It is ranching, not RUGA, in Plateau State —Wade
Recently, Plateau State government announced its intention to set up pilot ranch the government acquired land in Wase and Kanam Local Government Areas of the state. The development has fuelled insinuation that the same government has also set aside land for RUGA settlement. The state secretary of the ranching committee, who is also the state focal person for National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), Professor John Wade, speaks on these issues.
There appears to be confusion over the state government’s policy of ranching for herdsmen. Is ranching part of the national livestock transformation plan?
As part of government’s position to tackle the clashes between farmers and Fulani herders, various options were put into consideration and there was a question of what do we do to arrest the situation and what do we embrace?
Is it grazing reserve or colony? But at the end of the day, after due consultations and by international best practice, we settled for ranching.
How did Plateau State arrive at the choice of Wase and Kanam Local Government Areas for a pilot scheme on ranching?
In ranching, you need land to contain the cattle in one place to avoid grazing into people’s farmland. Many people have the perception people about ranching that their ancestral land will be taken away from them and also that the project is meant to empower the Fulani. We have to sensitise and educate these people. It is not only Fulani that engage in cattle rearing in Plateau State; their tribes are equally involved as well. But no one is involved in ranching. There is the belief and fear that people’s land will be taken and be given to the outsiders. But in order to assure the people that the concept of ranching is all about organised enclosure of livestock, organise rearing, we now decided to demonstrate it to the people to appreciate it before the community would embrace it. In order to allay the fear, government decided that it is not about buying land or land purchase, despite the fact that government has that power. Since we have gazetted land areas that belong to the government, we would now use that for pilot scheme. The government will put the necessary infrastructure for ranching in place and then get people within the community and nearby to be part of that programme so that people will appreciate it and eventually sell the project to the larger community across the state.
But people of the state and the affected local government areas in particular are saying that the Federal Government does not gazette land anymore. They claim that the land being referred to and presently being occupied by farmers has been overtaken by event.
When a law is made, it becomes a law. It remains extant until otherwise. When you look at history of all these government reserves, they take us back to the 1940s right to the 1960s and to the post-Independence era. These lands have been gazetted and have not been repealed. These lands both in Wase and Kanam belong to the government and they are gazetted, even recently, less than 10 years ago, the last administration appreciated it. The government reinforced that gazette, particularly at Wase and Kanam. So, when people say the government does not have any land, it is left for them to prove it. In all the gazetted lands that belong to the government, we have pockets of human settlements on them because they have not been put to use over a long time. The fact that government is not using them does mean the lands no longer belong to the government.
The farmers and herders’ clash is not well pronounced in Kanam and Wase. Why siting the pilot scheme there instead of the Northern part of the state where this incident often occurs on a regular basis?
When you do that, it is the same people that will complain. In the course of advocacy for two years, the government has interacted with traditional, religious and community leaders and others. In Plateau State, it took us about two years of dialogue for them to appreciate and embrace ranching. We still need to allay the fear. For example, do you go to Gasshishi where people were attacked and dislodged and you have not resettle them and you now say you want to site ranching there? You will further worsen their fears. So, in order to sustain the peace and to build confidence in the people, the best thing the government did was to start the scheme in Wase and Kanam on gazetted land which does not belong to anybody. Just like in science, what we do is to generate hypothetical situation and then try it in the laboratory. The laboratory may be in London, America or anywhere in the world. But once it passes through that experimental stage, you can then practise it anywhere. If government should go to that area, there is likelihood of misinterpretation that government has come to forcefully take their land. Remember, ranching itself is supposed to be community-private driven business initiative. But where there is crisis, perceived threat to lives and properties, government must live up to its responsibility of ensuring that lives and properties are protected by making sure that it provides an enabling environment or a pilot scheme to address the situation and that brings us to the question of why is government involved in ranching when it is supposed to be a commercial business. Giving the capital intensive nature of ranching, many of the people that are affected, if you tell them to start ranching, they do not have the resources. Remember the six-pillar policies [of the state government] are economic investment, conflict resolution, law and order, humanitarian relief, information, education and strategic communication. All these are very important concepts for people to embrace ranching.
Why tell people to embrace ranching when most of the communities that will be the beneficiaries in the long run have been sacked and the people displaced? Is it not better to concentrate on resettlement of these people than dissipating energy and resources on ranching that has not been fully embraced?
Many people do ask this question. But after all the convincing arguments or after debating it, we do ask them what the alternative is. You will discover that many people are just too emotional about this. They proffer no alternatives. Do we continue killing ourselves because death is the ultimate thing? Well, let me go back to your question; why not address the problems of the IDPs? Government is in the process of addressing the problem faced by IDPs and when you look at this six-pillar policies, the fourth pillar is the humanitarian relief. Every state has to address it in its own peculiar way and for us in Plateau State, under the humanitarian relief where the IDPs comes in, we have said it before that we will translate it to the critical areas where there are crises. We have to tackle the issue of the IDPs and that is why the government is not starting the pilot scheme of ranching in Riyom or Barakin-Ladi or Gasshishi until these issues are settled. And that is why the National Livestock Transaction Plan, which is expected to translate to state livestock plan, is a programme for ten years during which most of the critical issues will be settled because you cannot say overnight you will come and start these things. Otherwise, there would be resistant. So. the government is determined and resolved, under the humanitarian relief, to address these issues before introducing ranching because it is a question of moral, it is a question of conscience. The government cannot start ranching in these places because they are deserted. We don’t want give room for people to say they are establishing ranching when they are not there.
Assuming the people are not willing to surrender their land after the pilot scheme, what is the government going to do?
Forget what critics are saying over the social media. There are many applications across the three senatorial districts from people who want to set up ranching and who are willing to give out their lands. Currently, there are over 3,000 applications. Government has said it over and over again that there would be no land seizure under any guise to implement this programme.
What are the sources of funding?
They are in different ramifications. First, the Federal Government will be on the front seat of driving this process. It has made some commitment of providing support. But if the whole thing is not out completely, whether fund will come from directly or indirectly or from international funding, over 70 per cent will be coming from the central government, while the state government will make provision as a kind of commitment towards making up the remaining percentage.
The Federal Government recently suspended RUGA, claiming ignorance of the whole thing. But last week it came out through one of the presidential aides that about N3.2 billion was earmarked for RUGA in this year’s budget. Is this not contradiction?
Let me throw light on this issue of RUGA. What the Federal Government, through the National Economic Council, which is under the office of the Vice-President and under the National Livestock Transformation programme embraces is ranching. Any other thing that you hear will be subactivities. As long as you did not hear this is coming from the National Livestock Transformation Programme, which has the mandate of carrying out ranching programme, then that is another thing from other sectors. The grazing area which is refer to as Ruga is an initiative of Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Unfortunately, along the line, there was either miscommunication or breakdown in communication or lack of understanding one another that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture just came out send people to different states without the knowledge of the governors and community. As you can see, it just died down as soon as it was announced, because the consultation was not even half-way, not up to what we had under NLTP project. In Plateau State, it was on record that we had interactions and consultations with various stakeholders, over 20 consultative meetings were held in Plateau State before the issue of ranching was appreciated and embraced. So in Plateau, you don’t hear Ruga. When it came here, as far as people are concern, it was expensive there is no way they could embrace it.
Apart from this issue of ranching the government claimed the people have embraced RUGA are you aware that some places especialy in Bokkos and Bassa local government areas have been earmarked for RUGA?
Areas earmark for Ruga are not the initiative of Plateau State government. It is some people from Federal Ministry of Agriculture that say they are coming for Ruga project in Bokkos, Barakin-Ladi without the knowledge of the state Ministry of Agriculture, the ranching committee which I am the state secretary. And I am the focal person for the NLTP programme, am not aware of it. So Plateau State has not embrace Ruga concept. What the state embrace is ranching. The federal government in its honour and out of respect for people suspended the Ruga programme.