Amid hurdles, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje at the weekend launched the Kano State Rural Grazing Area (RUGA), the first cattle herders’ settlement in the country, where the nomads are to be accommodated for expansive grazing of their flock.
The governor inaugurated the first phase of 25 housing units out of the projected 200, situated on 4,413 hectares of land at Dansoshiya Forest in Kiru council area of the state.
In June 2019, the RUGA policy threw up a lot of controversies, threatening the very foundation of Nigeria’s nationhood.
The suspicions, interpretations and sentiments the proposed programme generated led to its suspension in all the 36 states of the federation by the Federal Government.
The project, as contemplated by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, was to end open grazing – the main factor behind the incessant and needless deadly farmers and herdsmen clashes – nationwide.
Although the central government had insisted that the RUGA policy was consistent with the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), it was, however, obvious that several state governments were opposed to the scheme.
Instead, the Federal government returned the formation and funding of the plan to interested state governments.
Those who vehemently kicked against the cattle colony claimed it would amount to open invitation to unwanted visitors on their land.
Some of the opponents insisted that embracing RUGA meant identifying with kidnappers and cattle rustlers.
But puncturing the insinuations, Ganduje explained that the measure would effectively resolve the disturbing skirmishes between herdsmen and farm owners in the country.
Rationalising the funding of multi-million naira RUGA project, the governor said his government believes the scheme would turn around the economic statuses of breeders and provide new sources of revenue for the government.
Ganduje, who described open grazing as unproductive, claimed that the unconventional livestock breeding in place was responsible for the over-dependence on milk importation in spite of the country’s potential to meet local demand.
He submitted that rearing cattle in designated grazing areas like the RUGA colony would enable animals to produce optimally.
Besides, the governor called for a ban on cross-border migrations, especially the Fulani herdsmen from other West African nations, to check the herders-farmers conflicts and other security challenges.
He canvassed a review of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on free movement to address the unrest, which he alleged, was being orchestrated by foreign nomads.
Exonerating the northern cattle rearers from the attacks in the southern part of the country, Ganduje accused the foreign herdsmen of importing dangerous weapons to wreak havoc in the most populous black nation.