Following the announcement of the RUGA settlements initiative by the federal government, there has been a lot of ruckus on and off social media, as people voice their opinions concerning the issue. If you’re a Nigerian, then I assume you need no explanation as to what the issue of Fulanis and their cattle hustling has brought about in the nation and the number of lives and property that have been lost to the attendant conflicts.
One can, therefore, understand why the majority are uncomfortable with the idea of the settlements, to them it appears like a ploy to claim land across the country for Fulani herders. On its part, the presidency has refuted these theories as false, saying that the purpose of these settlements is to curb open grazing of animals and reduce conflicts between herders and farmers.
Given the fact that a lot of water has gone under the bridge over the herdsmen issue, one can almost understand why people still think there is a hidden agenda. There is controversy over the meaning of the word RUGA itself. Some say it is a Fulani word that translates as “Settlement”, while others believe it is an acronym for “Rural Grazing Area”. The common perception is that it is about acquiring land in other people’s areas for the otherwise itinerant Fulanis who could over time ‘take-over’ as it were. With all the crimes of justice perpetrated by this group over clashes that could pass for terrorist acts, and the seeming reluctance of the government to describe it as such, the desire of those who have rejected it is that the government seeks other solutions.
In a Whatsapp post that was severally shared, a former farm manager of Oodua farms spoke of several abandoned cattle ranches under their portfolio that government could resuscitate and put to better use, saying “If we champion our own food program, we will have improved national security because food security is pertinent to National security. RUGA on our land is being canvassed for because we that own the resources are neglecting them. Let rise and build the State.”
The final course the presidency truly decides to take on the issue will soon be brought to light but before then, we owe it to ourselves to voice our opinions to improve and uphold the sanctity of our democracy. For in spite of everything, because there is no land in Nigeria that is not owned by an individual, family or a community, we are all stakeholders!
This is why we solicit your views on the matter. Let us know in the comments section below.