The Presidency yesterday said the idea of Ruga settlement was conceived to address the clashes between farmers and herders in the country.
A presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu last night said 12 states have so far indicated interest in the programme.
"The presidency wishes to draw attention to recent unhelpful comments regarding the plan to stop roaming of cattle herders with the attendant clashes with farmers.
"Ruga Settlement that seeks to settle migrant pastoral families simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organized place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products," he said.
He said beneficiaries will include all persons in animal husbandry, not only Fulani herders.
He further said that the Federal Government was planning the programme 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.
"Other gains 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. Government has made it clear time and again that the programme is voluntary.
"So far, twelve states have applied to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, making lands available for the take-off of the scheme in their states. This number is sufficient for the pilot scheme," he said.
He however said " 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.
"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."
He urged states to join the Federal Government at the centre in encouraging all sides to these conflicts to make efforts towards finding a peaceful resolution.
"As we seek a permanent solution to these unwanted conflicts, efforts must be made to ensure that no innocent person faces any kind of deprivation or loss of right and freedom under our laws," he said.
Our deal with herders, by S/East govs
The South East Governors Forum yesterday said the only deal it had with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) was that when the Federal Government revamped grazing reserve in the north, all the cattle rearers in the south would take their cattle there and rely on the grasses grown in the south.
The chairman of the forum and governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, in a statement by his spokesman, Emmanuel Uzor, said there was no plan for a Ruga settlement in any part of the southeast and south-south.
According to him, southeast is purely agrarian with limited landmass for farming and therefore cannot accommodate Ruga.
Umahi said members of MACBAN and the South East would achieve symbiotic trade of cow and grass.
The statement read: "Umahi was the Chairman of National Economic Council sub-technical committee on farmers and herdsmen clash and he toured the states of Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Zamfara and two other states where he made in one of his recommendations to the federal government for revamping of grazing reserve in the south where all the cattle rearers in the south will take their cattle to and rely on the grasses that are grown in the south
"The way it works is that the herdsmen will bring down their cows to the southeast and sell us as meat while they will load the grasses which are grown here in the same trailer with which they transported their cows to feed their cattle in those grazing reserve which should be made comfortable for them.
"By this herdsmen are expected to embrace anti open grazing by returning to the ranches in the North and do their business on the trade by barter basis of selling cows to the South and buying grass to feed their cows in the North", he said.
He further called for tolerance among youths of various ethnic nationalities to solve the problem of hate speech essentially among Igbo youths.
Umahi, who reminded MACBAN members of their recent accord entered with south east governors, asked them to use the existing grazing reserves in the north.
Southern, middle belt leaders oppose move
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum yesterday said after reviewing all the arguments about the Ruga settlements, it concluded that the plan was "repugnant, repulsive and provocative".
It alleged that the Ruga settlement initiative was a subtle attempt to "colonize the rest of Nigeria under the guise of promoting cattle rearing".
The forum said this in a joint statement by Yinka Odumakin (southwest), Chigozie Ogbu (southeast), Bassey Henshaw (south-south) and Isuwa Dogo (middle belt).
It said cattle-rearing is a "private business" that should not have the involvement of government, arguing that a "government interested in the unity of the country should not dabble into such business which tends to promote one ethnic group over another."
It also alleged that in the last four years, herdsmen had turned non-Fulani communities into killing fields "with the government turning a blind eye to all their crimes".
The forum challenged the government to name any court where the herdsmen were being tried.
It said: "We therefore reject any attempt to establish any Fulani colony within our space in Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt. We warn all our Governors not to succumb to any pressure to cede an inch of our land for this awful project as any governor who does so would be seen as an enemy of the people he governs.
"Our people will defend their land against colonization under the conquest policy the Federal Government is mindlessly pushing."