by: Olusanya Akinrinola
Following widespread condemnation, outrage and threats from the Middle Belt and Southern states, the Federal Government entered what was apparently a panic mode on Friday on its decision to establish what it called Ruga settlements for herdsmen across the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday approved the establishment of Ruga settlements for herdsmen across the 36 states of the country, in a bid to put an end to open grazing by herdsmen and end herdsmen-farmers’ clashes across the country.
The approval of the Ruga settlements across the 36 states means that each state would give out lands which will serve as settlement for herdsmen.
But all South-East state governors and three other governors rejected the Ruga settlements, saying they would not give out their land for herdsmen’s settlements in their states.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in a statement on Friday evening, distanced himself from the Ruga plan. He said he was not its supervisor “contrary to claims reported in sections of the media.”
The first sign that all might not be well on the Ruga matter was observed earlier as the Federal Ministry of Agriculture abruptly canceled a press conference scheduled to be held on the plan and its controversies.
Earlier on Friday morning, reporters from Tribune met the Director of Information of the Ministry of Agric, Mohammed Nakoji for details of the plan. He directed the reporter to the Director of Animal Husbandry who refused to talk insisting that the appropriate person to speak on the matter was the Director of Lands.
The Director of Lands was not in the office when the reporters got there and no official of the department was willing to speak on the Ruga plan details.
Friday afternoon, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Bello Umar scheduled a press conference for 1:45 pm to clarify issues on the Ruga settlement, but the conference was abruptly postponed indefinitely.
According to the Director of Information, Nakoji, President Buhari sent the Permanent Secretary to welcome ECOWAS delegations, so the press conference was called off.
Though we gathered that despite the outrage and harsh criticism, the Federal Government is set to commence the pilot phase of the project in 11 states including Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Kaduna, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Kogi, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, and Niger.