Ilorin — Musa Aliyu is the coordinator of Media Advocacy and Technologies Center (MATEC) a research, advocacy and capacity building civic hub aimed at serving as link between policymakers and the general public on issue of governance. In this interview, he lends his voice to the raging issue of the suspended RUGA project proposed by the Federal Government. Excerpt:
You have been supporting RUGA in most of your talks, what did you see?
RUGA settlement is a fantastic initiative that is meant to solve two main problems of herders-farmers clashes as well as youth unemployment in Nigeria. Also, food insecurity challenge, in the light of the protein need of Nigeria, will be provided through RUGA project.
Why do you think most Nigerians are against the idea?
The problem with this project is that the Federal Government failed to sell it properly to Nigerians, and fake news fuelled mass resistance against the project.
By selling the project, this means nice projects like RUGA need to have people buy-in right from the beginning. At the level of designing this project, Nigerians need to be convinced that cattle rearing is not just an occupation meant for a particular ethnic group, especially the Fulani. Cattle rearing should be promoted to be a business that can be embraced by Nigerian youths just like other aspects of agricultural practice - like fishery, poultry and others.
The youth of Benue should be able to make a living out of cattle business without destruction of other people's farms. This is where the concept of RUGA now comes in. Communities should be engaged to see their land as natural resource that can generate income through leasing of such land for RUGA. There will be written agreement to clearly state terms and conditions of tenancy and ownership of the land. No matter the time frame, allottees of the land will be made to renew their tenancy at an agreed interval.
Similarly, state governments will be made to know the potential benefits of RUGA to the internally generated revenue. The estimated market value of cattle trading in Nigeria stands at N600 billion per annum.
States should be able to get at least N30 billion from commission of N5000 per cattle coming out of RUGA settlement in such state.
Together with development partners, a mechanism should be put in place to make capital accessible for people willing to embrace this concept, particularly with regards to land leasing, cattle acquaintance and other logistics issues. If restraining cattle rearing can be practiced successfully in Texas, RUGA can also succeed in Nigeria.
However, glaring effects of fake news manifested in the truncation of RUGA settlement. Fake news merchants had a field day in misinforming Nigerians about what RUGA settlement stands for. It was given different headings and titles like 'fulanisation' agenda, 'hausalisation' etc. This made an average Nigerian not to see any good in the project.
This is the final nail on the coffin of a nice project like RUGA.
Now that the idea has met with objection from almost every part of the country, what do you think should be the solution?
The Federal Government should go back to the drawing board and redesign a sustainable project that will grow from bottom up. What I mean is that the idea should be conceived and implemented at community and state levels with the Federal Government serving supervisory and strategic roles. There should be adequate advocacy and sensitisation on modern cattle rearing systems.
Projects like RUGA should have substantial inputs from civil society groups like MATEC so that adequate ground would have been laid to disallow fake news proponents from hijacking the whole process.