…Gives reasons why he rejected RUGA in Plateau state

Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State has said that while he is not justifying anybody for carrying AK-47, investigations have shown that Fulani herdsmen are not the only people involved as farmers also carry AK-47.

In his words; “I’m not justifying anybody to carry AK-47 but don’t forget that in the course of our deliberations and investigations, it was not only Fulani herdsmen that were carrying AK-47, even farmers were carrying AK-47”.

This is as he gave reasons why he rejected the Rural Grazing Area Program (RUGA), from being implemented in Plateau State.

The Governor however said that in order to address the situation, deliberate efforts must be put in place to curtail the influx of light arms while other ways such as the NLTP must be embraced to take the people away from the old type of farming and then introduce them to the modern system.

Lalong, who stated these while speaking on Channels TV programme, ‘Sunrise Daily’ in Jos on Tuesday, said the RUGA initiative was a strange concept that came after the National Economic Council thoroughly debated, scrutinised and adopted the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP) as a very comprehensive and inclusive idea to tackle herder-farmer clashes and other associated challenges.

These were contained in a statement by Lalong’s Director of Press and Public Affairs, Dr. Makut Simon Macham, in which the governor said that because the RUGA initiative did not have the buy in of stakeholders and fell short of addressing the concerns of most Governors, it was not possible to embrace it.

This he said further fueled the misconception over the NLTP which is neither for one ethnic group nor meant for land grabbing.

According to him; “I was one of the first Governors to kick against the RUGA programme when it was introduced. To start with, the concept was literally sneaked in for reasons we did not understand. For me as Governor of Plateau State, I just heard that they have erected signposts in some sites within some local Governments. How can you earmark such a project without my knowledge and buy-in of the people in my State?

“I had no interest in it because it was far below the NLTP which was more robust and passed through series of engagements with critical stakeholders,” he said.

Lalong also said that Plateau State subscribed to the NLTP because of the fact that it will carry along many groups and individuals involved in Livestock business and its associated value chains, adding that these include farmers, herders and other people involved in processing of meat and packaging.

He explained that there is also a provision for other animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, and others.

Lalong, who said Plateau State was chosen as one of the pilot States having earmarked the Wase and Kanam Grazing reserves, reiterated that the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP) will go a long way is addressing many of the issues associated with the activities of herdsmen which have led to clashes with farmers and other crimes.

Commenting on the violence perpetrated by herdsmen who bear arms, the Governor condemned the act and called for strong measures to end the ugly trend, stressing that there are many non-state actors who are in possession of arms, a situation that must be addressed.

Lalong further said; “Today, we are now seeing the hazard of allowing people do open grazing here and there. But they (herders) also want solution; by the time you explain to them, they also want to stay in one place, they would also want to keep away from carrying AK-47”.

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