Arbitration & ADR, Insights

Ruga Policy and the Limits of the Powers and/or Authorities of the Executive Governors of States and Federal Government of Nigeria Over Lands Under the Land Use Act

The advent of the new millennium has seen an escalation of the crisis between cattle herders (pastoralists) and farmers in Nigeria. The worst of this conflict has been in the North Central states, particularly Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa. In recent times, there has been a peaking of the crisis, as the conflict has begun to spread rapidly, and many more cases of violence and killings are reported by the media. A report released by Amnesty international in 2018 reveals that since 2016, at least 3,641 people have been killed, and much more have been displaced. The human rights organization lays the blame at the feet of the government. In the words of Amnesty’s Nigeria director, “little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available.

It must be stated that many within the country do not perceive the farmer-herder situation as a legitimate conflict. Rather, the general perception, especially in the Southern region is that the killings are the results of unilateral and unprovoked acts of terrorism by the herdsmen. Some others have taken it a step further, by putting a religious twist to it- they have characterized the conflict as a case of rampaging Fulani Muslim herdsmen killing innocent Christian farmers.
Meanwhile, numerous analysts and researchers conclude that the crisis is a major fall out of climate change and increasing population. They blame desertification and urbanization for the depletion of arable land. Some conclude that the conflict is inevitable in light of the circumstances as it is the nature of man to compete for scarce resources.

In 2016, the House of Representatives introduced a National Grazing Reserve (Establishment) Bill. The Bill sought to establish the National Grazing Reserve Commission with wide powers to identify and acquire lands in all the 36 states of the federation. The bill was abandoned because of wide opposition, arising from its inconsistency with the constitution and the Land Use Act. The bill has been restyled and reintroduced in different forms since then but, like the original bill, none of the subsequent versions have survived legislative scrutiny.
In 2018 the Federal Government introduced the National Livestock Transformation Plan. The plan aimed to create ranches in all the 36 states of the federation with pilot states being Adamawa, Benue, Edo, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara. Again, this plan was roundly rejected by states on the ground they have no land to allocate for the project.
The latest in the list of proposed solutions to the crisis is the controversial RUGA program, which is the subject of this write up. Any meaningful analysis of the RUGA scheme must proceed from an analysis of its scope and content.

It must be said at the outset that much of the confusion on meaning and scope of the RUGA scheme is due to the dearth of official information in terms of a policy document or proposal in the public domain. Commentators and analysts rely on statements (official and unofficial) made by government officials and agents…



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