The federal government's planned nationwide settlements for
Fulani herders has continued to generate a flurry of mixed reactions as the administration insists the idea is in the best interest of the country.
Clarifying the purpose of the contentious Ruga settlement to Nigerians in a statement released Sunday, Garba Shehu, said the initiative was a measure to contain open grazing of animals that has continued to spark deadly conflicts between farmers and herders in the country.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity explained that “Ruga Settlement” that seeks to settle migrant pastoral families simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organized place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products.”
Aynaijang.com learnt that He said "The overall benefit to the nation includes a drastic reduction in conflicts between herders and farmers, a boost in animal protection complete with a value chain that will increase the quality and hygiene of livestock in terms of beef and milk production, increased quality of feeding and access to animal care and private sector participation in commercial pasture production by way of investments.
“Other gains are job creation, access to credit facilities, security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling.
Aligning the with the federal government on the innitiative, the political and cultural association of leaders in the North, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) , said Nigerians cannot kick against open grazing while also opposing ideas that would bring about ranches.
“What the government wishes to encourage is the settlements of nomads in a manner that they can have permanent and bigger settlements preparatory to embracing the concept of ranches, which are currently beyond the economic profile and professional expertise of individual nomads,” ACF Secretary General, Elder Anthony Sani, told The Guardian in an interview.
But a mass of Nigerians are taking issues with the overall initiative, describing it as yet a move to colonise the country, grab people's lands and expose Nigerias to herders threats as the herdsmen have perpetually engaged in killings of innocent Nigerians in different parts of the country.
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, echoed the agitations of many others in the South-West to say that anyone who wants to do cattle business should on his or her own approach the Government of the state concerned to buy land and establish ranches under the prevailing regulations of such state.
“The idea is repugnant, repulsive and provocative as it seeks to colonize the rest of Nigeria under the guise of promoting cattle rearing, which is private business that should not have the involvement of any responsible government, as lining the might of the Federal Government behind the business of one ethnic group in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria can only come from a government that is not interested in its unity.
“In the last four years, we have seen the rate at which the Fulani herdsmen have turned non-Fulani communities into killings fields with the government turning a blind eye to all their crimes while using the instrumentalities of state to defend and shield them from interrogation,” the group said in a statement on Sunday.
But the federal government flatly denied the allegations.
According to Shehu, “Stripped of the politics and howling that has attended the recent comments, there is no government plan to seize state land, colonize territory or impose Ruga on any part of the federation. Government has made it clear time and again that the programme is voluntary.
“So far, twelve states have applied to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, making lands available for the take-off of the scheme in their states. This number is sufficient for the pilot scheme," he said.