All the five governors of South-East state, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State and the Ondo State Government have rejected the Ruga settlements approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
President Buhari had approved the establishment of Ruga settlements for herdsmen across the 36 states of the country, in a bid to put an end to open grazing by herdsmen and end herdsmen-farmers’ clashes across the country.
The approval of the Ruga settlements across the 36 states means that each state would give out lands which will serve as settlement for herdsmen.
But all South-East state governors and three other governors have rejected the Ruga settlements, saying they would not give out their land for herdsmen’s settlements in their states.
Governor Ortom said Benue State had no land for the Federal Government proposed Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen.
The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, explained that the state had a law on ranching which had phased out open grazing. The statement reads:
“We find the approach of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture not only as a gross violation of the Ranching law but also as an insult to the sensibilities of the entire people of Benue State.
“During the National Council on Agriculture summit which took place in Owerri, Imo State in April this year, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture attempted to impose Ruga settlement on the states but the Benue State delegation seized the opportunity to remind the summit that Benue State has a law on ranching which has phased out open grazing. No one at the summit put forth an alternative method of animal husbandry to counter the state’s presentation.
“The Government of Benue State is willing to support cattle owners to establish ranches as stipulated by the law prohibiting open grazing.
“We however wish to reiterate that Benue State has no land for grazing reserves, grazing routes, cattle colonies or Ruga settlements. The state only has land for the establishment of ranches.”
Also, the Imo State Government said that it would not be part of the proposed Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen in all the states of the federation.
The Special Adviser on Media to the state Governor, Steve Osuji, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Owerri on Tuesday, said that no governor in South-East would accept such a proposal when none of the northern states had implemented it. He said:
“Certainly not. It is not about Imo State; no state in the South-East would accept it. We won’t rush to accept it when no state in the North has implemented it.”
Reacting, the Special Adviser to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Mr Louis Amoke, said the state was in full support of the South-East Governors’ Forum position on cattle colony.
Amoke added that the governors had made their position known that South-East had “no land for cattle colony, Ruga settlement, or in whatever nomenclature it is called.”
“So the position of Enugu State Government is not different from the position of South-East Governors’ Forum,” he added.
Speaking in the same vein, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Dan Abu, said the state would not accept anything except ranching.
Abu, who said ranching remained the best option in the resolution of the crisis, called on the Federal Government to key into the ranching policy as the best option in the resolution of the herders-farmers’ crisis.
“We have a policy on this issue already which led to the enactment of the open grazing and ranches establishment law. This policy remains the best practice the world over in animal rearing.
“We implore the Federal Government to key into the ranching policy for the overall interest of herders and farmers. For now, we will not accept anything other than ranching,” he said.
Also, the Ondo State Government declared that it did not plan to have any other settlement for Fulani herdsmen because it had already established ranches in some parts of the state.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Yemi Olowolabi, said the ranches were established in Auga Akoko and Akunnu Akoko in the Akoko North-East Local Government Area of the state. He said:
“I am not aware of anything of such (Ruga settlement). However, we have made our position known about that. We have established cattle ranches at Auga Akoko and Akunnu Akoko for people to take their cattle to.
“So, rather than doing cattle rustling, the ranches were established for people to bring their cattle there. So, our position is that we don’t believe in creating anything of such, we already have our own ranches established, with the belief that the cattle there would be healthier and better.”
Meanwhile, the immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh explained that the establishment of Ruga settlements, which had been approved by President Muhammadu and had started in 12 states, would allow herdsmen to stay in specific areas, where they could graze their animals.