FEDERAL government plans to introduce a cattle colony programme popularly known as Ruga have been ruled unconstitutional by a Makurdi high court after a judge declared that any such programme is unwarranted and unlawful.
Last year, the federal government announced plans to establish rural settlements of cattle colonies across Nigeria but the development led to fierce objections. Over recent years, heavily armed Fulani cattle herdsmen have been involved in numerous attacks against farming communities as their livestock destroy farms and when villagers complain, the pastoralists seek brutal vengeance.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been accused of being reluctant to take on the herdsmen as he is an ethnic Fulani himself and also keeps cattle. His government’s decision to launch Ruga was seen as an endorsement of their activities and several state governments vowed never to allow the programme kick off in their states.
Under the dictates of the Nigerian Land Use Act, all land belongs to the state government, so the federal government cannot proceed with Ruga unless it gets the approval of the governors. Benue State government decided to take the federal government to court over the matter and yesterday, a Makurdi federal high court ruled in its favour.
Presided over by Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon, the court declared the Ruga policy was unwarranted, unlawful and unconstitutional. Delivering judgement in the suit filed by Michael Gusa, the Benue State justice commissioner, Justice Olajuwon declared that any move by the federal government to compulsorily acquire land for Ruga settlements or cattle colonies without the approval of the Benue State government is null and void.
In his judgement, the judge granted an order nullifying every action or decision taken to establish Ruga settlements or cattle colonies for herdsmen in Benue State. Justice Olajuwon further issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the attorney-general of the federation, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, their agents, privies, servants or whosoever from making any attempt to hold, administer, use or allocate land in Benue State for a Ruga settlement, cattle colony or any other purpose contrary to the 1999 constitution, the Land Use Act and the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.