Thanks to the public backlash that heralded the Federal Government’s proposed plan to implement a policy establishing Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) settlements for Fulani herdsmen, President Muhammadu Buhari announced, yesterday, that the plan is hereby suspended.
But why was there ever the need for RUGA?
The Government’s decision to introduce the RUGA settlement initiative was informed by the seemingly endless dispute between Fulani cattle herdsmen and farmers. As you may well know, the situation has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Nigerians.
In defense of the initiative, the Presidency had promised that the initiative will bring about a drastic reduction in the conflict between herders and farmers. RUGA was also envisaged to boost animal production. But despite these positives, many Nigerians were not quite happy with the move. Little wonder the initiative was met with widespread condemnation. Some Nigerians even alleged that the initiative is a preconceived attempt to “Islmatise” some parts of the country.
A “No-Good” Policy
Without a doubt, there is a pressing need to amicably resolve the farmers’ versus herdsmen problem once and for all. However, Nairametrics believes that the latest RUGA move by the Buhari-led Federal Government couldn’t have possibly been the best resolution. This is because the initiative does not make any economic sense. Below are some of the economic blunder the RUGA initiative could have triggered.
1. First of all, the billions of naira worth of “investments”: Note that the Presidency had earlier made it clear that the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) which was introduced in June 2018 to put an end to the agelong herders-farmers crisis is not the same as RUGA.
- The NLTP is a whopping N170 billion initiative by the Federal Government to champion ranching as the way forward for cattle rearing in the country. While this is already huge, more billions will go into RUGA.
- The billions will be assessed by cattle herders as they are expected to be registered with a cooperative for the purpose of the ranching schemes.
- Note that according to the Presidency, 13 States are already in the process of implementation of NTLP to transform the livestock production system in Nigeria along a market-oriented value chain while ensuring an atmosphere of peace and justice.
2. Too expensive for the Government to fund: According to statements recently released by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Umar, RUGA settlements have already started springing up. A total of 11 states have so far been designated as pilot states.
- These states include Sokoto, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Taraba, Katsina, Plateau, Kebbi, Zamfara, and Niger.
- As stated by the Presidency, the RUGA settlement initiative would secure land from “willing states” to build schools, clinics, houses, and other infrastructure which would facilitate the nomads’ settlement in those locations.
- To say the least, the plan is for these RUGA locations to become mini towns. Providing these facilities will obviously gulp billions of the country’s already depleting revenue.
3. No clear-cut pathway to the recovery of investment: It is unclear how the Government intended to recoup the billions naira worth of investments that would have been made if the RUGA initiative had been implemented. In other words, this could as well have been another socialist initiative, characterised by “Jamboree” money splashing by the Government.
4. The threat of increased insecurity: There is the probability that the implementation of the RUGA initiative could eventually encourage insecurity. This is because as herdsmen increasingly multiply within communities, the possibility of friction between indigenes and immigrant herdsmen abounds.
In other words, full-blown conflicts may ensue in some states, especially those whose citizens were gearing up to vehemently resist the Federal Government’s attempt to secure the states’ lands for herders’ settlements. The sovereignty of states’ lands resides in the state governments who can choose to allocate such lands to the Federal Government.
RUGA’s suspension is a move in the right direction. The Federal Government of Nigeria should probably consider learning a few things from other countries around who, through very strategic private sector participation, have been able to turn around their Agric sectors. Typical examples as regards cattle production are Brazil, Israel, Singapore and Australia.
- Brazil, for instance, is the world’s highest cattle producer with 1.46 billion herds.
- Singapore tactfully introduced measures to stop open grazing which has ultimately resulted in the modernization of the country’s cattle industry.
- Also, Israel is reputed to have the highest milk yield per cow, all thanks to the cutting edge techniques it adopts.
In order for any country to truly diversify its economy, the need to fully engage the private sector can never be undermined. Therefore, it is high time private sector investors are encouraged to tap into the opportunities offered by the cattle industry. The Government’s role here should be to regulate.