Proposed RUGA Settlement Of The FGN: The Effect In Property Development In Nigeria. Part 1

ruga settlement in nigeria

One of the greatest problems the country of Nigeria has been facing in the past few years is the issue of insecurity .Security is one of the biggest issues affecting real estate investment . No one wants to invest in an insecure environment. This insecurity problems include armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping, ritual murder, insurgency by Boko Haram , militancy,   herdsmen and farmers clashes and very recently the inversion of Nigeria by killer herdsmen who have invaded hundreds of towns and villages and killed thousands of Nigerians.

This latest problem of killer herdsmen has generated so much tension in Nigeria because of the ethnic coloration which has been associated to it as a result of their method of operation. So many commentators on the issue have given several opinions to the killer herdsmen issue. Some say it is opposition politicians trying to destabilize the present government, some say it is a ploy to put fears in Nigerians to Islamize the country, some say it is criminality while the government position has been that the Libya crises has left a fall out of elements who have entered Nigeria to cause mayhem. So may schools of thought.

However in trying to find a solution to the problem, the Federal Government of Nigeria came up with a plan called RUGA SETTLEMENT which is meant to take land from various states of Nigeria and settle these herdsmen in particular locations all over Nigeria and get them contained. This proposal was greeted with several outcry from several parts of the country especially states of the south east ,south west, south south and some states of the north .

The federal government has indeed suspended the plan but we in Property Advisory Network haven seen the general outcry of this proposed policy and believing that the Federal Government haven suspended the program may still take it up in an another manner since the idea was not cancelled, decided to examine the effects of this policy in real estate development in Nigeria should the Federal Government insists on moving on with the program

The needless loss of lives and massive destruction of properties caused by open grazing of cattle is said to be one of the major problems in the country. The public outcry against the activities of this armed herdsmen led the government to proffer a permanent solution to the crisis in the form of a settlement referred to as RUGA. The word RUGA is an acronym for Rural Grazing Area Settlement.

According to the carefully worded twitter press release of the Nigerian Presidency announcing the program, “ RUGA settlements are rural settlements in which animal farmers and not just cattle herders will be settled in an organized place with basic amenities like schools, hospitals, vet clinics , markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meat and animal products. According to the presidency, beneficiaries will include all persons in animal husbandry not only Fulani herders. It stated some of the benefits of RUGA settlement to include:

  1. Increased quality of feeding and access to animal care and private sector participation in commercial pasture productive by way of investment.
  2. Job creation and access to credit facilities,
  3. Security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling.

 

The presidency of Nigeria further stated that the RUGA settlement is voluntary meaning that any state that do not want to participate is free not to and that twelve states have applied to the federal ministry of Agriculture to make  land available for the settlement to take off in their states (Tweet by presidency Nigeria, 30th June, 2019).

However, despite the intention of the presidency, the scheme was rejected out rightly by different states of Nigeria mostly from the south east, south south and western states of Nigeria. Their own argument is that the policy is a ploy by the Federal Government to take their land and give to the Fulani herdsmen to rare their cows which is obviously a private business. These state governments stated that they do not have such land and that even if they have ,they are not ready to surrender their land for  RUGA which they view as unethical and ethnic agenda since the herdsmen are predominantly Fulanis and incidentally the president of Nigeria as at today is a Fulani man.

The other more aggressive opponents of this program are the ethnic umbrella organizations of the Igbos, the Yorubas, The Ijaw people i.e OHANEZE NDI IGBO ,  AFENIFERE and The IJAW PEOPLE. Their arguments are that if the Fulanis are given land in such magnitude as proposed by the Federal Government in their ethnic geographical domain, it will result to the Islamization of their ethnic society as this will amount to massive migration of the Fulanis to these RUGA SETTLEMENTS.

Several notable personalities who have the courage and audacity to speak have spoken out against this policy. A good number of others are also in support of the policy as can been seen in several arguments for and against this proposed policy on the radio, televisions, newspapers and social media. It is important to mention here that the opponents of the RUGA settlement  argue that RANCHING (which is the act of acquiring land and confining the cows and herders in a particular location for raring  ) is the modern practice everywhere in the developed climes and that indeed several ranches has been existing before now in the country. The debate continues .

 

The Federal Government has suspended the policy instead of cancelling it fuelling the suspicion that it could still come up with it latter in the course of the administration and this has led to several threats from different groups in Nigeria . Several careless statements have been made by groups in the country which goes to the threatening of the unity and security of our dear country Nigeria. Groups have vowed to resist the program with every means available including violence while others have even issued threats to the Federal Government for withdrawing the proposal and threatened to deal with the southern governors/states for daring to oppose the idea.
There is fear of war all over the country as a result of the proposed policy and concerned people are crying out and those who are privileged are sending open letters to the president warning against the destabilization of this country by the handling of  this herdsmen issue.

We in Property Advisory Network decided to join the debate not in the politics of it but to the extent to which the implementation or Outright dropping of this program is / would affect real estate development in Nigeria .We intend to examine the issue from the Federal government angle and  from the opponents of the program’s angle.

 

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ANGEL:  Before we proceed to examine the federal government angle to this issue, it is also important to look briefly at the circumstances that gave rise to the federal government proposing the RUGA SETTLEMENT in the first place.

The Fulani people are one of the largest ethnic groups that can be found widely dispersed across the Sahel and West Africa. Fulani’s, also called Peul or Fulbe, a primarily Muslim people scattered throughout many parts of West Africa from Lake Chad in the east to the Atlantic coast. They are concentrated principally in Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Senegal and Niger. The Fulani Language known as Fula is classified within the Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language Family (www.britannica.com).

These people are the largest nomadic pastoral community and as pastoral people, they tended to move in an Eastern direction and spread over much of West Africa. Movement of the Fula people in West Africa followed a specific pattern. At first, their relocation was peaceful, but after some time, the Fulani’s become angry and resentful at being ruled by people they deemed as “Pagans” or “imperfect Muslims”. Their anger was driven further by the larger migration that took place in the 17th century and the majority of the migrants were Muslims. By the start of the 18th century, there was a rebellion against local rulers which led to the holy wars (jihad). (www.pulseng.com)

In Nigeria, the Fulanis settled in places that were more developed than other areas in Western parts of Africa. By the 15th century, they had settled in Hausa states such as Kano, Zaria and Katsina as clerics among the local people. Gradually forgetting their own custom, the Fulani people welcomed the way of the Hausa people and began to fill elite positions in Hausa states, but despite the influence of power, they still had ties to the cattle rearing hence they fiercely rejected anything that they perceived as contrary to their lifestyle of roaming with their cattle herds.

This  lifestyle has resulted into conflicts over land with settled agriculturalists in their host communities, reason being that the Fulanis who are always armed to protect their herds from rustlers, wild animals and other threats use this arms to cause violence in the communities whenever there are confrontations by the farmers  over damaged crops caused by cattle grazing. This violence most often than not lead to death of farmers and members of the community who opposes cattle grazing and sometimes it leads to the death of the Fulani herdsmen too.

Furthermore, any community that does not accept cattle grazing is often subjected to violence by the Fulani herders and despite negotiations with them; they still carry out open grazing to the detriment of their host communities. For instance, in Mali, there were accusations by the natives that the Fulani’s were destroying their crops by open-grazing of castles. This led to tension and violence between the natives and the Fulani herdsmen who despite several negotiations continued their cattle grazing.

To this end, the Dozon people of Mali who consist of farmers and hunters decided that the Fulani herdsmen encroachment on their farmland and violence to their people was more than enough and recently in an attack on a Fulani village, they killed over 130 Fulanis whom they felt were perpetrators of the Islamic militant conflict whose aim was to exert power on the people of the country and be in control of their land and governance. This conflict occurred between 2012 to 2015. (www.aljezeera.com

Here in Nigeria, clashes between herdsmen and farmers has been on for a very long time , several governments have been trying to solve the problems by several methods of consultations however records have it that the clashes between herdsmen and farmers assumed a new dimension since 2015. The new dimension is that the  herdsmen who were used to carrying sticks and knives to protect their animals have now resorted to carrying of Sophisticated weapons. Invading villages and killing  the people in thousands, burning down entire villages.

Images of thousands of people in Benue state who were killed by the herdsmen being given mass burials severally in Benue state is still fresh in every Nigerian’s memory. Killings in Platue state , Zamfara state   Ekkiti state ,Anambra state  and indeed everywhere in the country. We doubt if any state including Federal Capital Territory  Abuja is speared of the herdsmen attacks. The most worrying dimension of these killings is that our security agencies seems to be helpless as we do not know of any court in Nigeria today where  these herdsmen who are killing Nigerians in thousands are facing trial .

One expects that in a brutal murder of thousands of people and burning down their properties and villages, several arrests are supposed to be made and investigations conducted to unravel those behind the heinous acts. But unfortunately ,that is not happening ,fueling the suspicions and commentaries that the government  is not doing enough to stop the killings for reasons that is not known to Nigerians. The killings have now localized in the entire country that no state , ethnic or religious group is speared.

It has become the biggest security issue in Nigeria as they have added kidnapping as the economic dimension to the problem. The President of Nigeria has also revealed in one of his media chats abroad  with the foreign media that the killer herdsmen are terrorists that came into Nigeria as a result of the Libya crises and many Nigerians  have wondered and still wondering how Nigeria can sit idly and watch foreigners killing its people in thousands without  arrests nor prosecutions. That claim is still suspect in the comments of many.

It is pertinent to note that in some states of the country, such as Benue, Ekiti and Taraba state, open grazing of livestock has been prohibited. In 2017, the Benue state government enacted a law known as the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranching Establishment Law. The government of Benue state in April 2017 yielded to the demand of people and enacted the law after a bill to that effect was sent to the state assembly and public hearings were conducted across the state to get the input of the people before its passage. The law requires livestock owners to ranch them and it criminalizes open grazing and movement of livestock by foot. This law was enacted to obliterate the violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers which have lead to the loss of thousands of lives and property worth billions of naira.

 

Continue in part 2

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