Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom has kicked against plans by the Federal Government to establish ‘Ruga settlements’ for Fulani herdsmen in the state.
Ortom insisted that Benue does not have lands to accommodate the herdsmen for the purposes of grazing reserves, grazing routes, cattle colonies or ruga settlements.
He said the state can only afford to give lands for ranches establishment.
In a statement by Terver Akase, his Chief Press Secretary, the Governor stated that Benue people would embrace the policy only if it supports the implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
The statement added, “It has become necessary to make the position of the government and people of Benue State abundantly clear on the Ruga settlements for herdsmen being implemented by the Federal Government across the states including Benue.
“A few weeks ago, the Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture with his team in Benue State informed officials of the State Ministry of Agriculture that he had received directives from the Ministry’s headquarters Abuja to establish Ruga which means ‘Fulani settlement’ in parts of the State.
“The Director stated that the local government areas selected for the Ruga settlements were Otukpo, Tarka and Ukum.
“The Permanent Secretary, Benue State Ministry of Agriculture drew the attention of the Director and his team to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 being implemented in the state.
“When they were also reminded about the Land Use Act which confers on the Governor the powers to administer lands in all parts of the State, officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture left with a promise to relay the message to their headquarters. They surprisingly returned a few days later with contractors to commence work on the Ruga settlements.
“We find the approach of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture not only as a gross violation of the Ranching law but also as an insult to the sensibilities of the entire people of Benue State.
“It could be recalled that the people and government of Benue State rejected cattle colonies and still reject the policy in whichever robes it is disguised.”
“It could also be recalled that the National Economic Council, NEC, had also unanimously adopted ranching as the best method of livestock breeding for the country.
“It is therefore shocking to see the Federal Government turning round to establish Fulani herdsmen settlements in some states including Benue, contrary to the position of NEC.
“We wish to remind those pushing for Ruga settlements that the Constitution of the country gives states the right to make laws for the governance of their people.
“Any attempt to subvert such right is a direct attack on the Constitution. Those behind such a move are enemies of peace and progress.
“The Government of Benue State is willing to support cattle owners to establish ranches as stipulated by the law prohibiting open grazing.
“We however wish to reiterate that Benue State has no land for grazing reserves, grazing routes, cattle colonies or ruga settlements. The State only has land for the establishment of ranches.”