The proposed Ruga programme for cattle headers has been suspended by the Federal Government. However, Abubakar Tsav, a retired Commissioner of Police from Benue State, a state that has recorded the highest farmers / headers clashes and associated deaths says the concept would have been beneficial, but was unfortunately politicised. He says that rather than an outright suspension, the Federal Government should have made it optional and allow the states that are inclined to Ruga to go ahead. He also spoke on other national issues.
The Federal Government has suspended the implementation of Ruga programme it earlier planned to introduce in 12 pilot states across the country. What are your thoughts on this?
It is most unfortunate that whenever the government comes up with any programme that is good for the development of this country and the society such programme will be politicised. The Ruga programme is similar to ranching; they are more or less the same thing. The Ruga is a settlement for Fulani headers and the ranches is also a settlement for Fulani headers; they both have the same objective. All we have is just a change of name. I am of the opinion that if the programme is established all over the country, they will be able to restrict the movement of the Fulani headers and their cattle with the attendant issues of conflicts and destruction of farmlands and crops would be reduced. Some people argue that land belongs to the farmers and ultimately belongs to the stated governor who has been vested with control over all the land but ultimately it is God that provides the land. If these headers are settled, it will stop the destruction of land. The Ruga programme would have brought a lot of benefit to us. It would have been a source of hides and skin which could be exported for revenue. There are also other bye products like cheese. It would also create jobs, including for those selling animal feed. Unfortunately people kicked against it and so the Federal Government suspended it because it is a responsive government that listens to what the people say. It is most unfortunate the programme had to be stopped. If I were in position of authority I will tell states that are willing to do it to go ahead by the time others see the benefit of the programme they too can come in.
The government’s claim is that Ruga is designed to solve farmers / headers clashes. But your state, Benue, has been an epicenter of these clashes. So why is the state government opposed to allocating land for Ruga?
Benue State has already made a law prohibiting open grazing. It has also made provision for ranches. What I expect the state government to do is to tell the headers that since we have a law prohibiting open grazing, we can help you establish ranches here or there. But the state government has not done anything to help the headers establish their ranch that is what I’m saying. What is happening in my state is that a religious aspect has been introduced into the whole thing. In Benue State today they call every Muslim Miyetti Allah. They even say I am an agent of Miyetti Allah because I’m a Muslim. It is unfortunate. People want to use religion to divide us.
As it stands now, the ranches have not been established and Ruga has been cancelled. How do we avoid unnecessary farmers / headers clashes and loss of lives?
The way out is to go back to ranching because it is the only way they can restrict the movement of headers. Now, there is bound to be struggle over land, there is bound to be struggle over crops and there is bound to be conflict, that will not help us at all. Life is very short; we cannot spend our lifetime fighting over this. I think the Federal Government and the state governments should come together and agree on a system that will reduce conflict between headers and farmers.
A group under the aegis, Coalition of Northern groups has issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government to reverse the suspension of Ruga or face dire consequences. What do you say to such threat?
If I were in government I will advice all stakeholders including the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MCBAN) to meet and come up with the best resolution over this issue. To allow headers to be roaming about killing people, destroying farmlands and causing trouble is not good. The government should take a definite action on the headers issue and solve it once and for all.
What do you recommend?
Ruga should be optional, any state that wants to sign up to Ruga should be allowed to do so. If it is done at the pilot level and at the end all the states of the federation decide to sign up to it after they must have found it a worthy venture it will be good. I think that is the best thing to do. It should be optional; to say you are cancelling the whole thing is not good. Government should provide a conducive atmosphere for farmers to carry out their activities because in Benue State we have no other source of livelihood apart from farming. So, when herdsmen invade our farms, they destroy our livelihood. To allow cattle herdsmen to roam about destroying out farms is very unfair. I think the best we can do is to abide by the grazing law which has been promulgated in Benue State. However, at the same time the government should create ranches. The herdsmen cannot create these ranches on their own.
Let’s talk about some other issues, we are gone more than 30 days since President Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated for his second term and there is still no cabinet in place. In 2015, it took the president four months to form his cabinet, perhaps because he was just coming in, although that is not good enough excuse having contested severally before. But now after four years in office, why the delay?
The president is not alone in this because some states have not formed their own executive council. I can’t speak for the president, but maybe he wants to be very careful this time. But I agree with you that it is taking too long a time to do this because since he was elected he should have taught of the calibre of people he wants to work with. The delay is not good at all.
President Buhari’s major focus throughout his first term was anti-corruption and indications are that it will be same this second term. However, despite this, Nigeria still ranks very high on the global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by Transparency International (TI). What could be responsible?
President Buhari is a man of integrity, he is not corrupt, and everybody acknowledges that. But the people around him are corrupt so he is having a hard time fighting the war. Even as I talk, go to the crime web in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) office, you will see what is there. Unless Nigerians will have a change of heart and work with the president to fight corruption, to be honest, we will not go far. Life is short and whatever we acquire on earth will be left behind when we die. However, the government should be able excise the society of all manifestations of corruption because when we do it we will succeed. The government should also ensure strict punishment is applied to those found guilty to serve as deterrence to others. But as long as we do not have zero tolerance for corruption and show no interest in fighting corruption we will not succeed.
You say some people around the president are corrupt. If the president is such a man of integrity, why doesn’t he sack these corrupt people?
We have a failed system. There are several people with corruption cases ongoing against them and yet they were allowed to contest and win election? Do you think we are fighting corruption when such occurs? We are not. If the president wants to appoint people into his cabinet, he should assess them and get the security agencies to work on them and ensure they have no cases of corruption against them and they are men and women of integrity before appointing them. But it seems we are confused.