By Andy Chukwu
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), has said the creation of the Ruga settlements for herdsmen across Nigeria was not proposed by the NGF.
Fayemi, while answering questions on a Channels Television programme, described Ruga as a response to the problem of settlement herdsmen face, and said that accepting the proposal is voluntary, adding that Ruga is the brainchild of the National Food Security Council.
“I am not going to get into any discussion over whether it is the right thing to do or not. It didn’t come out of Nigeria Governors Forum. It came out of the National Food Security Council’s agenda. And the National Food Security Council’s responsibility is really to ensure that we protect food production and help those with challenges. This is a proposal and a way of addressing the problem for those nomadic who need temporary shelter,” he said.
The NGF chair said that he was surprised that Taraba State Governor, Mr Darius Ishiaku, kicked against Ruga, stating that Ishiaku is a member of the council that mooted the idea.
“Frankly, I will be surprised if you say the governor of Taraba State said that. Because the governor, my good brother, Governor Darius Ishiaku is on the National Food Security Council. He is a member of that council, and I believe this decision came of out the deliberation of that council. If anyone is saying that he doesn’t want it, to the best of my knowledge, it is a voluntary arrangement,” he said.
Meanwhile, Taraba State Government said the plan to cede part of its land for the project is against the law, saying the Federal Government should support its anti-grazing law to succeed.
In a telephone conversation with Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ishiaku on Media and Publicity, Bala Dan Abu, urged the government to support the state’s ranching policy.
“The plan of the Federal Government is against our existing open grazing restriction and establishment of ranches law.
“The Federal government’s plan to take some portion of land in Taraba for the purpose of Ruga settlement is against the Land Use Act which gives the state full authority over its land. We are rather urging the government to support our own law that encourages the establishment of ranches by giving it the necessary backing,” he said.
The controversy over the Ruga settlement was ignited last Monday after the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture, Alhaji Muhammadu Umar announced that the Federal Government would implement cattle settlements in 12 pilot states for the benefits of cattle rearers.
“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, provide water for their animals, provide pasture, provide schools for their children; and 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. Under the new plan, cattle herders are expected to be registered and recognised with cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme,” he said.