Ruga, NLTP: New dilemma in Nigeria

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It is quite clear that there is no difference between the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP and RUGA. And what continues to agitate the minds of many Nigerians is why the federal government, with the ongoing security and socio-economic challenges in the country, is ready to sink billion of naira in a business, which is solely a private concern, in all the states of the federation

By Anayo Ezugwu

WHEN President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the Ruga settlement programme on July 3, 2019, many Nigerians think that the suspension will end the controversy around the programme. But two months down the line, the controversy and conspiracy theories that trailed the programme are still on.

The latest controversy over the programme started on September 12, when the northern governors’ forum rejected Ruga programme and adopted the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP. They believe that the policy would enable them check the incessant clashes between farmers and herders in the region.

But they failed to convince Nigerians that there are differences between the two programmes, which many analysts believe that Ruga is an offshoot of NLTP. But Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State and chairman, northern governor’s forum, said the forum was informed about the difference with the Ruga initiative and was willing to key into the programme.

“On Agriculture, the Forum was well informed about the National Livestock Transformation Plan and its disparities with the Ruga plan. It is expected that the plan would ensure resettling and addressing the dislocated populations in the key conflict zones to enable them to become part of the agricultural modernization process.

“In the same vein, it would provide a mechanism for peaceful dialogue and reconciliation in the affected communities towards a harmonious mutually beneficial future. The Forum, therefore, adopted the National Livestock Transformation Plan, which lays out a clear path for modernising pastoral activities and encourage other states not included as pilot states to endeavour to join the plan/programme,” he said.

To make matters worse, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State revealed that Fulani herdsmen from Chad, Niger and other neighbouring countries will benefit from the NLTP. According to him, since Fulani herdsmen are nomadic, it will be inappropriate to deprive them from benefitting from the livestock plan just because they are not from Nigeria.

The governor, whose state is among those that will be part of the initiative, said the Fulani exist in many countries across Africa and share brotherhood which transcends boundaries. Mohammed, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Monday, September 16, said: “I think there is a lot of mistrust and misconception as regards the Fulani man. The Fulani man is a global or African person. He moves from The Gambia to Senegal and his nationality is Fulani.

“As a person, I may have my relations in Cameroon, but they are also Fulani. I am a Fulani man from my maternal side… we will just have to take this as our own heritage, something that is African. So we cannot just close our borders and say the Fulani man is just a Nigerian,” he said.

With the position of Governor Mohammed, many Nigerians believe that the adoption of NLTP by northern governors is a way of reintroducing Ruga using another name. They also argued that scarce public resources would be used to develop private cattle breeding and rearing businesses as a reward for attacks on farmers and killing innocent rural dwellers by herdsmen, while the affected farmers and villages are left to wallow in sorrow.

But the proponents of Ruga programme argued that the government does support other categories of farmers, but had not supported herdsmen for once. As this controversy continues, Realnews decided to study the policy documents and highlight what the programmes entails.

According to the policy document, Ruga is a settlement model comprising 40 units of huts for 10 pastoral families on a minimum of 20 hectares of land with the following facilities: solar powered borehole, harvesting infrastructure, sanitary facility, mini ruminant feed mill, dispensary, watch tower security post and access road.

The settlement model will be spread across 12 states, most of which have persistently experienced farmers/herder’s clashes. The states are Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara. Attempts to bring eastern and western states to provide land for such scheme have been vehemently resisted with public outcries.

On the implementation plan of NLTP, the federal government policy stated that this strategy is supported by the development of an implementation plan that provides a guiding framework to states for implementing the NLTP. In the phase one, the NLTP will initially support the development of pilot ranches in each of seven pilot states. States can also opt-in with private land provisions to help shape the success of the pilot phase.

The livestock policy also says that the overall responsibility for the co-ordination of the NLTP will be carried out at the federal level by the National Economic Council, NEC NLTP Steering Committee through the programme coordination secretariat to be domiciled in the Office of the Vice President.

This informed while Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, during the inauguration of NLTP programme in Adamawa State recently said: “I wish to emphasise that this is not Ruga because the idea of Ruga settlements launched by the ministry of agriculture created a problem when it was perceived as a plan to seize lands to create settlements for herders.”

Despite his explanations, from the components of the Ruga and NLTP policy documents, it is very difficult to convince Nigerians that the livestock policy is different from Ruga. Critical look at it shows that it is a reformed Ruga agenda. Chijioke Uwasomba, a senior lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife, said the programme may be a backhand way of implementing RUGA.

“The impression being created is that perhaps, given the agitated responses of Nigerians, especially the Southeast, South-south, Southwest and the North Central, this may be a backhand way of implementing RUGA,” he said.

Akin Oloniruha, another lecturer, said the national livestock transformation plan has many components, including, cattle improvement and breeding. He explains that this involves farmers, who have more than 30 heads of cattle registering with federal ministry of agriculture for upgrade of their cattle for higher meat of milk yield, using artificial insemination; small ruminant (sheep and goat) and poultry.

“However, in our country, people can, for selfish reasons, twist government programmes in directions not originally intended. Otherwise, the programme, as originally conceived, is laudable,” he said.

Ihechuckwu Chima, agric expert, said the adoption of the NLTP was not enough to tackle regular herders/farmers’ clashes. He said some states like Zamfara and Kano had already concluded strategies for the establishment of Ruga settlement for Fulani herdsmen, saying the adoption of NLTP might disrupt their plans.

He attributed the public outcry against Ruga policy to government’s bypassing of policy formulation processes, which include consultations, negotiations, dialogue and implementation. He stressed the need for holistic approach in tackling security challenges in the North.

Speaking in support of NLTP, Richard Ogundiya, a researcher in his opinion published in the national dailies, noted that the scheme is a blueprint that will support and strengthen the development of market-driven ranches in the livestock ecosystem. He believes that it will also improve productivity through breed improvement, pasture production, efficient land and water capacity enhancements.

According to him, the scheme will to a great extent, stop the spread of violence and insurgency in the affected regions, by simply keeping herders away from the farms of farmers. “It potentially would aid significant boost in Nigeria’s agricultural productivity, a sector that currently employs about 38 percent of the total working population and accounts for a large share of our Gross Domestic Product, GDP. It is killing two birds with a stone; restore peace in the country and create more wealth for those in the line of farming and livestock business,” he said.

Meanwhile, the programme like the Ruga plan has divided the northern and southern leaders along regional lines. While the northern leaders under the aegis of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, backed the project, their counterparts in the south, under the auspices of Afenifere and Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, rejected the idea.

The ACF commended the northern governors for adopting the plan. ACF in a statement signed by Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, its national publicity secretary, said the programme would go a long way in improving the livestock production. He said it would also ensure peaceful coexistence among herders and farmers, especially in the Northern states.

“ACF therefore, hopes that States that key into the programme will embrace it holistically to not only benefit from the available NLTP funds, but also ensure accountability and judicious utilisation of the funds for the benefit of the herders.

“ACF also appeals to the Federal Government to ensure that states willing to participate in the programme are given maximum encouragement through its policy of intervention by way of adequate funding and provision of infrastructure that will not only boost livestock production, but also provide employment opportunities within the livestock value chain,” the statement said.

But the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere rejected the Livestock plan, saying it is another plan to deceive Nigerians. Afenifere, while stating that cattle rearing is a personal business noted that there is no difference between RUGA and NLTP.

Yinka Odumakin, spokesman of the pan Yoruba group said as far as Afenifere is concerned, this is all about deception. “It is just like when some people said they are rejecting six and adopting half of a dozen. What is the difference between RUGA and the National Livestock Plan that they are talking about? Do they think we are fools?

“The last time, Garba Shehu came on the national television to explain this and said openly that there is no difference between RUGA and National Livestock Programme Plan. We all know that this is a personal business and if so, why is government involving in it? Why will those herders not do it on their own? Many of us must have been born in the night, but we are not all born yesterday night,” he said.

In same vein, the South-South leaders under the aegis of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, declared that the people of Niger Delta region are not in support of state-sponsored National Livestock Transformation Agency. Anabs Sara-Igbe, publicity secretary, PANDEF, said the people of the region can only support individuals who want to go into livestock production. He added that the only way they can support the plan is if the federal government agrees to sponsor other sections of the agricultural sector, including fishing.

“PANDEF’s position is that we are against the government pushing and sponsoring a programme in the name, RUGA. We can only accept individuals developing the livestock. We can only support it if the government will also sponsor those interested in fishing or other sections of agriculture,” he said.

As the controversy continues, many Nigerians expect more explanation mostly from the office of the Vice President on the difference between the two programmes. They also desire to see the Buhari-led administration cancel everything related to the policy completely.

– Sept. 20, 2019 @ 19:10 GMT |

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