Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, has rejected the federal governments plan to set up farm settlements for herdsmen.
In a statement released by his spokesperson, Terver Akase, Ortom described the initiative as an insult to the people of Benue.
He said the move was a “gross violation” to the open grazing prohibition and ranches establishment law 2017 being implemented in the state.
He said the federal government is planning to establish settlements in Otukpo, Tarka and Ukum local government areas in the state despite the opposition of his administration.
The governor however noted that the state government is willing to support cattle owners to establish ranches as provided by the law, insisting that the state “has no land for grazing reserves, grazing routes, cattle colonies or ruga settlements.”
“A few weeks ago, the director, federal ministry of agriculture with his team in Benue state informed officials of the state ministry of agriculture that he had received directives from the ministry’s headquarters Abuja to establish Ruga which means ‘Fulani settlement’ in parts of the state,” he said in a statement.
“The permanent secretary, Benue state ministry of agriculture drew the attention of the director and his team to the open grazing prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 being implemented in the state. When they were also reminded about the Land Use Act which confers on the governor the powers to administer lands in all parts of the state, officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture left with a promise to relay the message to their headquarters. They surprisingly returned a few days later with contractors to commence work on the Ruga settlements.
“During the National Council on Agriculture summit which took place in Owerri, Imo State in April this year, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture attempted to impose Ruga settlement patterns on the states but the Benue state delegation seized the opportunity to remind the summit that Benue State has a law on ranching which has phased out open grazing. No one at the summit put forth an alternative method of animal husbandry to counter the state’s presentation.
“It could also be recalled that the National Economic Council, NEC, had also unanimously adopted ranching as the best method of livestock breeding for the country. It is therefore shocking to see the Federal Government turning round to establish Fulani herdsmen settlements in some states including Benue, contrary to the position of NEC.
“We wish to remind those pushing for Ruga settlements that the Constitution of the country gives states the right to make laws for the governance of their people. Any attempt to subvert such right is a direct attack on the Constitution. Those behind such a move are enemies of peace and progress.
“The Government of Benue State is willing to support cattle owners to establish ranches as stipulated by the law prohibiting open grazing.”
Meanwhile, the federal government says it has begun establishing settlements for herdsmen across the nation to address the clashes between farmers and cattle rearers.
The programme which is at its pilot phase will entail the construction of ranches across twelve states in the country.
Under the new plan, cattle herders are expected to be registered and recognize with cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme.