How FG’s Farm Settlement In 109 Senatorial Zones Is Reawakening Ruga Fears

By Editor

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has unveiled a ridiculous plan “to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty” using an archaic strategy of Federal Government-run or public sector managed Integrated Farm Estates or settlements to be set up in the entire 109 senatorial zones of the the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari inspects the poultry section of the inaugural Integrated Farm Estate in Suduje-Daura, Katsina State, during the launch and commissioning on July 19, 2021.

He announced this on Monday July 19, 2021, when he commissioned the first National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) Integrated Farm Estate, in Suduje-Daura, Katsina State.

This has raised fresh concerns among indigenous Nigerians who suspect this could be Ruga by other means.

Ruga, which is said to be a Fulani word for human settlement, was a Buhari administration policy developed by the National Livestock Transformation Plan under the Nigeria Economy Council to “create reserved communities where herders will live, grow and tend their cattle, produce milk and undertake other activities associated with the cattle business without having to move around in search of grazing land for their cows.”

President Buhari suspended the implementation of the controversial Ruga settlements project across the country, on a day that can not be forgotten in a hurry, because it was met with stiff opposition from several quarters.

On that day, some Arewa militants under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, gave southern leaders 30 day-ultimatum to accept the Ruga Project in peace, and to President Buhari to implement the programme because, according to them, unless the Fulani are allowed to rear their cattle in peace in the Southern part of the country, they will not allow southerners to enjoy peace in the Northern part.

This development prompted a swift reaction from the apex sociocultural group of the country’s indigenous Igbo-speakers, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which declared that “there is no land for Ruga in the South-East.”

This was followed swiftly by another reaction from Afenifere, the apex sociocultural group of Nigeria’s indigenous Yoruba-speakers, which described the ultimatum by the Arewa militants as “insulting and provocative.”

Even the Chief E.K. Clark-led Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, was not left out as it stated that the said development had exposed the misguided Arewa militants “as enemies of the country.”

The national atmosphere of Nigeria was fully charged that Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria, FEHN, Chief Allen Onyema, a globally renowned advocate of peace and founder of Air Peace, had to urge “caution on the part of all stakeholders to avert anarchy.”

The Ruga policy was roundly rejected because indigenous Nigerian communities which were already facing sustained terror attacks by militant herdsmen saw it as a disguised land grab effort by the Buhari administration for the President’s tribesmen from the rest of the West African subregion.

However, this new initiative is being driven by the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA), an agency that has been moribund for decades, but now resuscitated by President Buhari without trying to find out why it failed earlier, according to him, to meet the growing needs of the country.

“I am happy to see that my directive to the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of NALDA, Paul Ikonne, and his management team, when I launched the National Young Farmers Scheme (NYFS) in November 2020, is gradually taking shape,” he announced joyfully.

President Buhari who recalled how he had directed that all NALDA’s abandoned farm estates be retrieved to enable thousands of young citizens to be engaged in farming declared that his administration will be achieving agricultural mechanization through this scheme and that he is confident that Nigeria under his watch, would achieve food security, and may even export surpluses and earn foreign exchange.

“The Integrated Farming scheme, again, opens up more opportunities for employment, and most importantly creates communal-based system that promotes food security, skills acquisition and entrepreneurship.

“I am impressed to see that this NALDA Integrated Farm Estate is purely organic and it further expresses my desire for Nigeria and Nigerians to have food sufficiency and begin to earn more foreign income through agriculture. As a government, what I am seeing here today shows my administration’s desire is genuine and realizable that our peoples’ orientation to farming can be changed for good.

“I wish to restate my commitment that getting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty is realisable. The country is robustly blessed with good weather conditions, good soil, human and material capacity, and a resilience to make a difference by all the hardworking youths.

“We can do it, and we will do it. No excuse will be good enough to remain a mono-economy with all the challenges in oil production and fluctuating global prices when we have vast opportunities in crop and livestock production.

“As the world becomes more globalized, countries will continue to draw from their competitive advantage to remain relevant. My belief, and it is also shared by many Nigerians, is that our country has a special advantage in food and livestock productions that we must harness and promote to feed ourselves, and build a firm structure for exportation.

“Our vision of a robust agricultural economy continues to provide amazing results. Across the country today, we are seeing rising public and private interests in agriculture, especially among the youth, and a steady migration from subsistence to commercial farming.

“With the support of public institutions, like the Central Bank and Bank of Agriculture, old tools are giving way to more mechanized styles of farming, credit lines are becoming more accessible, and farming is becoming more acceptable and fashionable. Indeed, we are witnessing a revolution in the agricultural sector.

“I have directed all Federal Government institutions to work in synergy in lifting and diversifying the economy, and to give NALDA all the support it needs to expand the Integrated Farm Estate across the 109 senatorial zones in the country.

“I thank Governor Aminu Bello Masari of katsina State for providing a 100-hectare land for the project, and call on other Governors to emulate him and provide full support to all Federal Government Agencies working to implement our vision of lasting economic growth and prosperity. J Development Authority (NALDA) was already moribund when we assumed office. We had to resuscitate it to meet the growing needs of the country. I am happy to see that my directive to the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of NALDA, Paul Ikonne, and his management team, when I launched the National Young Farmers Scheme (NYFS) in November 2020, is gradually taking shape,” President Buhari further stated.