Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, says the proposed “Ruga Settlement” is not for herders alone.
Reacting to the massive opposition towards the project, Shehu said it is untrue that the federal government has the plan to forcefully take lands from some states.
He also expressed disappointment with the recent “unhelpful comments” regarding the plan to stop roaming of cattle herders with the attendant clashes with farmers.
“Ruga Settlement seeks to settle migrant pastoral families. It simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, would be settled in an organised place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities,” he said.
“Such amenities include schools, hospitals, road networks, veterinary clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that would process and add value to meats and animal products.
“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.”
According to the presidential aide, other gains of the scheme are job creation, access to credit facilities, security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling.
“Stripped of the politics and howling that has attended the recent comments, there is no government plan to seize state land, colonize territory or impose Ruga on any part of the federation,” he said.
”Government has made it clear time and again that the programme is voluntary.”
Shehu added that so far, 12 states had applied to the ministry of agriculture, making lands available for the take-off of the 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,” he said.
”Mostly, these are state leaders that have no explanation to offer their people for continued non-payment of workers’ salaries. It is true that government at the centre has gazetted lands in all states of the federation but because the idea is not to force this programme on anyone, the government has limited the take-off to the dozen states with valid requests.”
The presidential spokesman urged states to partner with federal government in encouraging all sides to these conflicts to make efforts towards finding a peaceful resolution.