Benue rejects settlements for herders, says they’re unconstitutional

Benue State government has said that it will not accept Ruga settlement programme for herdsmen being proposed by the Federal Government across the states of the federation, saying it is against the constitution of Nigeria.

It stated this yesterday in a statement signed by Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, Mr. Terver Akase, and made available to The Guardian in Makurdi.

The government said that Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture with his team came to the state a few weeks ago and informed officials of the state Ministry of Agriculture that he had received directives from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture headquarters, Abuja, to establish Ruga, which means ‘Fulani settlement’ in parts of the state.

It quoted the director as selecting the local councils in Benue State for RUGA settlements to include Otukpo, Tarka and Ukum.

But the Permanent Secretary, Benue State Ministry of Agriculture, according to the statement, drew the attention of the visiting team to the existence of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 being implemented in the state.

It said it reminded the visiting team about the Land Use Act which confers on the governor of a state the powers to administer lands in all parts of the state, an explanation which made the officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture left with a promise to relay the message to their headquarters.

“It is a rude shock to the state government that the officials returned a few days later with contractors to commence work on the Ruga settlement.

“We find the approach of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture not only as a gross violation of the ranching law but also as an insult to the sensibilities of the entire people of Benue State.

“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

“The state only has land for the establishment of ranches,” the statement stated.