US panel of experts slams RUGA and USA’s trade agreement with Buhari

Posted by A Special Correspondent | 9 August 2019 | 3,596 times

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A panel of experts in the USA has denounced the RUGA Fulani herdsmen policy of the Nigerian Government even as it faulted the agreement signed by Nigeria and the USA during President Muhammadu Buhari’s meeting with his American counterpart, Donald Trump, last year as “death” to Nigeria’s domestic agricultural economy.

Commenting on the proposed RUGA policy of the Buhari administration, which has met stiff resistance outside the North, Washington-based Human Rights Lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe stated: “I visited Cameroon, and at the time I visited five years ago there were 2,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon. That number has grown to 50,000. These are Christians who were displaced from Northern Nigeria by terrorists.

“In 2014 when I went, we pleaded with some of them to come back to Nigeria and try and reintegrate. Some of them came back and they are outside the capital city, and for the past five years we have been trying to get them lands to farm on and live on. And when a friend of mine who is involved in the project with me spoke to the vice president of Nigeria asking for land, the Vice President said, ‘no, you go and talk to the churches ’. 

“Now, against that backdrop, we have a situation where that same government is taking lands from the states to create Fulani settlements for cow and their own citizens are still refugees outside. So the impunity of the killers and complicity of the government does not allow room for reconciliation. That’s the real problem here right now. And until that is addressed, I don’t know how we can resolve that easily.”

Also commenting on the proposed RUGA policy, an unidentified Professor with Africa United for Peace, commented as follows: “If we can ask the USAID to expand, if there is anyone who has influence, that the US government should involve experts to help solve, in quote, ‘the land problem’ with technology. In the US, Nebraska has the best steak and they don’t take their cows on streets. Florida, where I come from, has the second largest ranch in the US. And I have never seen one cow roam in Florida. So it is probably a (inaudible). They are cloaking and just covering up the problem. So, the US can help by directing funding to actually solve the land problem. They can establish ranches. I travelled the northeast of Nigeria against all advice and I saw that they have plenty of land unused. That is the solution. We can use technology to settle all those who say, ‘we don’t have land’.”

Continuing, she said: “All of the states of Southern Nigeria put together, land wise, are equal to 2 states in the North. Borno State is the second largest state in the country. So it really doesn’t make sense to move below the Niger or the Benue – some of you don’t even know the map – so I am talking technical pragmatic things that it doesn’t make sense for anyone to come below the Niger to look for land. The highest population density on earth is southeastern Nigeria. And so, what are the Fulanis or the Federal government of Nigeria looking for in that state to look for land for ranching? It does not make sense.”

On the agricultural agreement between Nigeria and USA, Ogebe said: “I should point out that under the current administration, there’s a troubling policy. When president Buhari met with president Trump last year, President Trump got him to sign a deal to buy agricultural produce from the U.S. Now that is very troubling because it means that the farmers in Nigeria are losing their farms to the Fulanis, and then losing their markets to U.S. crops. So, that wasn’t a very well thought-out policy.

“Now if president Buhari cared about Christian farmers, he would have said ‘no we can’t buy food from you when we can grow it ourselves’. So that is a policy for the U.S. that needs to be reversed. We need to strengthen the farmers, not wipe them out. And that will be highly unfortunate if that happens.”

Agreeing with Ogebe, Mr. Bill Murray, a veteran of Washington DC affairs and Chair, Religious Freedom Coalition, stated: “For those of you who don’t think that the agreement that president Buhari signed, the agricultural agreement, is an issue, you have to understand the American agricultural machine. Haiti used to be a food exporter, OK. And we took care of that. Nobody in the world can compete with American agriculture. Nobody anywhere in the world can compete with the American agriculture. 

“We went into an area where… (we won’t go into it, but we got a small farm that we sponsor there) and there were 30 people, 40 people out working two and a half acres of land by hand. In the United States, one farmer handles thousands of acres by himself without any employee, using equipment and machinery and drones and so forth and so on. So this agreement basically is death to a huge agricultural sector in Nigeria.”

The interactive session, held on Monday, July 15, 2019 was part of the side events of the US State Department 2019 Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom. It also addressed several other issues.

•Photo shows some of the panelists, L-R; moderator Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe, hostess Peggy and panelists Messrs Bill Murray and Solomon Asemota, SAN. Photo Credit: US-NIGERIA LAW GROUP

Source: News Express

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