RUGA is a ‘strange concept’ the Buhari government wanted to sneak into Nigeria – Governor Lalong

Plateau governor Simon Lalong said he rejected the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) programme because it is “sneaky”.

Lalong gave the explanation when he appeared on a Channels TV programme, Sunrise Daily, on Tuesday.

Lalong said the RUGA initiative was a strange concept that came after the National Economic Council had adopted the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP).

The governor said the council, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and which members include state governors, saw NLTP as a comprehensive approach to tackling the cattle herder-farmers conflict and associated challenges in Nigeria.

Lalong said on the other hand, RUGA, which was also proposed to address the same problems, did not have the buy-in of concerned parties and fell short of addressing the concerns of most state governors.

“I was one of the first governors to kick against the RUGA programme when it was introduced,” Lalong said.

“To start with, the concept was literally sneaked in for reasons we did not understand. For me as Governor of Plateau State, I just heard that they had erected signposts in some sites within some local governments.

“How can you embark on such a project without my knowledge and the buy-in of the people of my state?

“I had no interest in it because it was far below the NLTP, which was more robust and passed through a series of engagements with critical stakeholders.”

Lalong said Plateau subscribed to the NLTP because it will carry along many groups and individuals involved in livestock business and the value chain.

“These include farmers, herders and other people involved in processing and packaging of meat. There is also provision for other animals such as sheep, goats, pigs and others,” he said.

Lalong said Plateau State was chosen as one of the pilot states for the NLTP, having earmarked the Wase and Kanam grazing reserves for it.

He said the implementation of the NLTP will go a long way in addressing many of the issues associated with the activities of herders, which have led to clashes with farmers and other crimes.

On herders bearing arms, the governor condemned the practice and called for strong measures to check it.

He lamented that many non-state actors are in possession of arms in the country, saying the situation must be addressed.

“Today, we are now seeing the hazard of allowing people do open grazing here and there,” Lalong lamented.

“But they (herders) also want solution. By the time you explain to them, they also want to stay in one place, they would also want to keep away from carrying AK-47.

“I am not justifying anybody carrying AK-47 but don’t forget that in the course of our deliberations and investigations, it was not only Fulani herdsmen that were carrying AK-47, even farmers were carrying AK-47.”

The governor said in order to address the situation, deliberate efforts must be put in place to curtail the influx of light arms while other ways, such as the NLTP, must be embraced to take people away from the old type of farming and introduce them to the modern system.

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