By Suleiman Umaru
More facts have emerged how the British government ,laid the foundation for the implementation of the Ruga settlement which is almost tearing the country apart. Aware that most of the people from the north, particular, the fulanis, major occupation are animal husbandry and the only way to keep them together to avoid open grazing that may cause trouble in the future, the British g had conceived the Ruga settlement plan for the country .
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It was learnt that then British government in collaboration with the Nigerian government had begun a gradual implementation of the project as the pastoralists began to settle in different parts of the country, particular, the north central geo-political region . It was a matter of time for the project to be conceived for nationwide execution.
It was therefore not very surprising when President Muhammed Buhari used Audu Ogbe , a former minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and an indigene of Benue state, to test the waters whether it would accept as a way of ending the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of the country.
The situation was worse in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, Adamawa and Taraba states , forcing the government policy makers to go back to the drawing board to implement the long awaited Ruga settlemeent project. The reaction of people and different socio-cultural Organisations in the regions may have sent a signal to President Buhari and Miyetti Allah, the arrow head of the patoralists, who many believe was spearheading the programme that the coast was not clear for it.
The President may have read the handwriting on the wall that it may not be an easy project to impose on the states as he tried to wriggle out of the problem by handing it over Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President to sort out with the governors, promising to abide by their decision.
Osinbajo did not hesitate in doing so as he met with the governors from the six geo-political regions on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, under the auspices of the National Economic Council, NEC, at the Presidential villa , to deliberate on the matter.
The Katsina born Nigerian President may have gotten a signal that the NEC , members are not favourably disposed to the project . He was said to reached out to osme stakeholders to seek their advice on the way forward. Bashir Ahmad, Special Adviser to the President on New Media, tweeted on Tuesday that after” due consultations with stakeholders, the president suspended the project”, an indication that it may still come up on a later date.
Indigenes of Benue state particular ,the farmers,, who had been bearing the heat of the herdsmen attacks over the years were said to jumped into celebration when information filtered out that the Presidency has suspended the Ruga project. Samuel Ortom, the state governor may have spoken the mind of the people when he said on Wednesday, July 3, 2019, that the suspension was a fallout of a ”struggle by the people of the country against impunity and injustice”. He urged the President and officials of the ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to use the opportunity provided by the suspension of the project to” encourage pastoralists and livestock owners to embrace ranching as the model of animal husbandry” .
Note that Ortom, the Benue governor, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum and other socio cultural groups across the country had clashed with the Presidency on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, over the project. Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate,may have been forced to advice the government to have a have a rethink over the the Ruga settlement project when he saw the direction things were going which may explode at any moment. It, he had said could ”spark an explosion ” noting th that the ” project was not the best approach to solving the herders and farmers frequent clashes”.
Dave Umahi, governor of Eboyi state, may have given an insight into why the project was suspended by the presidency attributing it to the National Livestock Transformation plan , NLTP’ policy’. According to him, ” it is inconsistent with the NLTP, policy, which was approved by NEC and the FG, which had made it a voluntary programme to all the 36 states of the Federation which wish to participate. GThe governor disclosed that it was not a compulsory programme but optional for any state that is willing to key into it.
Political watchers believe that the Presidency may have known that it has lost the battle to force Nigerians to accept the RUGA project as it came out with clarifications last Sunday that the Ruga settlement only seek to settle animal farmers, not just cattle herders in an organised place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools,hospitals, road networks, clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to the meats and animal products The Presidency may have come up with these enticing projects to be established at the Ruga settlement areas to force the states to accept it to benefit from the basic infrastructural facilities at the various locations.
Note that the government had allocated the sum of N26 billion in this year’s budgetary provision for the development of the national grazing reserves which budget was signed into law by the President on May 28, 2019. The allocation was said to have been built into to the budget of the ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Between last year and now, there had been rmour making the rounds that the ministry had awarded contracst in the pilot phase of the programme for the construction of ruga infrastructure complete with sanitary facilities in Taraba, Benue, Adamawa, Plateau, Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna , Kogi , Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi and Niger.
Recall that officials of the Federal ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development who are acting out a script of the Presidency and Miyeti Allah, has made it clear that it is going ahead with the execution of the project to those that cares to listen , notwithstanding the opposition , particular, from the southern part of the country.
One of the contracts for the construction of the basic Ruga infrastructure and sanitary facilities in eight locations was said to have been in Taraba state alone, to an Abuja based Company , MAS Prudent ltd. The Company , according to sources had already gotten the letter of award, reference number FMA/ROC/RD/SIP/5499/1, dated May 21, 2019. The contract sum of over N166 million, the Magazine was informed was inclusive of VAT, going by the letter of award an indication that the programme has gotten off the ground. The Company and others which got a similar contract in other states have four weeks each with effect from the date receiving the letter of award to complete the project in the states contracted to them.`
Many believe that the presidency may have bowed to pressure to suspend the Ruga project but would never forgive Ortom, the governor of Benue state dragging the along with him to pose a a strong resistance against it. against it.
Garba Shehu, senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity may have spoken the mind of the President when he said he could not understand why Ortom, t should be the one leading the opposition against the project when he has declared that his state will not participate in it. He has his reason to worry. This is because of the amount of money that had been spent on the project so far in engaging services of Consultants and the budgetary allocations for the projects this year which may be diverted to other unplanned projects in the country.
He had described the Benue governor as using the Ruga settlement project to” divert attention from his failure”. He may have had at the back of the his mind that but for the sensitisation campaign mounted by the Benue governor against the project , it would have been accepted by the states without any grudge.
the Presidential media aide disclosed that” 13 states are already in the process of implementation of the plan to transform the livestock production system in the country along market oriented values while ensuring atmospheric space and justice” in the country irrespective of the public outcry.
In spite of the bold face put up by the Media aide, analysts see the suspension of the Ruga project as a welcome development that should be supported by all well meaning Nigerians for peace to reign.
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