Farmer/Herder Conflicts And The Misunderstanding Of Ruga Settlements, By Ussiju Medaner

The nation over the last few years have been turned into chaos by both the incidences and the politics of herdsmen/farmers clashes. In the months preceding the 2019 elections, the veracity of the attacks, as claimed by the social media was at the climax. It became the other of the day to have records of deaths as a result of the clashes or as painted direct attacks in the region of the north central and some south east states. The opposition parties, most especially the PDP flourished on the news and likelihood of the next attack as it became a major campaign ingredient of the party; it was at the period that PDP took it as a responsibility to document and report killings, mostly exaggerated, without at any material time ever propose a feasible solution to the menace. 

It was clear then as much as it is now that while the herdsmen/farmer clashes were real, the magnitude of the political manipulation and propaganda that turns it into a greater national menace is a greater problem for the country. We cannot win a war as a people when we chose not to fight on a common front. 

No sensible government would fold its hand at such a time of insecurity within its enclave. Much was expected from the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, yet everyone was battle set to antagonise every presented solution, not only to the herders/farmers clashes but every other issues. 

The world all over, the only reason you would not see a cow roaming the street and causing unpreventable impasses as experience in some part of Nigeria is because the cows confined to ranches. The ownership of such ranches is a secondary issue. The peculiarity of the Nigeria situation demand radical approach to resolution of the perennial problem. We all remember that  in the hopes of solving the same problem, the PDP government of Jonathan budgeted a sum of N100billion for some selected states to build mini cattle ranches. 

The Jonathan government then raised a committee chaired by the then governor of Benue state, Mr. Gabriel Suswan to investigate and proffer lasting solution to the frequent conflicts between herdsmen and farmers. The committee recommended the release of N100 billion through the CBN as a seed funding to all states for the construction of ranches. The money was released without the approval of the National Assembly but there was no evidence of how it was utilized as no ranch was constructed. This misappropriation of fund is mostly responsible for the continued herders/farmers impasses. The funniest thing is that there was no uprising or antagonism to the plan as at that time; in fact it would have been a success if Jonathan had won in 2015.

The question is why the same program approved by Jonathan government and inherited and modified by the Buhari administration would only become anti people during Buhari administration? The Buhari government only set up a committee headed by the vice president and have as member governors and stakeholders across the federation to analyse and confirm the feasibility of the proposed policy from the past administration. The committee came out with the unanimous decision that made the president give the go ahead for the project. The feasibility and the plus of the project have since attracted foreign organization support. The World Bank  and international financial institution have already keyed into financing the laudable project.

But the likes of Fani Fakayode and PDP would rather wants us to remain with the problem so that they would continue to have issues to attack the government with. As a people we would have prefer the clashes to continue and enjoy the daily news of fresh attack or more  prefer to continue using the menace to play political joker. What the game of opposition is doing to this nation will be our undoing one day if we don’t pause to analyse and retraces our step. Where goes the principle of constructive criticism? Must we criticize everything for the sake of remaining relevant? Can’t we for a while consider the overall well-being of the nation?

The role the opposition is playing in the rejection of this noble program capable of bringing lasting peace across the federation call for serious concern. We must reaccess our legislation and begin to enforce the law to protect the nation on all front. The intentional creation of unrest and incitement against  the government in power and spread of deliberate hate speech against some certain tribes and their cultural heritage by the like of Fani Kayode must be checked. We cannot continue to allow our law to remain a toothless dog. Spreading fake information is prohibited and punishable by the law of Nigeria and so it should be. It is an offence to conjure information detrimental to the peace and unity of the nation for personal and selfish interest. These men must be stopped before they destroy this nation.

The like of Fani kayode flourish in spreading fake news. They remain only relevant when there are opportunities for them to antagonise the government not minding the consequencies of what they do. Most of the utterances of Fani-Kayode fall under the offences stipulated within Section 24 of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, prevention, etc) Act 2015. The government should also desist from the habit of responding to such remarks rather, the government should act. The public should see more of government actions rather than lame responses. In saner climes people like Fani-Kayode would retract silently into their shell and would never be taken seriously looking at the inconsistency of their statements. He is against this government which is the only government that is probing his corrupt actions during the years he was supposed to be in service to the country. 

We must therefore all know that the position of the government is in the interest of a peaceful Nigeria. There has been series of arguments around the country about the intention of the Federal Government (FG) to establish ranches (referred to as Ruga Settlements) in various parts of the country. This decision has been reached for various reasons which are the imminent reality of our society: the most prominent of which is the recurrent conflicts between herders and farmer in various parts of the country, to improve the standard of animal husbandry and meat quality in the country, create a sustainable economic value chain for animal husbandry within the country which will solve several other societal issues such as unemployment and standardize revenue generation by the sector to the FG and the various states involved in the process.

The arguments, arising from various quarters, sometimes hinged on bogus information or misinformation, are carted by many among us who fail to link the line of truth in these arguments. It is more disheartening to find intellectuals engage in arguments stirred mainly by bias rather than factual evidence from research.

The FG does not intend to coerce any state into participating in this programme. This is essentially because a programme of this nature would thrive more under voluntary participation rather than coercive inclusion. It is also important to note that though the FG has gazetted lands in each state of the federation, constitutionally, considering the Land Use Act, the only land belonging to the FG is within the FCT. Lands in each of the 36 states of the federation are all under the state government, hence, the only way the FG can undertake any programme which involves land is only if the state government makes the land for such purposes available to the FG. 

Ruga Settlement or ranch is not a strange idea to any part of the country, the Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State was established in 1951 and it is now a place of pride to the country. Several other ranches were constructed after that but were lost through years of mismanagement after the military intervention of 1966 and subsequent military regimes. The operational failure of the ranches in Kano, Niger and other parts of the country is what increased the rate of nomadic herding within the country. Therefore, ranching is not an alien practice among us; it is only one of several sectors or our country that has suffered neglect over the years. 

With the rate of crime and criminality associated to farmers and herders clashes around the country, it is expedient that states and well-meaning citizens in the country should support this move by the FG to create ranches/Ruga settlements around the country. 

It is not healthy for our national development to see that whenever the government makes any move towards ameliorating a bad situation we see intellectuals coming forth for selfish and parochial reasons to make attempts to undermine the efforts of the government. 

We Nigerian should wake up to the challenges before us and opt for development and progress. How can we be against ranching when foreign companies in the likes of Cownexion have indicated interest to invest in ranching in Nigeria? Why have the Fulanis not colonized the areas like Obudu where ranches have been established for the decades they have been there? Instead, Obudu is one of the most remarkable sites of tourism in Nigeria. Let us not bow to the fakes in the remarks of those against national growth and development.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

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