The ruga settlement policy initiated by the Federal Government of Nigeria has generated so much commotion across the nation in the few weeks past. To some, the word ruga has been defined to be a Hausa term that means cow settlement.

To the Federal Government, the implementation of Ruga settlements is to curb open grazing of animals that continue to pose security threats to farmers and herders and that the settlements will house herders and animal farmers. Also, it is the position of the Federal Government that the conflict, most notably over land access and resources, has led to the death of thousands in the past few years, with herders usually blamed for majority of attacks. While some persons even consider the ‘RUGA’ to mean Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) settlements. Furthermore, it was reported by www.pulse.ng, as follows ‘The conflict, most notably over land access and resources, has led to the death of thousands in the past few years, with herders usually blamed for majority of attacks. 2. The settlements will house herders and animal farmers. The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Umar, announced on Tuesday, June 25 that the settlements will house nomadic herdsmen who breed animals. “We felt that to do away with herders-farmers’ conflict, we need to settle our nomads and those who breed animals.  “We want to put them in a place that has been developed as a settlement, where we provide water for their animals, pasture, schools for their children, security, agro-rangers, etc,” he said. Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Umar [FMARD] Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Umar [FMARD]. The presidency disclosed on Sunday that animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in RUGA settlements with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products. 3. FG believes RUGA settlements will be of benefit to everyone Umar noted that RUGA settlements will put an end to the nomadic lifestyle of herdsmen, who are usually, but not exclusively, Fulani. He said the provision of cattle markets will mark the end of herdsmen having to transport their herds mostly by foot and avoid conflict with local farming communities. He said, “We also felt that we need to develop cattle markets whereby you don’t need to be transporting animals through very long distances.  “We will also bring in investors that will set up modern centres where cattle breeders can slaughter their animals. When we do that, a lot of other things will come up. “We are going to change their lifestyle, take them away from our streets and from wandering in the bush and develop districts, hamlets and towns and definitely in the next five to 10 years you will never see a nomad moving about, wandering or kidnapping. And this will end all these security challenges.” Umar estimated that each RUGA settlement will provide at least 2,000 jobs and will be a major attraction for foreign investors. “The RUGA settlement will attract a lot of investments to Nigeria and it is our belief that in the next five years, each RUGA settlement will provide nothing less than 2,000 employment opportunities,” he said. The presidency also said in its Sunday statement that RUGA settlements will be of benefit to everyone in animal husbandry and not just Fulani herders. “The overall benefit to the nation includes a drastic reduction in conflicts between herders and farmers, a boost in animal protection complete with a value chain that will increase the quality and hygiene of livestock in terms of beef and milk production, increased quality of feeding and access to animal care and private sector participation in commercial pasture production by way of investments. “Other gains are job creation, access to credit facilities, security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling,” the presidency said. 4. 11 pilot states have shown interest RUGA settlements have already started springing up with 11 states that have reportedly shown interest designated as pilot states. They are Sokoto, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Taraba, Katsina, Plateau, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger. According to Umar, each state will have at least six locations where nomadic herders will be settled alongside others interested in rearing animals. “Already state and local governments are buying into the initiative. Many states have indicated interest. They have been coming to the ministry and will like to join to ensure that we set up RUGA settlements in their states so that their nomads will have a place. Also, they will have cattle markets and modern abattoirs in their states,” he said.’. These are the Rugaism as a belief in the ruga settlement policy of the Federal Government. There are those who also support this ruga policy and are referred to as rugamaniacs under this paper. Also, there are those who criticize the implementation of the ruga policy of the Federal Government. These are the rugacritics referred to by this paper. This paper is aimed at sharing my thoughts on where the law stands in my humble views with due respect to the rugaism and the rugamaniacs, without considering the advantages and or disadvantages of the said ruga policy.

In my humble submission, the first point to consider when it comes to the issue of lands in Nigeria is section 315 (5) (d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which makes the Land Use Act as an existing law. Therefore, consideration in this paper as reference in determining where the law stands in relation to the ruga settlement policy of the Federal Government is the Land Use Act, whenever the issue of lands across the Federation becomes an issue like this.

Under the Land Use Act, 1978- herein after referred to as the LUA-, land ownership across Nigeria is shared among the Federal Government; the State Governor; and the Local Government Chairman. Therefore, it is not true that the ownership of all lands in the State belongs to the State Governor and the LUA never provides for such submission without qualification and or exemption. For instance, the Preamble to the LUA provides thusAn Act to Vest all Land compromised in the territory of each State (except land vested in the Federal government or its agencies) solely in the Governor of the State , who would hold such Land in trust for the people and would henceforth be responsible for allocation of land in all urban areas to individuals resident in the State and to organisations for residential, agriculture, commercial and other purposes while similar powers will respect to nonurban areas are  conferred on Local Governments. (Underlining is mine for emphasis). In my humble submission, such ownership of lands by a State Governor is a qualified one and certain exception. Furthermore, this exception is further clarified by section 1 and 2 of the LUA, thus ‘1. Subject to the provisions of this Act, all land comprised in the territory of each State in the Federation are hereby vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act. 2. (1) As from the commencement of this Act – (a) all land in urban areas shall be under the control and management of the Governor of each State. And (b) all other land shall, subject to this Act, be under the control and management of the Local Government, within the area of jurisdiction of which the land is situated.’. Furthermore, the lands belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria is provided for under section 49 of the LUA thus ‘49. (1) Nothing in this Act shall affect any title to land whether developed or undeveloped held by the Federal Government or any agency of the Federal Government at the commencement of this Act and, accordingly, any such land shall continue to vest in the Federal Government or the agency concerned. (2) In this section, “agency” includes any statutory corporation or any other statutory body (whether corporate or unincorporated) or any company wholly-owned by the Federal Government.’.

Furthermore, the power of the Governor and the Chairman of Local Government in relation to land has also been clarified by sections: 9, 21(b) and 51 of the LUA. See the interpretation of: ‘developed’; ‘customary right of occupancy’ under section 51 LUA. It is noteworthy that by virtue of the LUA, section 34 and 36 of the LUA, lands have been categorized into developed lands (the subject matter of a statutory right of occupancy), undeveloped (the subject matter of a customary right of occupancy) and the deemed grant (the subject matter of a customary right of occupancy). Therefore, in my humble view, the only land that is suitable and having regards to the Federal Government’s ruga policy, the lands contemplated by the Federal Government is the lands that have been vested in the local government by virtue of the LUA or the ones permitted to be continuously owned by individuals in possession of same prior to the enactment of the LUA. From this submission, I therefore humbly disagree with those who are of the view that it is the State Governors that can challenge the ruga plan of the Federal Government. More so, developed lands in my view, cannot be used for ruga they are developed. See: interpretation of ‘developed’ in section 51 LUA (supra). Even the lands exempted by section 49 of the LUA exclusively for the Federal Government across the States and the Federal Capital Territory by virtue of section 297(2) of the Constitution and 51 (2) of the LUA, cannot be designated for ruga settlement.

Therefore, it is my firm view that it is only the lands in the local governments that can be designed for the implementation of the ruga settlement as contemplated by the Federal Government. Therefore, since lands in the local government is subject matter of ownership by the local government, it means that only the Chairman of the Local Government have the powers to approve and or design such lands as ruga settlement. That is both the Federal and State Governments lack the powers to take over such lands from the local governments without due consultation and or allocation of such land for that purpose by the Chairman of the Local Governments, else, it would amount to a futile efforts that cannot have effects for the Federal Government and or the State Government to designate any lands of the local government for any purpose without due regard to the Chairman of the respective local government. And any law made to divest or dispossess the local government is unlawful under the LUA. I am also very surprised that when the issue of ruga policy and implementation came up, even the local governments do not criticize or make their voices against it despite the facts that it aims at taking away their real estate right from them without recourse to them.

Therefore and finally, I am of the submission that when it comes to ruga or any land taking over for any agricultural purpose or ranching, so far it involves the taking over of portions of lands in the local areas that have not been designated as urban, it is only the local government that has the powers to designate any such local government areas for the purpose of ruga or grazing or ranching purposes.

This in my humble view, constitutes my thought on where the law in relation to lands in Nigeria stands vis-à-vis the rugaism. So that were the ruga policy not suspended by the Federal Government, same would have been unlawfully implemented and of no effect. Therefore, the ruga policy by the Federal and or State Government is better cancelled rather than being suspended and recourse shall be had to the local governments in whom the power to designate any portion of the local government lands, the subject matter of customary right of occupancy for agricultural or grazing purposes reside. Also, I humbly recommend, with due respect, that government should always consult their various legal advisers before embarking on any policy and or taking any decision so that the act of illegality and or unlawfulness can be averted.

e-mail: [email protected]

Subscribe ToTheNigeriaLawyer News!