7 min read

Ife Adewole


“We have to deal with an urgent problem, cattle rearing and the conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, and actually bring it to a halt … Let us do our own duty by eliminating the conflict by creating cattle colonies,”

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This was the statement of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh on Friday February 8, 2018, after Fulani Herdsmen had allegedly attacked and killed several farmers in the North-Central region of Nigeria, specifically Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states.

This was a statement many Nigerians did not really understand while those who understood rejected it out rightly.

According to the Minister, ‘cattle colony’ policy is going to solve the ongoing problems between herdsmen and farmers by naming some piece of lands in each state as herding grounds. The cattle colonies would then be used to feed livestock by the herdsmen; as a result, there will not be any reason for the herdsmen to trample on the fertile agricultural farmland that belongs to the farmers.

Almost immediately, 16 states agreed to host cattle colonies without considering the fact that there is something called Ruga Settlement. According to the Secretary General of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Usman Ngelzerma during an interview with Channels TV,  explained that Ruga settlement model is a component part of the Livestock Development and Transformation Plan, which is being implemented under the office of the Vice President. It is a rural settlement model for the herders, which has already been established in Southern Kaduna and Plateau state. It is a settlement model that was intended for the herders with the desire of the Federal Government to come up with an economic solution of solving this crisis.

In response to Usman’s statement, the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande in a tweet denied the assertion that the Vice President is in charge of the implementation of Ruga Settlement initiative.

Akande added that the programme being handled by Osinbajo was different from the one being referred to by Miyetti Allah. He said the National Livestock Transformation Plan endorsed by the National Economic Council was different from the Ruga programme.

He wrote, “Contrary to claims reported in sections of the media, Ruga settlements are not being supervised by the Office of the Vice- President. Ruga is different from the National Livestock Transformation Plan approved by governors under the auspices of the National Economic Council.

“On the National Livestock Transformation Plan, 13 states are already in the process of implementation of a plan to transform the livestock production system in Nigeria along market-oriented value chain while ensuring an atmosphere of peace and justice.

“The states are Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Kogi, Kwara, Ondo and Edo. These states are at different stages in the process, but have indicated readiness to implement the plan. Truth is: this Federal Government will not impose on any state government regarding its land.

“NEC okayed the plan based on the recommendation of a technical committee of the council chaired by Ebonyi State Governor (David) Umahi. Other governors on the committee and working group are those of Adamawa, Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, Edo, Plateau, Oyo and Zamfara-mostly the frontline states.”

There has been condemnation from several quarters about the Ruga Settlement initiative, the Taraba State Government, Benue House of Assembly, frontline lawyer- Femi Falana and social groups like Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Middle Belt Forum have kicked against the Ruga settlement initiative.

Recall that the colonial masters in the past did not come directly to take over the administration of Africa countries; they came with the pretense to solve a problem. In the words of Usman, he said the idea behind Ruga settlement is to provide a home for the Fulani herdsmen.

In essence, before those who gave their lands for cattle colonies or Ruga settlement would say ‘Jack Robinson’, those in the settlement would have installed a king, elect a Local Government Chairman, a Governor, an Emirate and eventually declared the settlement a ‘no go area’ for non-herders, as it has started in Southern-Kaduna.

Therefore, all stakeholders of each States need to be more conscious of the implications of every of their actions and inaction.

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