Advocates of this law believe that livestock farming is a business therefore; it is the responsibility of those involved to secure land and establish ranches to raise their cattle. The anti-grazing law makes provisions for livestock owners to apply for land for the ranches and follow laid-down procedures to get the lands. However, since the law came into effect, it has met resistance from various herdsmen groups who vowed not to abide by its provisions but would continue with the open grazing of cattle in several communities of the state. Asides the initial resistance by the recalcitrant herdsmen which saw organized invasion of parts of the state in a bid to resist the law between January and May 2018, the state seemed to have enjoyed some form of reprieve from the menace of the armed marauders. (https://all African.com)
Some other states of Nigeria have also enacted similar laws banning open grazing of animals in their sates yet the problem is increasing by day. The criminal angle to this herdsmen Farmers clashes has come to the melting point as at today where the killing of Nigerians all over the Federation has become a daily occurrence. Our High ways are no more save, all the towns and villages from Abia to Sokoto state are having security concerns.
Farmers are afraid of going to farm as they are likely to be killed, kidnapped or raped. Several villages are forming vigilante groups to wage against the invasion of Herdsmen. The problem has localized that according to security experts, there has been no security issue of this magnitude in Nigeria before. The Government seems to have no solution, all Nigerians hear from the Police and other security agencies whenever people are killed is that the police is on top of it and that the perpetrators will be brought to book. It has become so bad that real estate investors and other businesses are suffering. Many who are building houses in different locations in Nigeria are even afraid to move around. News of planned invasion of major cities in Nigeria is the order of the day.
Nigerians are afraid of the menace of Herdsmen. Nigerians are talking and crying. Those who have the capacity are relocating to other countries. People are afraid of travelling from one state to the other for fear of being killed or kidnapped on our highways. This is where Nigeria found itself before the Federal Government decided to announce the proposed RUGA SETTLEMENT. The Federal government is of the strong view that if States key into the RUGA policy, massive hectares of land would be given to the Federal Government to build these settlements and have the herdsmen do their business of cattle raring only in such contained environments.
They argue that this is the only way that the farmers/ herders clashes could be contained as no herder would be allowed to take his cows beyond these locations. The logic is that it would bring peace, stop all the killings and destruction of properties and bring about improved economic activities and employment in those areas.
On the security angle it would afford the security agencies the opportunity to track, locate and deal with the terrorist elements of the herdsmen who are killing and kidnapping Nigerians. This argument taking further would bring about peace and tranquility in Nigeria which is what we desperately need in Nigeria to achieve economic development and indeed real estate prosperity.
If all things become equal between the herdsmen , their families and friends both foreign and local who would join them in these settlements and their host communities ,then there would be great opportunities for investors in the real estate businesses and the population of these areas would increase and more and more houses would be needed. Rent would increase as the family members of the herdsmen including their religious leaders would need houses, markets, shops, stores, hotels, etc. Real estate development would actually experience a boom in those RUGA SETTLEMENT towns and villages. What a wonderful idea one may say. However God forbid if this relationship turns to be otherwise.
Then we turn to look at what happens to real estate transactions in Nigeria if the reverse becomes the case as argued by those who oppose the RUGA SETTLEMENT policy.
As already stated, we in Property Advisory Network do not want to join the political debate of proposed RUGA settlement. We don’t want to look at the accusations of the OHANEZE, AFENIFERE, IJAW PEOPLE, NIGER DELTA, WESTERN STATES,EASTERN STATES OF NIGERIA that this is a politics of dominion, land grabbing, Islamization, ethnic expansionism etc. We are interested in how the real estate practitioners would either benefit or suffer with this policy if it is actualized as twelve states of the north has accepted the policy and Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has offered to partner with the Federal Government in this regard. In fact he advised all headmen in Nigeria to move to Kano state. According to him, there is enough land for them in Kano state.
As we write this article, Nigerians are still waiting to see the next plan of the Federal Government of Nigeria on the issue of RUGA settlement since according to the information, twelve states of the North has volunteered to partner with it on the programme.
OPPONENTS OF RUGA POLICY
One of the major points of the opponents of the policy is that the Federal Government do not have the right to acquire such land from states. Let’s look at what the law says about the ownership and control of land in Nigeria under the LAND USE ACT 1978 which is the primary legislation guiding ownership, control and acquisition of land in Nigeria
Section I of the Land use Act 2004 is to the effect that all lands comprised in the territory of each states are vested on the Governor of that state and shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefits of all Nigerians. Furthermore, S. 2 of the Land Use Act also vests power on the Local Government to administer Land in rural areas. To this end, the federal government cannot take land from the state governments forcefully or impose the policy to any state that is not willing to subscribe to it. However it must be noted that the Federal Government according to the Eboyi State Governor Dave Umahi after a meeting on the issue stated that no state is being forced to get involved. He explained that the policy is voluntary.
This brings in the question of the legality of the Governors who have conceded to partner with the Federal Government on the program. The question here is weather the Governors of these states have the right to decide to take the land belonging to people to give to the Federal Government for a purpose which is not public in the contemplation of section 28 of the Land Use Act which states that the only reason why a people’s land would be taken away by the Government is only for PUBLIC PURPOSE.
The big question here which the opponents are asking is if RUGA settlement which is a settlement for cattle herders is for public purpose. The castles are privately owned and income from the cows goes to the owners of the cows. One can understand if the Federal Ministry of Agriculture wants to acquire cows and rare in the name of the Federal government and the proceeds from the sales of these cows goes into the REVENUE MOBILZATION FUND for periodic sharing by the three ties of government in Nigeria just like the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation.
So the question is why give to the herdsmen people’s land without payment??? Why is the Federal Government of Nigeria proposing to build infrastructures and facilities for the settlements with public fund??? We will leave the issue for the states that has accepted the policy and the courts to determine the legality or otherwise of this policy.
The opponents of RUGA argue that the scheme is considered to be a deliberate government program which targets the Fulani group for selective appeasement to the detriment of other ethnic groups. Its implementations also involve the expenditure of public funds for the benefit of practitioners of a trade dominated by people from one ethnic group. The political implication of this scheme is that the Fulani Ethnic group is the most powerful and they are at liberty to foist their desire on other ethnic groups simply because one of their own is the president of the country.
To this end, the concept of democracy would merely be theoretical while autocracy becomes the order of the day. On the other hand, if this scheme is implemented, the herdsmen are likely to relate in a hostile and violent manner with their host communities since the settlements are not in agreement with the host communities which will create more problems of insecurity in Nigeria that what we have today. There would be more killings which would be a threat to security of lives and property in the country and indeed the unity of Nigeria. One imagines what the problem is today and what it would be tomorrow when there is more than 36 RUGA settlements in Nigeria. The crises that would follow is better imagined they argue.
The opponents of RUGA also called the policy an act of land grabbing which is forceful dispossession of owners of land from their rights over their land .when this is done it leaves the owners of the land with a lot of hatred and resentment and they will never be at peace with the grabbers . An example is found in South Africa where the land of the traditional South Africans were forcefully taken away from them and given to the white farmers during the apartheid regime.
In South Africa, land ownership has been skewed by historical practices that favored giving land to white settlers at the expense of indigenous owners. Their Land tenure system was based on territorial race segregation which was backed up by statutes and was given support by the government. The Native Land Act of 1913 was passed because of constant pressure exerted by white South Africans who wanted to prevent black South Africans from having access to their indigenous homeland.
Provisions of the Act prevented Black South Africans from buying, leasing and selling lands in scheduled areas. This law robbed black South Africans of their ability to provide for themselves and forced them to relocate to other cities and was the beginning of Socio-economic challenges, class differences, poverty and inequality in the country. This land dispossession resulted in wars between the Choikhoi, San, Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and a number of other ethnic groups against the colonial settlers. (www.sahistory.org.za) The rest is now history as the current government is battling with the policy. The resentment and hatred instituted by this policy is instrumental to the crime and Xenophobic attacks going on in South Africa now of which Nigerians are also victims. I don’t know how many real estate investors who are heading to South Africa today as foreigners are now subject of attacks.
Furthermore, in Senegal, government officials grabbed land from peasant or family farmer communities to sell to wealthy companies. In 2009 there was a fierce debate concerning the rural community of Mbane where large tracks of land were allocated to important politicians who in turn sold to foreign investors for their selfish interest. In 2013, a company named Senhuile, owned by Italian Tampieri financial group was granted 20,000 hectares of farmland to produce sunflower seeds for export to Italy. The Senhuile project affected 37 villages in the area, mainly inhabited by Peul cattle farmers. This triggered violent protests by local communities which left many people dead. (www.aljezeera.com ).
This is where the Property Advisory Network is concerned. If the RUGA SETTLEMENT is forced on to Nigerians. There would be anarchy in the country following the public outcry against the policy and threats of war. The host communities will never be at peace with the settlers and there could be more problems between the herdsmen and this time not just the farmers but the entire communities that own the land traditionally.
The scheme would also affect foreign investment in Nigeria. Foreign investment involves capital flow from one country to another; it can be made by individuals but are most often endeavors made by corporations and companies with substantial assets and income. . Investors are always meticulous on where to invest. No investor would like to invest in an unstable environment or where they won’t enjoy the proceeds of their investment because there are security challenges. Investors in real estate will definitely look away from the country. Even Nigerians who are desirous of investing in real estate businesses would look away from these zones, and the effect in housing development in Nigeria would definitely be disastrous.
In the opinion of PAN, one solution to the farmer herders clash and killer herdsmen in Nigeria is for the government to deploy a joint task force of the military, police and other security agencies to the affected states who are dedicated to bringing peace to the country to curb the conflicts therein. These killer herdsmen should be arrested and prosecuted. The Government should issue stern warning to these murderers and their supporters and indeed mean what they say.
Just yesterday, a group in Benue State called for the proscription of the Cattle breeders association in Nigeria, called them terrorists and accused them of genocide since they have been associated with the numerous killings of Nigerians especially in Benue State. The Federal Government should investigate this accusations we believe that the Government of Nigeria has the capacity to arrest this situation if they want. Furthermore, the federal government should encourage ranching as an alternative to traditional migration of herders. It should encourage the herders to approach owners of land in their choice states and negotiate with them on how to purchase land for this purpose without any form of coercion or intimidation.
The federal government should also revisit the 1965 Northern Region Government Grazing Reserve system and remodel it to deal with contemporary threats. (www.accord.org.za).
Ranching is more preferable than the RUGA scheme and we believe that for the interest peace and peaceful coexistence of Nigeria and development of real estate in Nigeria the Federal Government should take a critical look at the proposed policy and come up with a solution that will promote rather than disintegrate Nigeria so that real estate industry which drives the economy of every country will thrive. Investors should be able to go to major cities and indeed all parts of Nigeria to build houses which is one of the primary needs of Nigeria.