DAILY FILE – Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State has reacted to the controversy over the proposed Ruga Settlement, an initiative the federal government says will check insecurity arising from open animal grazing.
The proposal, kickstarting in some northern states on a pilot phase, has sparked controversy with many Nigerians accusing the federal government of pushing a land grab policy.
Some have also questioned why the government is funding and piloting an initiative that is effectively supposed to be a private business.
Some state governments, including Benue and Edo, have rejected the planned Ruga Settlement. The South East and South South states have also said they will not welcome the programme.
As a member of a committee handling the government’s effort to check incessant clashes between herders and farmers, Mr Lalong defended the programme on Monday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
He also spoke about the Super Eagles at the presidential villa, Abuja.
Read the excerpts:
On his visit to the president
I come to see the president on behalf my state and on behalf of the 19 northern states as chairman of Northern governors’ forum. I came in to have a discussion with Mr President. Of course many of you know that I just came back from Egypt where we went to cheer our Super Eagles and I also brought him the concerns of our players over there and he promised to handle the matter immediately. Because football is a unifying factor in Nigeria and we shouldn’t joke with it, if they bring back the cup it will cement our relationship and that is one of it.
Secondly, it’s how we intend to start operation in respect to the general insecurity in the north and I have already briefed him because we are still going to have our meeting in the north. Particularly also, some of the issues about my state is to express our gratitude for his support when we have the National Assembly leadership position. Of course you know I am a beneficiary – the deputy speaker directly comes from my state and I should come and say thank you for giving me deputy speaker and for ensuring that we had a smooth election.
Can you share some of the concerns of the Super Eagles?
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Well, many of the concerns raised were that their allowances were not paid and Mr President expressed surprise that (he) signed these allowance and wondered why they are not paid to them. I was a footballer, it’s not like before when you play football out of patriotism, now it’s combined with the economic aspect. When you bring people, definitely from the ministry, you must ensure that their allowances are paid. We went there for the joy of it and the day we were there they won their match but when we left yesterday, I understand they lost to Madagascar.
Defeating Guinea and allowing Madagascar to defeat us is a surprise, but I think with good motivation, these boys would bring back the cup.
Given the security challenges confronting northern Nigeria what do we expect to see from your leadership?
So many things. I am going to take over tomorrow (Tuesday). I have not done the formal handingover but I am going back to Kaduna to take the handing-over and thereafter, create a roadmap for peace and security in the north and we are also thinking of immediately organising a northern security summit.
The Ruga Settlement project is now becoming a controversial issue for the entire country, what is your view on this project and what is the position of plateau state?
I think the Ruga thing should not be anything that should bring controversy with the level of sensitisation we’ve already made. I am a member of the food security committee, I am a member of the herdsmen/farmers committee, we’ve gone a long way on this issue and we’ve said that the only solution that can address some of these insecurity issues between herdsmen and farmers is the ranching policy. You remember that one time we have gone far when some people called it colony and called it this and that, and it created controversy.
Again, we have gone far under the leadership of Mr Vice President, and then we are hearing other terms, what they are talking about is the same thing that we are talking about. But I think when they mentioned Ruga, it may be particular to a particular tribe but what we are doing is all encompassing, it’s for the benefit of Nigeria. I have said particularly in my state that animal husbandry, livestocks rearing is not a prerogative of one tribe, everybody must get involved in it and that is what we have done in our state when we registered for it. We said we are going to put these structures to enable us to encourage youth, train youth. Right now we are training permanent secretaries, retired civil servants who would also get involved in it so that we can address some of the insecurity that we have in the nation.
So, when somebody mentioned another word, people would not wait to question and find out who and who are bringing those words, that is just the simple fact. But if you go to what we have done because they have mentioned some states which are included, yes, those states applied, those states said we have land for it. It’s not federal government that is imposing it on any state. To the benefit of Mr President, the president has not imposed that on any states, it was voluntary. And they said any state that is prepared to do that to address insecurity in his state should come and apply. So some of the states applied and we are at the level of the pilot scheme and some mischief makers would start bringing terms to cause confusion in the country. It’s very unfortunate” Premium Times report.
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