Ruga settlement scheme will escalate farmers, herders clash ― Ikimi

The Ruga settlement pilot scheme for Fulani herdsmen said to have kick-started in 12 states of the federation will escalate the insecurity and ongoing clashes between farmers and herdsmen, Oghenejabor Ikimi has warned.

Ikimi, a Warri-based human rights lawyer and Executive Director of the Centre for the Vulnerable and the Underprivileged, (CENTREP), condemned the said programme at an end-of-month pressing briefing on Saturday.

The fiery activist said the widely-condemned scheme was an attempt to create Fulani settlements all over the 36 states of the Federation which would further escalate the farmers/herders clashes across the nation and give undue recognition to the Fulani stock ahead of other tribes in the country.

He wondered and questioned the rationale behind expending state resources to up the economic gain of an ethnic group when their cattle business is not a government business or source of income.

“Recently, according to the erstwhile Minister of Agriculture and rural development,   Chief   Audu   Ogbeh,   the   Ruga Settlement programme by the Federal  Government for herders is to help bring an end to farmers/herders clashes nationwide.

“Herders would live and grow their cattle and produce milk in these settlements. The milk will be bought by a milking parlour, thus preventing their wives from moving about.

“We make bold to say that as beautiful as the above programme may appear to be on paper, same is not a holistic approach to solving the root cause of the farmers/herders clashes nationwide, but an attempt by the Federal Government to establish   Fulani settlements across the 36 states of the Federation.

“No wonder many state governments have rejected the above programme out of deep-rooted resentment and suspicion that the entire exercise is a Fulani expansionist programme being sponsored by the Federal Government and not as an antidote to the farmers/herders clashes nationwide.

“We are not oblivious of the fact that the above resentment and deep suspicion stem from unprovoked attacks by Fulani herdsmen nationwide in the past, most of which have left an unaccountable number of persons especially women and children dead, communities ransacked and burnt down, and farmlands destroyed.

“Some states, to say the least, have witnessed mass burials as a result of the attacks by these bloodthirsty herders who have fared unhindered without any arrest and prosecution by our security agencies under the watchful eyes of the Federal Government.

“Nigerians are yet to come to terms on why the Federal Government, despite the above atrocities committed by some of these Fulani herders, is now employing the use of state resources to compulsorily acquire lands belonging to locals and farmers in setting up Ruga Settlements for herders to live and grow their cattle.

“If we may ask; Is cattle business in Nigeria now a state business? if the answer is a capital  NO,  then the Federal Government has a moral burden to explain the above programme to Nigerians lucidly in order to assuage their deep resentment and suspicions for the programme.

“Practically  speaking, if the Federal   Government is sincere about her Ruga Settlement programme, nothing stops   her   from setting up interventionist bodies, through the state governments of origin of these Fulani herdsmen to build and fund these settlements for them in their various states of origin to live in and grow their  cattles,” the fiery lawyer enthused.

He averred, as unacceptable, the move by the FG to spend state funds to build Ruga   Settlements or cattle ranches for private Fulani herders all over the 36 States   of   the   Federation, warning that it will not only escalate insecurity across the country but portray “undue favouritism of the Fulani tribe over and above every other tribes in Nigeria.”

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