Governor of Plateau State Simon Bako Lalong has given reasons why he rejected the Rural Grazing Area Program, commonly referred to as RUGA from being implemented in Plateau State.
Lalong who was speaking on Channels TV programme Sunrise Daily in Jos said the RUGA initiative was a strange concept that came after the National Economic Council thoroughly debated, scrutinized and adopted the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP) as a very comprehensive and inclusive idea to tackle herder-farmer clashes and other associated challenges.
He said because the RUGA initiative did not have the buy in of stakeholders and fell short of addressing the concerns of most Governors, it was not possible to embrace it. This he said further fueled the misconception over the NLTP which is neither for one ethnic group nor meant for land grabbing.
He said “I was one of the first Governors to kick against the RUGA program when it was introduced. To start with, the concept was literally sneaked in for reasons we did not understand. For me as Governor of Plateau State, I just heared that they have erected signposts in some sites within some local Governments. How can you earmark such a project without my knowledge and buy-in of the people in my State? I had no interest in it because it was far below the NLTP which was more robust and passed through series of engagements with critical stakeholders”.
Lalong also said Plateau State subscribed to the NLTP because of the fact that it will carry along many groups and individuals involved in Livestock business and its associated value chains. These include farmers, herders and other people involved in processing of meat and packaging. There is also a provision for other animals such as sheep goats, pigs, and others.
Lalong who said Plateau State was chosen as one of the pilot States having earmarked the Wase and Kanam Grazing reserves, reiterated that the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP) will go a long way is addressing many of the issues associated with the activities of herdsmen which have led to clashes with farmers and other crimes.
On the violence perpetrated by herdsmen who bear arms, the Governor condemned the act and called for strong measures to end this ugly trend. He lamented that there are many non-state actors who are in possession of arms, a situation that must be addressed.
He said “today, we are now seeing the hazard of allowing people do open grazing here and there. 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’m not justifying anybody to carry 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 these people away from the old type of farming and then introduce them to the modern system.