SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Monday and expressed tacit support for the controversial Rugga settlement projects being undertaken in some states of the federation.
His Bauchi State counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed, also met with Buhari at a separate audience and expressed the readiness of his state for Ruga settlement projects.
The Plateau Governor who is also the chairman of Northern Governors Forum, said Ruga settlement is nothing different from the National Livestock Transformation Plan approved by the National Economic Council chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Defending the concept which he said aimed at enhancing security in some states by reducing the frequency of herders-farmers conflicts, Lalong explained that Ruga settlement is just another name for ranches as such other initiatives aimed at curtailing clashes between crop farmers and animal rearers.
He said: “I think the Ruga thing should not be anything that should bring controversy with the level of sensitization we’ve already made. I am a member of the food security committee, I am a member of the herdsmen/farmers committee, we’ve gone a long way on this issue and we’ve said that the only solution that can address some of these insecurity issues between herdsmen and farmers is the ranching policy. You remember that one time we have gone far when some people called it colony and called it this and that, and it created controversy.
“Again, we have gone far under the leadership of Mr Vice President, and then we are hearing other terms, what they are talking about it’s the same thing that we are talking about. But I think when they mentioned Ruga, it may be particular to a particular tribe but what we are doing is all encompassing, it’s for the benefit of Nigeria. I have said particularly in my state that animal husbandry, live stocks rearing is not a prerogative of one tribe, everybody must get involved in if and that is what we have done in our state when we registered for it.
“We said we are going to put these structures to enable us to encourage youth, train youth. Right now we are training permanent secretaries, retired civil servants who would also get involved in it so that we can address some of the insecurity that we have in the nation.
“So, when somebody mentioned another word, people would not wait to question and find out who and who are bringing those words, that is just the simple fact. But if you go to what we have done because they have mentioned some states which are included, yes, those states applied, those states said we have land for it. It’s not Federal Government that is imposing it on any state.
“To the benefit of Mr President, the president has not imposed that on any states, it was voluntary. And they said any state that is prepared to do that to address insecurity in his state should come and apply. So, some of the states applied and we are at the level of the pilot scheme and some mischief makers would start bringing terms to cause confusion in the country. It’s very unfortunate.
On whether the controversy sparked off is political, he retorted: “I don’t know whether it is political. Of course, I am a member of the committee, by the time we addressed that issue, some people said yes, we would prefer to do open grazing in our state, some said we would prefer to do ranching in our state and some said in our state, we would call it Ruga model.
“So, different states with their different approaches, but Ruga term is not general to everybody. In my state, we call it livestock something, it’s not Ruga and we have explained it to people. ”
Also speaking with State House correspondents after meeting with the President, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State expressed the readiness of his state to key into the Ruga settlement project.
He said: “Yes. There is no programme that will be done…because there are more Fulanis in the State, 60 or 70 per cent of the population in Bauchi are Fulanis and therefore, we must leverage on all these. We have illiteracy, insurgency and so many things that are bombarding us in terms of social challenges and security challenges. Definitely we will do that.”
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