Dansaaki Ade Agbede, wondered how a group of people that are being seen as threat to peace and security of others would now be made to own settlements in places outside their own domain, saying “to now think that the Federal Government that should be concerned and worried about the untoward activities of such people is the sponsor of Ruga is worrisome.
The people of Agbada Nenwe in Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu State, members of the Hausa/Fulani community and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in the Southeast have dissociated themselves from a video trending on social media over the purported expulsion of some herders and their cattle from the community”.
The police had denied that no such incident happened, explaining that after preliminary investigations, it was revealed that what transpired was “only the movement of cattle and herders from Cross River State, through Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, and a neighbouring town for grazing”.
The police added that “such transit had nothing to do with escorting herders and their cattle out of Agbada Nenwe community”.
When Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi led the Commissioner of Police, Director of Department of State Services (DSS), Garrison Commander, 82 Division of the Army, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Commandant of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other stakeholders on a fact-finding visit to Agbada Nenwe yesterday, the traditional ruler, Dr. Francis Imo, said the video is untrue, stressing that “nobody drove the Fulani community out of Agbada Nenwe”.
The monarch added that they enjoy cordial relationship with the Fulani community, noting that “no cow has ever been killed in this kingdom; no Fulani man has ever been hurt”.
The leaders of the Northern community and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Southeast zone, who thanked Ugwuanyi for his commitment to peaceful co-existence of all Nigerians resident in the state, said they have not come across any herder or Fulani man who has complained of molestation or being chased out from the community.
The Sarkin Hausawa, Alhaji Abukakar Yusuf Sambo, said: “We have been enjoying peaceful co-existence in Enugu State, and we are here to say that mischief makers will not succeed.”
Chairman of MACBAN Alhaji Gidado Siddiki cautioned the people against “the harm our individual or group’s unruly act can cause the wider society beyond our immediate environment”.
Activist-lawyer Femi Falana said development in land in any part of Nigeria must be approved by the state governments.
He said: “Some Nigerians have said that since the federal government had already acquired land in some states it can go ahead and use the land for RUGA. Buy in Attorney-General, Lagos v Attorney-General of the Federation (2003) the supreme court held that the development of such land cannot be carried out without a plan approved by the affected state governments.