The Federal Government has suspended its Ruga settlement policy, but it may have to deal with a court case.
An official statement is still being awaited on the suspension, but Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, has confirmed the development.
The Ruga Policy would have given swathes of land in 12 States to Fulani pastoralists to raise cattle and be engaged the full gamut of the value chain of animal husbandry. There has been emotively and loudly criticised across the country.
At a point, spokesmen in the office of the President and his deputy disagreed on whether Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was involved. Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, exonerated his boss on the Ruga settlement policy, insisting he was only involved with the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP), but President Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, bluntly said on Channels Television that the difference between the Ruga policy and NLTP is “same as the difference between six and half a dozen”.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has been sued over the introduction of Ruga Settlement Scheme in the 36 states of the country for the exclusive benefit of the Fulani ethnic group.
In the suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/761/2019 instituted by the board of the Incorporated Trustees of Malcolm Omirhobo Foundation, the Federal High Court was urged to void and annul the Ruga Settlement Scheme already established in Niger State and any where else so established throughout the country.
The plaintiff prayed the court to restrain the FG, the President, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to restrain their servants, agents and privies from carrying on with the Ruga Settlement Scheme in Sokoto, Niger, Nasarawa, Kogi, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Adamawa, Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and Benue states already penciled down as pilot states for the government Ruga policy.
Plaintiff also wants the Federal High Court to stop the government, the President, AGF, and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture,their agents, servants and privies from imposing the government Ruga settlement policy on Benue, Ekiti, and Taraba states which already have their respective anti-open grazing laws enacted by their respective State Houses of Assembly, pursuant to the provision paragraph 18 of the 2nd schedule to the 1999 constitution.
Aside, the foundation also sought an order of the court stopping the government, President, AGF and the Minister of Agriculture from further trespassing on the Benue, Ekiti and Taraba land mass which governors of the three states hold in trust for the indigenous people of the various ethnic groups in the states and other federating states under the guise of establishing Ruga settlement policy.
The court is also urged to restrain the governors of Benue, Ekiti, Taraba and Niger states and their counterparts in other 32 states as Trustees of the land of the indigenous people of the various ethnic groups of Nigeria from volunteering their land for the establishment of cattle colony or Ruga settlement throughout the country.
In addition, plaintiff sought court order restraining the National Assembly from appropriating funds to finance the establishment and implementation of the Ruga settlement scheme and another order stopping the Benue State Government from disbursing public funds to the federal government and the ministry of agriculture to finance the development, establishment and implementation of the Ruga settlement policy.
Besides, the foundation also wants the court to stop the FG and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture from misappropriating public funds in their care for other appropriations or budgets to finance the development and implementation of the Fulani Ruga farm settlement.
The originating summon filed by Malcolm Emokiniovo Omirhobo faulted the introduction of the Fulani Ruga settlement policy of the Federal Government on the ground that the policy runs counter to the construction of Section 1 (42) 43 44 55 81 82 and 83 of the second schedule of the 1999 Constitution especially Sections 28 29 and 51 of the Lanf Use Act of 1978.
Defendants in the suit are: FG, the President, AGF, Ministry of Agriculture, National Assembly, Accountant General of the Federation, Benue, Ekiti, Taraba and Niger states as 1st to 10th respondents.
By the originating summons, the plaintiff wants the court to determine whether by the provision of sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 1 of the Land Use Act of 1978, the entire land mass of Nigeria belongs to the indigenous people of the various ethnic groups in Nigeria and held in trust for them by their respective governor in the federating 36 states.
The foundation also wants the court to determine whether by the provision of sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution and sections 28, 29 and 51 of the Land Use Act of 1978, the FG is permitted by law to compulsorily acquire land from other ethnic groups of the indigenous people of Nigeria held in trust for them by their respective governors in the states.
Meanwhile, no date has yet been fixed for hearing of the suit.