RUGA SETTLEMENT: PHASE IT OUT COMPLETELY – BENUE GOVT
By Ufuoma Egbamuno
Benue State government says it hopes the Federal Government goes beyond just the suspension of the RUGA Settlement Project to a “complete phasing out of the programme,” even as it calls the suspension a “victory for all peace loving Nigerians.”
On Wednesday, Kebbi State governor Atiku Bagudu confirmed the suspension after a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The meeting was also attended by Ebonyi governor Dave Umahi, Plateau governor, Simon Lalong Deputy Governor of Adamawa state and Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture.
Speaking on 99.3 Nigeria Info Lagos’ programme, Hard Facts, Terver Akase, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Benue governor, insisted that the suspension “had nothing to do with just the interest of Benue state,” as it was it “was a collective (and) national struggle by good Nigerians.”
According that Akase, the opposition to RUGA project was from “Nigerians who felt that what was coming was sinister, something that would divide the country and make some people slaves in their own ancestral homes.”
The Benue Spokesperson called on the Federal Government to go one more step than just the suspension.
“We do hope that thus will not just be a suspension but a complete phasing out of that programme,” Akase said.
Earlier, Governor of Benue Samuel Ortom commended President Muhammadu Buhari for heeding the call of Nigerians. In a statement received by Nigeria Info FM, the Benue governor stressed that “the rejection of the RUGA settlement model was not personal but rather a struggle by Nigerians against impunity and injustice.”
On Tuesday, the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF) had called on the Federal Government to setup a roundtable conference of ethnic stakeholders, to discuss and clarify grey areas concerning its RUGA settlement proposal. Yerima Shettima, AYCF National President, told Nigeria Info FM correspondent Georges Macnobleson-Idowu that the project had “grey areas” that needed clarification.
Earlier, Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity insisted there was no difference between RUGA and Cattle Ranching and that it was not confined to one ethnic group.
Speaking to Channels TV, Garba said "Cattle Ranching is the same thing as RUGA. It is six and half a dozen. It is not confined to only Fulani; it is a business that is open to all Nigerians."
But in a chat with Hard Facts hosts Sandra Ezekwesili and Aghogho Oboh, the Benue Spokesperson disagreed with the notion.
“How is that true? When even in the conception of the name, RUGA means Fulani Settlement,” Akase queried. “
“So when you say you are operating a programme for all Nigerians and you give it an ethnic name, ab initio, you have excluded other Nigerians from that programme,” the Benue spokesperson.
The CPS added: “A Ranch is what Nigerians need not a RUGA where you come and colonise a community as big as a local government area and give to cattle herders to live in at the expense of security of the people.”
“The suspicion kept growing and growing till Nigerians said, look we cannot take this and that’s why you have seen that the federal government has suspended the programme.”
Meanwhile, Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has commended the Federal Government for suspending the RUGA Settlements Project in the country.
A statement by the President General of Ohanaeze, John Nnia Nwodo on Wednesday through his Special Adviser on Media, Emeka Attamah, said it was a piece of heart-warming news.
According to the statement, Nwodo said: “it is heart-warming to observe that for the first time the current leadership at the federal level has deferred to people’s opinion on public issues.”