By Eseoghene Emuke
The Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged has warned that the plan by the Federal Government to establish Ruga settlements across the country will fuel renewed and intense clashes between farmers and herdsmen throughout the country.
CENTREP, a right group, however, advised the Federal Government to jettison the plan as it would not solve the farmers/herders clashes rather it will aggravate the situation.
In a statement on Sunday issued by the Executive Director of CENTREP, Mr Oghenejabor Ikimi, the group stated that the Ruga settlement policy was aimed at creating Fulani settlements across the 36 states of the country.
Ikimi stressed that, “We make bold to say that as beautiful as the above programme may appear to be on paper, same is not a holistic approach to solving the root cause of the famers/herders clashes nationwide but an attempt by the Federal Government to establish Fulani settlements across the 36 States of the Federation.
“No wonder many State Governments have rejected the above programme out of deep rooted resentment and suspicion that the entire exercise is a Fulani expansionist programme being sponsored by the Federal Government and not as an antidote to the farmers/herders clashes nationwide.
“We are not oblivious of the fact that the above resentment and deep suspicion stems from unprovoked attacks by Fulani herdsmen nationwide in the past, most of which have left unaccountable number of persons especially women and children dead, communities ransacked and burnt down, and farmlands destroyed.
“Some States to say the least have witnessed mass burials as a result of the attacks by these blood thirsty herders who have fared unhindered without any arrest and prosecution by our security agencies under the watchful eyes of the Federal Government.”
Ikimi, a lawyer, queried why the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government is bent on using the state resources to set up settlements for herders when it is a fact that cattle rearing business is strictly a private business like other forms of agribusinesses in the country.
According to the statement, “The attention of members of the Centre for the vulnerable and the underprivileged, (Centrep) have been drawn to the plan of the Federal Government to establish cattle ranches under the Ruga Settlement pilot programme scheme in 12 States of the Federation and we condemn the said programme as an attempt to create Fulani settlements all over the 36 States of the Federation and to further escalate the farmers/herders clashes nationwide.
“Recently, according to the erstwhile Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Ruga Settlement programme by the Federal Government for herders is to help bring an end to farmers/herders clashes nationwide. Herders would live and grow their cattles and produce milk in these settlements. The milk will be bought by a milking palour thus preventing their wives from moving about.
“Nigerians are yet to come to terms on why the Federal Government despite the above atrocities committed by some of these Fulani herders is now employing the use of State resources to compulsorily acquire lands belonging to locals and farmers in setting up Ruga Settlements for herders to live and grow their cattles.
“If we may ask; Is cattle business in Nigeria now a State business? if the answer is a capital NO, then the Federal Government has a moral burden to explain the above programme to Nigerians lucidly in order to assuage their deep resentment and suspicions for the programme.”
It urged the federal government rather than build settlements for herders across the country, it “Practically speaking if the Federal Government is sincere about her Ruga Settlement programme, nothing stops her from setting up interventionist bodies through the State Governments of origin of these Fulani herdsmen to build and fund these settlements for them in their various States of origin to live in and grow their cattles. The above would no doubt erase every deep rooted suspicion Nigerians have for the said programme.
“To build Ruga Settlements or cattle ranches with State resources by the Federal Government all over the 36 States of the Federation is totally unacceptable to the majority of Nigerians as same would not only escalate the worsening state of insecurity nationwide but shows undue favouritism of the Fulani tribe over and above every other tribes in Nigeria.”
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