Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Aidoghie Paulinus, Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi, Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin, Abdulrazaq Mungadi, Gombe, Wole Balogun, Ado Ekiti, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi, Judex Okoro, Calabar
There is no letup in the controversial Ruga Settlement programme being proposed by the Federal Government to arrest the intractable farmers-herders crisis across the country.
While Bauchi and Gombe have endorsed the proposal, Ekiti, Benue and Cross River states have joined the South East region in rejecting it.
This is even as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Arewa, Ohanaeze youths and others have weighed in on the contentious issue.
The Presidency had on Sunday said the settlement will be in an organised 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.
The Ruga pilot projects are Sokoto, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Taraba, Katsina, Plateau, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger.
Apart from the South-East, Darius Ishaku (Taraba) and Ondo State government have also rejected the Ruga settlements, saying they would not give out their land for herdsmen’s settlements in their states.
But Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, who spoke to journalists, yesterday, after he met behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, to discuss pressing issues of the state including insecurity, said Bauchi was ready for Ruga settlement.
To just his position, he said about 70 per cent of the population of the state were Fulani.
However, Benue State government restated its opposition to the programme.
Governor Samuel Ortom, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, said contrary to Presidency’s claim, no land in Benue State has been gazetted for grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colonies and Ruga settlements.
Ortom who insisted that Benue has already made known its opposition to Ruga settlements matter, challenged the Federal Government to publicly tender documents of the claimed gazetted lands in Benue State to put the matter to rest.
Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe also revealed that the state has signed up for the establishment of Ruga in the state.
The governor said he had engaged the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with a view to subscribing to the initiative.
“We had a meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry with a view of engaging them to make sure that while the Federal Government is being driven away and chastised in other states for embracing or deciding to help our native Fulani people who are mostly cattle rearers, we will engage and make sure that we provide all that they need to facilitate the take off of the Ruga programme in Gombe State,” Inuwa said.
But in Edo State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has vowed to go to court if Governor Godwin Obaseki failed to renege on his purported plans to cede parts of the state’s land for Ruga settlement.
State chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih, who disclosed the party’s position in Benin said it was bent on ensuring the interest of people of the state is protected to the letter.
“This issue of Ruga settlement can be likened to the situation where you carry pigs from the south to a Muslim community and you say you want to create a space for people who engage in piggery to do their farms in a Muslim community. That is the same way it is for us in Edo State.
“So, if the governor decides to go ahead in spite of the opposition by the good people of Edo State, we feel heavily heartbroken. You can be rest assured that we will take all available steps to protect the interest of our people. You cannot rule out our position to take a legal action if he decides to go ahead,” he stressed.
The Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has also joined the debate with an advice to government to listen to the complaints of the people and explore a different proposal to ensure peace in the midst of farmers-herders clashes.
While noting that the issue of Ruga Settlement has generated a lot of protest and disagreement, Onaiyekan said it was not wise for government to dismiss the protests and disagreements as mere agitation by political opponents.
“The government should do more than that. It should look at it more carefully and go back on its plans to see how they can come out with a different proposal for the problems we are facing.”
In his reaction, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, vowed that nobody coming from outside the state will be allowed to take over land from its people.
He said non-indigenes wishing to do business in the state must respect the culture of the indigenous people and pursue their interest in line with the law of the land.
Fayemi said: “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.”
Similarly, the Arewa Youth Movement, Ohanaeze Youth Movement, Niger Delta Council of Youths and the Oduduwa Youth Council admonished President Buhari to suspend the implementation of the project to enable wider consultation on the issue.
The leaders of the groups, who met under the aegis of Ethnic Youth Leaders, stated this after their summit in Abuja, yesterday, said in communique signed by that there was need for more clarification on the Ruga project before its commencement.
Benue State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) also insisted that Benue has no land for such settlements.
Briefing newsmen at the NUJ House in Makurdi, state Chairman, Rev. Akpen Leva maintained that the Ruga settlements has no relevance to the people of the state.
“As farmers, we have come to the naked reality that the land in Benue cannot even satisfy the farming community in the state for the production of crops and this cannot be shared with cattle rearers for the purpose of Ruga settlements.
“We want to remind the Federal Government and the necessary authorities concerned that we are law abiding citizens and we respect constituted authorities. As law abiding citizens, we are aware of the law prohibiting open grazing in Benue State.
Similarly, the Cross River chapter of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) said the state has no land for the proposed RUGA/Cattle Colony.
The group, in conjunction with the All Cross River State Nationals Front, advised the Federal Government not to contemplate including any state in the Niger-Delta in the programme.
Secretary of the group, Bassey Ekefre called on Governor Ben Ayade to speak and stand up for the peoples of Cross River State.