RUGA Policy: The Unresolved and Untold Stories | By Omolola Lipede

Nigerians experienced a week that was fully packed from ‘micro-level’ to ‘meso-level’ and to the ‘macro-level’; the week was indeed ‘bumper-to-bumper’. In a week, the case of the COZA Pastor VS Busola Dakolo, the slapping Senator and then the RUGA policy manifested. As an individual, I have never seen Nigerians fight with so much vigorous and fierce unity as we did that same week. Indeed, the Office of the Citizens is becoming a near possibility; hopefully. The week was interesting and got all talking about one thing or the other, however, for this piece; the point of discussion is the RUGA policy introduced by the Federal government of Nigeria.

The RUGA policy is a rural grazing settlement plan to put an end to the clashes between the Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the country. The policy was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2019. According to the presidency, the policy is to curb the open grazing of animals that has continued to pose security threats to farmers and herders. The policy seeks to accommodate the nomadic herdsmen who breed animals. In the settlement, there would be provision of water for animals, pasture, schools for the children, road networks, vet clinics, market, manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products. All these amenities would be put in place to make their stay in the settlements across the country comfortable and smooth.

In the words of Mohammed Umar, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development: We (Federal government) will bring in investors that will set up modern centers where cattle breeders can slaughter their animals. When we do that, a lot of other things will come up. We are going to change their lifestyle, take them away from the streets and from wandering in the bush and develop districts, hamlets and towns and definitely in the next five to ten years no nomad will wander about or to be engaged in kidnapping which will end security challenges.

More so, the overall benefits accorded to the settlements plan are: there would be a boost in animal protection complete with a value chain that will increase the quality and hygiene of livestock in terms of beef and milk production; increased quality of feeding; access to animal care and private sector participation in commercial pasture production by way of investments. The federal government affirms that the policy will develop cattle markets whereby there is no need to transport animals through very long distances.

Reading through all these benefits and promises of the policy, anyone can easily jump at the offer and see it as the savior of livestock farming in Nigeria. However, a generally accepted notion says; ‘look before you leap’. A closer look into the plan left many issues unresolved and many stories untold. The clashes between the herdsmen and farmers have led to the lost of numerous lives in the country, out of the numerous deadly clashes is the killing of more than 70 residents of Benue State; there has been several killing in other states in the country; Jos, Edo, Enugu, Oyo to mention a few. Despite all these serial killings in the country, the presidency has never acknowledged nor accepted that the nomadic herdsmen are behind all the killings and destroy of properties. The question yet to be answered by the federal government is; why build settlements to stop the clashes if they are not behind the killings?

Personally, I don’t think the presidency has been transparent enough with the issue of the herdsmen versus farmers. The government had blame several factors, saying it is a communal clash, insisting foreigners are behind the killing and that herdsmen only carry sticks and not guns in spite of the various pictures that indicates these nomad knows how to handle guns more than they did their sticks. There is a phenomenon that is yet to be well understood by the Buhari-led administration, social trust which is hard to regain when lost. One of reasons nations fail is the lost of social trust in the government, institutions, public policies and the overall governing structures. The presidency failed to believe the people when there was an outcry on how the herdsmen brutally dealt with the farmers, yet it want the people to trust them by permitting the settlement policy. This is like handing over the key of your abode to your sworn enemies and making him your cook; trust me, you won’t stay a minute longer than the key was given to him. Nigerians are not ready to entrust their security matters to the government any longer, we take the bull by the horn and police ourselves. So, until the mystery behind the killings is unraveled; RUGA is unresolved.

Furthermore, the untold story about the emergence of RUGA policy in the face of a similar policy running currently is the justification behind duplication of policies and duties. Is there any break or rancor within the presidency? The curious me wondered because, what is the need of creating conflict of interests? Following the numerous and seemingly unending clashes between the herdsmen and farmers, in June 2008, a policy was established under the office of the Vice
President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo. The National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) founded under the office of the vice president is built on six pillars; economic investment, conflict resolution, law and order, humanitarian relief, information education and strategic communication. The initiative is to run for 10years (2018-2027) and it sees ranching as the way forward for the cattle rearing in the country; any tangible differences with what the RUGA policy seeks to achieve? Why the unnecessary duplication of policies in one government? This is what happens when there exists a lack of proper organizational structure in the governance, I believe the escalated rancor between the state minister of petroleum; Ibe Kachikwu and the former ‘boss’ of the NNPC, Baru tells more about the untold story of unstructured administrative duties in this government.

With all these, what is the ‘Next Level’ to the RUGA policy? There is no need for unnecessary establishment of another policy that will required the disbursement of another public funds likely to be thrown into the alimentary canal of some cabals. The NLTP, I believe has a lot gone into it can be adjusted if need be to accommodate the Fulani herdsmen in order to take them away from the street. The NLTP is to establish ranching centers across the countries which proper registration and monitoring; the herdsmen can form an industrialization of cattle herders in the northern parts of the country and the remaining part of the country should also establish theirs; we like business too. Since, the RUGA plan was said to be for every Nigerians; let’s maintain our lanes. With that we feel safe and not sleep with machetes and guns under our pillows because we accommodated fear.

An inexcusable reason as to the settlements of herdsmen in other part of the country is weather constraints in the Northern part of the country. I referred to this excuse as untenable because science, innovation, technology and countries like Israel have proved beyond doubt that grass can relish anywhere under the sun; even deserts! The world has moved away from primitive ways of getting things done, countries now talk in the language of innovation; we start from here to embark on the technological journey.

Finally, there are stories untold and unresolved in the formulation of the settlements plan. The presidency has to go back to the drawing board and rethink how to end the conflicts and also save the livestock production in the country. Until then, we can’t ‘ruga’ anything.

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