Onyedi Ojiabor, Assistant Editor
THE controversy trailing the aborted establishment of RUGA settlements for Fulani herders in parts of the country may be far from over.
Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, on Friday said that the apprehension being expressed over the plan by the Federal Government to create Fulani settlements for herders under the acronym name of RUGA was misplaced.
He told reporters in Abuja that he established a successful RUGA settlement in Abia State when he was governor of the state in 2001.
The controversial cattle market, he said, is located in Lokpanta, Umunneochi Local Government Area, along Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway.
The Abia North senator noted that necessity pushed him to pioneer the establishment of RUGA in the state.
He insisted that the establishment of RUGA in parts of the country was not what anybody should be worried about.
Kalu said that it was wrong for some people to see cow business as exclusively for the Fulani.
He said that the settlement he created for Fulani herders has become the biggest cow market in the South east and the South south.
Cattle business, which he described as profitable, he said, has become the trade of the elite in the country.
The boisterous senator said the Federal Government should do necessary consultations and engagements with the people before implementing any policy to avoid misunderstanding.
Kalu said, “When you talk about RUGA, it is not anything that people should be worried about. In 2001 I established RUGA in Abia.
“In Lokpanta,( Umunneochi LGA Abia North) I built a place where the whole cattle is sold in Umuahia and Aba, in 2001, when I became governor.
“I built it and they called me I said Umuahia and Aba, we need to de-congest.
“What they call Shoprite today, used to be cattle settlement if anybody knows that. The same thing with Aba I had an honest meeting with them where I said I was going to provide electricity and water but this is where you are going to be.
“I procured five Coaster buses and said bring your RUGA, I will join with some of your executives, let us go and see this land. If it is agreeable by all of us, I will call the communities and talk to them.
“We had meetings and the communities said yes, they took off in Lokpanta. That is the biggest cow market in both Southsouth and Southeast. It is the biggest cattle market today.
“This is the issue, the Federal government should always do a wide consultation because if you just go back and put a deliberate policy, I want to do RUGA, people in my village in Igbere do not understand what RUGA is.
“They will fear and say that they want to kill all of us. Some of us are the largest sellers of cattle. I started selling cows as far back as when I was in the university (of Maidugiri Borno State.)
“I am still selling cow till tomorrow, because it is profitable. Most of the cattle you see are also not owned by the Hausa-Fulani in our area. Uzuakoli people and the surrounding areas also trade in cattle.
“People should have information. Information is power and power is information.
“They have kept at being critical of everybody, government, tribe, there is too much hatred by politicians. Everything is politics in Nigeria. When a Nigerian cannot pick food to eat, politicians are politicizing everything.
“Nobody talks about the interest of Nigeria, everybody talks about the interest of his village. It is high time our politicians started being Nigerian politician not the Igbere politician, not ethnic politicians but they should see themselves as Nigerian politicians working for Nigeria.”
On African Continental Free Trade Area, he said “If we must be in competition on ACFTA, the Federal government must designate Kano, Kaduna, Onitsha, Nnewi, Aba, Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt and make this places special cases that the Federal Government will pump in money.
‘It is like what I have said before, the Tradermoni is very good, but it is not the best of options because it is not sustainable. It is a very good programme but it is not sustainable.
“For me, Tradermoni could have been money that would go into agriculture. You pick four business men in each zone if it is in Kano you tell them to go and get groundnut and cotton, same directive in the respective zones and their crops of comparative advantage.
“Give them N10billion directly not through the banks. If you give them through the banks, the banks will keep the money. Give them this money at one per cent interest rate.
“They will develop agriculture and employ people. Each of them may employ about five to six thousand persons directly in the agricultural sector. This will be a big boost to the economy.”
“It was very good to have the Tradermoni scheme but if I had the opportunity, I will have the tradermoni but spend half of the money on tradermoni and use the other half to invest in agriculture.”
On appointments by the Federal Government, Kalu said that it does not bother him who is appointed.
His interest, he said, is what the appointees have to offer the country and its citizens.
He added that “for me the Eastern part of this country has been neglected for quite a long but now we have started redressing it. The Second Niger Bridge is coming. President Buhari is doing it.
Kalu however noted that there might be the need to spread the appointment of Service Chiefs.
On the alleged jumbo pay for National Assembly members, Kalu said that there was nothing like jumbo pay for them.
The Abia senator said that had received his June salary to discover that the talk about jumbo pay was false.