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Federal government on Wednesday bowed to public pressure on the Ruga settlement it had initiated, as President Muhammadu Buhari Ordered the immediate suspension of the project nationwide.
Prior to the suspension, the federal government had awarded contracts for the creation of the Ruga settlements for herdsmen, beginning with a pilot plan in the selected states, with a budget of N136m per state.
Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, confirmed the suspension after a meeting of the National Economic Council committee on Farmers/ Herders clash chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and some Governors representing each of the six geopolitical zones, at the Presidential Villa
Umahi stated that the committee had to deliberate on the approved programme of National Economic Council (NEC) and Federal Government, tagged, “The National Livestock Transformation Programme.”
Condemnations had trailed the programme following misgivings and ill feelings about the project, which had been viewed as an attempt at expanding the alleged “Fulaninization” of the country.
Several Nigerians, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, had criticised the project, even as states opposed to the project had issued a statement to the effect that they had no lands for Ruga in their domains.
According to Umahi, “Mr President has suspended the implementation of Ruga programme, initiated and being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, because it is not consistent with the NEC and Federal Government approved National Livestock Transformation plan which has programmes of rehabilitation of displaced IDPs, resulting from the crisis and also development of ranches in any willing state of the Federation. The word is willing state of the federation”
Speaking on the National Livestock Transformation plan, Umahi said “its beauty is that what NEC and FG approved is a voluntary programme to all the 36 states who may like to participate. So, it is not compulsory, it is for any state that is willing, will key into the programme.
“Any state that is interested in this programme is required to bring up a development plan that is keyed towards the implementation in line with our own programme here that is unique to his state based on the challenges that he has in respect of the crisis. That’s the decision of this committee.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in an earlier statement justifying the Ruga settlement, noted that “it has six pillars through which it aims to transform the livestock production system in Nigeria along market-oriented value chain while ensuring an atmosphere of peace and justice.
“Ruga Settlement that seeks to settle migrant pastoral families simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organized place with provision 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,” he said.
He listed the plans to include “economic investment, conflict resolution, justice and peace, humanitarian relief and early recovery, human capital development and cross-cutting issues such as gender, youth, research and information and strategic communication.
“In all, the Federal Government will not impose on any State government regarding its land,” he said.