A Public Perception Of Ruga Settlement In Nigeria
1.1 Background of the Study
In Nigeria the practice of preserving land for exclusive use by livestock existed prior to colonial times. Allocation of grazing grounds to pastoralists around towns and villages for use particularly during the cultivation season were socially sanctioned (Waters-Bayer and Taylor-Powell, 1986). However, since there was no legal instrument to prevent encroachment by crop farmers, such reserved areas subsequently disappeared with increasing population and cropping intensity.
This phenomenon was most visible in the subhumid zone of Nigeria where pastoralists from the semiarid zone further north traditionally moved to exploit dry-season pastures. Additionally, improved veterinary services and tsetse control and eradication campaigns have resulted in an expanding ruminant livestock population in the subhumid zone itself and in restricting pastoralists’ access to the grazing lands (Waters-Bayer and Taylor-Powell, 1986). Combined with this, the greater preference afforded to local (i.e. subhumid zone) farmers’ livestock both for grazing and water has contributed to the further reduction of the resources available (Kjenstad, 1988)
The cultivators among whom the pastoralists now live were traditionally subsistence farmers with extensive swidden (slash and burn) agriculture. They kept very few livestock, mostly small trypanotolerant breeds of goats and sheep. Although sleeping-sickness is generally cited as the reason for the sparse population of the zone, it is now recognized that the high labour inputs required for cultivation also deterred settlement. Farming systems are marked by a wide diversity of crops and crop mixtures, often combining cereals, grain legumes and tubers. Compared with the humid and semiarid zones, regional marketing and long-distance trade were poorly developed.
An unfortunate consequence of this situation is that all the most fertile pockets of land in the zone have been occupied. Grazing reserves cannot be sited in populated regions without dislocation of indigenous populations and consequent ill-will. Reserves are necessarily situated in places previously avoided for sound ecological reasons. As an illustration of this, when ILCA tried to keep cattle permanently on Kachia reserve without supplementation, almost half the animals suffered severe malnutrition stress because of insufficient and low quality feed that resulted from the poor nature of the soils.
Nigeria’s cattle-grazing crisis has become a national security threat, sparking ethnic tension nationwide. Amnesty International estimates that more than 2,000 deaths in 2018 alone resulted from clashes between herdsmen and farmers over access to water and pasture and the destruction of land and property — particularly belonging to farmers in the country’s middle belt region.
Herdsmen from the Fulani ethnic region in the north have brought their cattle to other parts of the country to graze for generations. Climate change, rapid population growth and desertification in the north have made it difficult to breed cattle.
The brutal violence has been a problem for some years. In 2014 the Global Terrorism Index judged Fulani militants to be the fourth most deadly terror group in the world, behind Boko Haram, Isis and the Taliban.
In 2018, Nigeria’s National Economic Council took action. It came to the conclusion that the development of designated cattle ranches would be the best solution to the problem. The ministry of agriculture also developed a National Livestock Transformation Plan to address food security and promote industrial growth. The NLTP committee, chaired by vice-president Yemi Osinbajo, also advocated ranching.
Ruga project stemmed from the age-long rivalry with farmers. While herders are feeling relieved from troubles of farmers, farmers are however feeling cheated by the program because they own the lands. As expected, Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue and Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku of Taraba state were the first to reject the move for setting up Ruga settlement in their states. This stemmed from the fact that the indigenes of this states are predominantly farmers, who could not stand the sight of settler-herders in their states.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
But the project is widely seen as a strategic ploy enabling herdsmen to claim subsidised land, in the same areas where they have caused serious unrest. “The current government wishes to dissolve diversity in favour of an ethnic programme,” said Odia Ofeimun, a poet and polemicist.
The press secretary to the Benue state government, Terver Akase, says open grazing in the state has been phased out: “Anyone who wants to rear livestock in Benue has to go through the due process.”
That process entails obtaining a licence from the state ministry of agriculture. The federal government must also seek the state’s permission for land allocation, as required by Nigeria’s 1978 Land Use Act, which they did not do. This undermines the government’s separation of powers and shows serious disregard for Nigeria’s diversity, of nearly 500 ethnic groups.
Pressure from citizens and stakeholders led the government to suspend the Ruga project
This is a problem that policy will not be able to solve without taking into account the region’s cultural history. Nomadic herdsmen have for thousands of years taken their cattle along routes to more states with better resources. The cutting of these cultural ties has made the herdsmen feel victimised. They see a threat to their means of survival. Meanwhile, farmers feel overwhelmed by the volume of cattle.
In light of this challenges little or no research has been carried out on the perception of the people on the ruga settlement program of the federal Government. So this projects aims to find out the perception of the people of Benue state on the Ruga settlement.
1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this study is to examine the public perception of the Ruga settlement in Nigeria.
With specific objectives as follows;
- To examine and have an overview of the Rural grazing Area in Nigeria.
- To determine if Ruga would stop herders and farmers clashes in Benue State.
- To determine if there is a misconception of the Ruga programme iin Benue state.
1.4 Research Hypothesis
- Hi: Ruga would stop herders and farmers clashes in Benue State.
- Ho: Ruga would not stop herders and farmers clashes in Benue State.
- Hi: There is a misconception of the Ruga programme in Benue state.
- Ho: There is no misconception of the Ruga programme in Benue state.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The ability of the state to resolve or regulate the recurring crises and to create an enabling environment where the people’s respect and love for their nation is enhanced would definitely affect the tempo of the national integration positively. Ruga project stemmed from the age-long rivalry with farmers. While herders are feeling relieved from troubles of farmers, farmers are however feeling cheated by the program because they own the lands. Clashes between herders and farmers is not a new thing in benue state but little research is been carried out by scholars on this prominent issue. This study would be useful to government agencies, private individuals and researchers on how the people view the Ruga Programme in Nigeria.
1.6 Scope and Delimitation of the Study
The scope of this study is focused on the publics perception of the Ruga settlement in Nigeria a case study of the Benue state.
The researcher encountered some constraints, which limited the scope of the study. These constraints include but are not limited to the following.
a) Availability Of Research Material:
The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study
The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
1.7 Definition of Terms
The following terms were used in the course of this study:
National integration is the awareness of a common identity amongst the citizens of a country. It means that though citizens belong to different castes, religions, regions and speak different languages, they still recognize themselves as one. This kind of integration is very important in the building of a strong and prosperous nation. National integration can also be seen as the process whereby several desperate groups within a given territorial are united together or cooperate under conditions which do not appear to permit satisfaction of their system needs in any other way.
The Federal character is a principle which seeks to ensure that appointments into the public service fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious and geographical diversity of the country.
1.8 Organization of the Study
This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows
- Chapter one is concerned with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
- Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
- Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
- Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
- Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.
Conclusion and Recommendations
There is barely a state in Nigeria that does not have settlers‟ communities or clusters of settlements for non-aborigines. In fact, it was given credence by the British colonial policy of Sabongari(strangers‟ quarters) which ensured that settlers were clustered in a defined space away from the aborigines (Nnoli, 2007). Thus, having settlers around has never really come with the hysteria of insecurity and land-grabbing. The leading author is aware of a community leader in the IkotEdemOdo community of Akpabuyo, Cross River State that sold a large plot of land to herdsmen, months before the RUGA settlement hysteria. In fact, a former Director, Directorate of Military Intelligence, Col. KunleToogun, had noted that some traditional rulers in the Oke Ogun community of Oyo State were selling lands and inviting herdsmen to their domains just three months before the security spats (Makinde&Bosun, 2019).
The trouble, therefore, with the RUGA settlement policy lied in the fear of the unknown, revolving around conspiracies of “Islamisation, Fulanisationand federal-backed land-grabbing agenda”. Several coincidences, actions, and inactions of the Buhari-led federal government created a favourable climate for the aforementioned fears to thrive. The failure, by the federal government, to carry stakeholders along ensured that very little endorsement and information was available on the public to provide answers for inquisitive minds. It was therefore easy for the Vice President and the state governors to dissociate themselves from what they know nothing about, and by implication, heightening the fears of a possible federal-back demagogue.
Also, the growing brazenness and audacity of herders, as well as the uncouth reactions of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) to certain issues, made for assumptions that “Buhari has made Nigeria headquarters of Fulanis in Africa” (Akinsuyi, 2019). Retrospectively, the wanton rise in the number of herders’ attacks from the inauguration of the Buhari presidency in 2015 and the sluggish response of the President had culminated in the hysteria of purported Fulani planet. The seeming Fulani appeasement policies and failure to punish culprits or security personnel who mutinied9 created more room for speculations on what,actually is the government’s interest in the private pastoral enterprises of the Fulanis.
The RUGA settlement policy could have been a good policy but its antecedents, opacity, and the concomitant fear it generated buried it even before it kick-started. Situations could have been different had the government been perceived by the generality of the citizenry to be proactive, equitable, just and nationalistic. The exclusion of stakeholders and late consultation of primary stakeholders, especially the governors, after the announcement of the policy was a miscalculation – aside depicting political arrogance on the part of the federal government, it bloated the federal power – a reality which the governors were ready to frustrate.
The federal government must, therefore, redeem itself and do everything lawful to convince the citizens that it is neither pro-north or for Fulani. This is very important in allaying fears and regaining the trust and confidence of Nigerians. Secondly, the government must be involved in broad and wide consultations with stakeholders on issues and strategies for the management and resolution of the herders-farmers‟ crisis. Thirdly, the federal government must invest in public relations and display conspicuous and overt commitment to the resettlement and compensation of affected farmers to demonstrate inclusivity in its problem-solving disposition. Without these gestures, the fear-driven perceptions which are appearing real will linger. The public opinion would remain that the government has a sinister move; is unjust; is pro-herders and is indifferent to the plight of the farmers. Consequently, every policy would be analysed from the cloud of fears and accorded apposite conspiracy paradigms.
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