Questions and talks about RUGA settlement in Nigeria as proposed by the Buhari-led Federal government have caused uproar in several quarters. Social media has been abuzzed with theories of ‘Islamization’ and ‘Fulanilization’ with the ‘shady move’ the federal government is ‘bent’ on making a success.
Talks about the RUGA initiative is coming years after Fulani herdsmen have ransacked almost every region in Nigeria. Herders-farmers conflicts have greatly deteriorated, with the federal government seemingly turning a blind eye to the chaos that has seen Fulani herdsmen kill, rape, maim and sack communities.
Four years after Fulani herdsmen were dubbed the fourth deadliest group in the world, the federal government of Nigeria has moved to ‘curb’ herders-farmers conflict by establishing RUGA settlements in all Nigerian states. The move, however, has been greeted with so many oppositions from all angles, with the belief that the move is aimed at establishing Fulani colonies in all states in Nigeria.
In this post, we shall explain everything you need to know about RUGA settlement in Nigeria, as well as what it entails.
What is RUGA settlement in Nigeria?
RUGA settlement is an initiative by the federal government to settle migrant pastoral families, cattle herders and animal farmers in newly created, organized rural areas. The settlers will be settled in areas where provisions 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 settlement by the Federal Government is aimed at curbing open grazing of animals that continue to pose security threats to farmers and herders.
Why RUGA Settlements in Nigeria?
While the federal government claims the initiative is to curb the lingering crisis between herders and farmers in Nigeria, politicians and celebrities have expressed dissatisfaction in the move, largely because the President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari is of the Fulani extraction and herdsmen across the country are believed to be of the Fulani ethnic group. Below are some of the reasons provided by the federal government:
To Curb Herders’-farmers’ crisis
According to the Federal government, RUGA settlements will curb crisis between farmers and herders across states and communities in Nigeria. Herdsmen flagrant disregard for communities and their farms have been the reason for the conflict in the first place. The establishment of RUGA settlements would mean that all cattle farmers and herders would be stationed within their settlements.
To Put an End to Open Grazing
The RUGA settlement initiative, according to the federal government would put an end to open grazing. It isn’t so hard to find herders on private, personal properties in Nigeria today. As a matter of fact, herdsmen have at several times caused massive traffic jams in cities such as Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt due to open grazing.
Benefits of RUGA Settlements in Nigeria
Do RUGA settlements have any benefits? Well, according to the federal government, the RUGA initiative has ‘many benefits’. Below are some ‘benefits’ of the RUGA settlements in Nigeria:
The federal government claims that the RUGA initiative would create job opportunities as schools, hospitals, vet clinics, and markets would be established in the communities RUGA settlements are created.
Access to Credit Facilities
The RUGA initiative would benefit cattle herders and animal farmers as the federal government would provide credit facilities to them to enable them conveniently practice animal farming on a more convenient scale.
Security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling
RUGA settlements would no doubt provide security for pastoral families and curtail cattle rustling. Since it would be settlements/communities, it would be somewhat difficult for cattle rustlers to attack a thriving, rural community. But does this really benefit the host communities?
RUGA Settlement Programme VS National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP)
Despite distancing the National Livestock Transformation Plan from the RUGA settlements initiative, similarities between the two exist in abundance.
Just like NLTP, RUGA promotes ranching as the way forward for cattle rearing in the country. Vice President made a move for ways on settling the herders-farmers crisis. To achieve his aim of lasting peace, he started making wide consultations with service chiefs, governors, and whoever has something to offer. It lasted for about two years, and then in 2019, his efforts gave birth to a plan named National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP).
The NLTP has 5 pillars that clearly identifies what its plan and strategies of executing them are. The 5 pillars are:
- Conflict Resolution
- Justice and Peace
- Humanitarian Relief & early Recovery
- Human Capital Development
- Cross-Cutting Issues.
Ruga was not in any way mentioned or attached to these pillars of priority areas. The main goal was to foster federal support in implementing the transformation of the livestock sector through the establishment of ranches, improved fodder production, economic investment into associated value chains, and importantly, compensating those affected by the violence for their losses.
RUGA Settlements: The Alleged Ploy to Take Lands for Fulani Herdsmen and Fulanis
Some Nigerians have criticized the settlements’ initiative as a ploy to claim land across the country for Fulani herders. Herders are known to be of the Fulani extraction, the same as the president. President Buhari has been criticized for being biased for his kid-glove handling of Fulani herdsmen crisis in Nigeria, since 2015.
While cattle herding and animal farming, plant farming and other forms of agriculture are thought to be a private venture, the federal government’s stance towards the RUGA settlement initiative seems ‘aggressive’. Political parties, celebrities, socio-cultural groups, and most state governors have criticized the initiative being a move only beneficial to Fulani herders and Fulanis since they would creating their settlements in the given areas provided to them.
Jonathan Asake, a former aide of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo and a two-time member, House of Representatives during an interview on Channels Television narrated how a Fulani settlement in his community was converted into an Emirate. The Southern Kaduna politician revealed that the settlement now referred to as Laguda after its transformation, ‘has become a big town with hospitals and roads’.
Is the RUGA Programme Really Beneficial to Nigerians?
No. The RUGA settlement programme is not really beneficial to Nigerians. It is tilted towards favouring the Fulani herders and Fulani pastoral families since they would be the one to settle in the proposed communities. Although the federal government claims otherwise, it failed to mention how the initiative would be of any concrete benefits to their host communities. On security, the president has not really managed the crisis well.
According to the land use act of 1977, all land in a state is the custody of the Governor on behalf of the people. Apart from a few areas where the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over, areas like lands for rail lines, seaport, airport, etc. In view of this, the Ruga settlement seems more like land grabbing invasion by the FG, which is instigating curious concerns.
Most Nigerians believe that the federal government is being economical in the way it’s handling the herder/farmer crisis to the favor of herdsmen. A few or no one has been brought to book, even though the crisis has taken thousands of lives.
In 2018 alone, about 2000 deaths were attributed to Fulani herdsmen, and the number keeps counting even in 2019. While the government is yielding to the yearnings of the herdsmen, from funding to settlement, it appears that the government is negotiating its way out of a hostage situation: a predicament with a negative futuristic precedent.