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FG should have made more consultation on Ruga scheme —Jonathan Joshua

The National President of the Association of Small Scale Farmers in Nigeria, Mr Jonathan Joshua, speaks with GODWIN ENA, on the controversy that surrounded the proposed establishment of Ruga settlements. Excerpts:

 

WHAT is your view on the Ruga settlement proposition, which the Federal Government said it was suspending?

The government should tread with caution because Ruga is a wide scope that will even be more than an average local government. As such, the Federal Government should know that there are people leaving in such areas where they want to carve out the Ruga from. If it decides to see the idea through, it is going to appear as another grazing reserve.

My fear about the whole issue is how are they going to settle the people? Are the people from within the environment? Are they also Fulani living in the state, which the people know or people that would be brought from somewhere to come and stay in the Ruga.

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The Federal Government said it is suspending the idea. Why do you think it met with such opposition?

The government was not supposed to use the top to bottom approach. Instead, they are supposed to look at the policy and constitutional provision on how land is being acquired, because as far as the Land Act is concerned, the Federal Government only has land in the FCT. Every other state also has its own land, and should be able to see it as a position. With what it is, the Ruga settlement proposition is supposed to go to the Houses Assembly for legislation and they should even conduct a public hearing on it for the people to make their position known. I don’t think the Federal Government has made enough consultation. If they have done that enough, I don’t think people will be crying everywhere.

The people are supposed to have aired their views concerning this. But when they are directing it from the federal level, I don’t see the possibility where the issue would be clearly defined.

The government ought to bring the matter out for the public to digest, so that we all can know what to do. Even the people living in those areas selected for the Ruga scheme should be fully aware and be settled for the take-off of the scheme.

 

People have been saying different things about the scheme, as a national leader of a farmers’ group, what do you think will be the import of the scheme?

To my dismay, the procedures and policies on the scheme were not made available for people to digest or understand. As far as I am concerned, the Federal Government did not make enough publicity about the policy. What is the policy framework on how, when, and where to implement the Ruga? I am of the view that government should do more before embarking on the project.

Ranching is not a new thing, we have Obudu Cattle Ranch, and the Fulanis are there doing their business just like any other farmer. So, everybody should know that if you have a land that you want to carve out for ranch, scientifically people will accept that, because there’s going to be production of beef and milk.

 

Some people have expressed the fear that the suspension of the idea by the government may not be the end of the idea; that the government might still implement the idea. What is your view?

My fear is that if the Federal Government goes ahead without proper consultation to establish the Ruga settlement, rather than solving a problem they may create another one. This is because every other person or ethnic nationality would now begin to press demands; we want these and that. So, the consequence is that there will be more demands on the government from other groups. And government must also be ready to give them attention.

I think it is better to amicably resolve the issue rather than raising tension in the country. For me as a famer, I would prefer ranching to Ruga. In ranching, you can have your field and fence it and then be feeding your animals. You can produce within the location. But when you are talking about a settlement, it means it is going to be a lot of ability and opening, and from what we are hearing now, that one settlement alone can take about 331,000 hectares of land, which is equivalent to 310 square metres, you know is not a small area. So, if you are investing in such area, you can imagine how many people are going to be displaced. Those arrangements have to very clear.

But I think the suspension of the intended plan is in good fate to open doors for more dialogue and understanding on the programme. The Federal Government’s step shows that it is listening to public outcry, which is good.

 

But some people who support Ruga creation are saying that those who kicked against it do not want an end to herdsmen-farmers clashes in the country. Do you have a suggestion on how to end this menace?

My call to the farmers and the herdsmen is that they should have more respect and understanding for each other. Each one of us is in a business and each should be allowed to do his business peacefully without interference. Most times, the herders are the one encroaching on the farmers’ farms, which usually caused conflicts. So, there is the need to understand each other for peaceful coexistence in the society.

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