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Still on the Ruga matter and the threats that followed

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Still on the Ruga matter and the threats that followed

As at the time of writing this piece, news broke that President Muhammadu Buhari has suspended the Ruga grazing settlement scheme initiated by his government, ostensibly because it was not consistent with another initiative of his government – the National Livestock Transformation Plan.

The National Livestock Transformation Program (NLTP) approved by the National Economic Council (NEC) is a voluntary program open to all the 36 states who wish to participate. The plan is for the program to be piloted in 7 states viz Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.

There isn’t a whole lot of details about the NLTP but from its name it will be safe to assume that it would be inclusive of all livestock, since all livestock matter.

Animal farming goes beyond just cattle – we have pigs, goats, poultry, fishery, snail farming, among others. The now suspended Ruga program involved setting up of rural settlement where animal farmers/herdsmen stay in a designated place with full amenities such as schools, hospitals, road network, veterinary clinics, market,water supply etc. Interesting to note that these planned settlements would have existed right next to communities, most of which do not have several of the aforementioned amenities.

There was widespread criticism and opposition to the scheme when it came to limelight in May 2019. There were even protests in some states like Benue which has a history of clashes between farmers and herders. Notable personalities like Wole Soyinka expressed their displeasure. And Nigerians threw up words like Islamization of Middle Belt states and the South. The Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike, said that his state will not participate in any program meant for the herdsmen no matter the name of the scheme. He humorously suggested that the federal government could however lay pipes through the state to get water from the ocean to the far north for cattle.

READ: On Ruga and Fulanisation

Now that the same Government that brought up the scheme has now suspended it, can all parties opposed to the RUGA idea breathe easy? Well it appears the answer is NO.

Not with threats like this: Abdul-azzez Suleiman, speaking on behalf of a coalition of Northern groups on July 3, gave the federal government an ultimatum:

  • “While we warn all state governments that stand against the implementation of the Ruga Initiative to desist and give peace a chance, we place President Buhari and the Federal Government on notice that they must to halt and completely stop this raging madness within 30 days beginning from today, Wednesday July 3 2019.
  • “For the avoidance of doubt we advice the federal authorities and the southern leaders to heed the 30 day notice failing which we will most definitely be left with no option than to consider resorting to our decisive line of action.
  • “We remind the nation that so long as the Fulani would not be allowed to enjoy their citizens’ right of living and flourishing in any part of this country including the south, no one should also expect us to allow any southerner enjoy the same in northern Nigeria.’’

Abdul-azeez’s damning statements bring up so many questions:

  • How come this Northern group is so bold, who is backing it?
  • Does the coalition have any constitutionally recognized right to issue a threat against the federal government and other Nigerians based on decisions made by the government?
  • Did the coalition of Northern groups initiate the RUGA scheme? So why then is the organization so let down due to the suspension of the scheme, especially when the presidency has said there is another program on ground to tackle this same issue?
  • Should the threats be taken seriously, giving the fact that he clearly indicated that the safety of southerners in northern Nigeria will be jeopardized come August 3, 2019? The answer to this last one is an emphatic YES, and in a sane country, the police ought to have moved immediately against the one issuing the threat.

Micheal Angou is a public servant. He writes on politics, new media and technology.

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