This study was carried out on the perception of RUGA settlement in Nigeria. The continuous desiccation of the Sahara, inter alia, has mounted severe pressures on herding communities in the Sahel regions of Nigeria, leading to their downward movements to central and southern Nigeria in search of pastures for their flocks. This has culminated in terrific violent conflicts to which the RUGA is one of the intervention policies designed by the Nigerian government to mitigate. This work attempts a situational analysis of the RUGA policy to identify the various factors that culminated in its rejection by stakeholders from central and southern Nigeria. Secondary evidences in the form of media reports and primary data such as press releases by stakeholders suggest that the rejection was, among other things, instigated by the hysteria of a calculated stratagem by the federal government to, through federal-might, reallocate ancestral lands of central/southern Nigeria to the demographically pressurised herding groups from the north through the RUGA settlement. There is, therefore, a need for rigorous consultations of stakeholders nationwide in drafting and implementing sensitive policies of national significance.
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
“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 in Benue state.
1.4 Research questions
- What is the overview of the Rural grazing Area in Nigeria?
- Will Ruga stop herders and farmers clashes in Benue State.
- Is there a 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
- b) TIME: 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:
RUGA: 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.
Federal character: 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.
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