An unfazed Presidency on Sunday defended the controversial Federal government Ruga settlements programme, arguing that the initiative was not meant to serve the interest of the Fulani ethnic group alone.
In a statement in Abuja on Sunday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, the Presidency bashed some state governors of allegedly feeding the public with wrong information about the intention of the federal government.
It stated that Ruga was “voluntary”, saying that no state was forced to give up land for the project.
The Presidency stated that the Ruga initiative was being politicised by those opposing it to create the impression of a hidden agenda.
The statememy read, “Ruga Settlement that seeks to settle migrant pastoral families, simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organised place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products.
“Beneficiaries will include all persons in animal husbandry, not only Fulani herders.
“The federal government is planning this in order to curb open grazing of animals that continue to pose security threats to farmers and herders.
“The overall benefit to the nation includes a drastic reduction in conflicts between herders and farmers, a boost in animal protection complete with a value chain that will increase the quality and hygiene of livestock in terms of beef and milk production, increased quality of feeding and access to animal care and private sector participation in commercial pasture production by way of investments.
“Other gains are job creation, access to credit facilities, security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling.”
It added, “Stripped of the politics and howling that has attended the recent comments, there is no government plan to seize state land, colonise territory or impose Ruga on any part of the federation. Government has made it clear time and again that the programme is voluntary.
“So far, 12 states have applied to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, making lands available for the take-off of the scheme in their states. This number is sufficient for the pilot scheme.
“Unfortunately, some state governments that have not signified interest in the scheme and, therefore, are not on the invitation list, have been misleading people that the federal government is embarking on a scheme to take away their lands.”
The proposed Ruga settlement has torn the nation apart on social media.