Apparently jolted by the barrage of criticisms the announcement of commencement of implementation of federal government’s cattle settlement policy, tagged Ruga settlement, has generated, the presidency Thursday summoned the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammadu Umar.
Umar had on Monday, told journalists that the federal government had commenced the implementation of the policy in 12 states, saying it was a pilot scheme meant to test-run the government’s solution to the endemic herders’ confrontation with crop farmers nationwide.
His pronouncement attracted loud outcry from the government of Benue State and the governors of South-east states, who stated clearly on Tuesday that the policy would be resisted by them.
The protesters on Wednesday received hefty support from such socio-cultural groups as Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan-Niger Delta Development Forum (PANDEF) and the Middle-Belt Forum as well as social critics, who rejected the policy as unworkable and unacceptable.
Ministry sources told THISDAY yesterday that Umar was called to the presidency to explain his statement, which is believed to be unauthorised, particularly given the sensitive nature of the policy said to still be at consultative stage.
The permanent secretary had said the federal government had commenced the building of Ruga settlements to curb the recurrent clashes between farmers and cattle herders, pointing out that the establishment of the settlements had been “settled along with other people that are interested in rearing animals.”
But THISDAY gathered that he might have exceeded the limits of his office by discussing the issue without authorisation as this ought to be the prerogative of the minister.
A source said the permanent secretary might have spoken too soon as the federal government had not concluded consultations with the pilot states, most of them still resistant to the policy.