A Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi has declared the federal government’s RUGA settlement policy in Benue state as illegal.
The court presided over by Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon, on Monday said that the policy proclamation in the state is unwarranted, unlawful and unconstitutional.
Delivering judgement in the suit filed by Benue Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Benue State, Barrister Michael Gusa against the Attorney General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Minister of Agriculture as plaintiff, Justice Olajuwon declared that any move by the federal government to compulsorily acquire land for RUGA Settlement or cattle colony in Benue State without the approval of the Benue State government is null and void.
The Judge granted an order nullifying every action or decisions taken to establish RUGA Settlement or cattle colonies for herdsmen in Benue State.
The Honourable Justice further issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Attorney General, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, The Minister of Agriculture, their agents, privies, servants or whosoever from making any attempt to hold, administer, use or allocate land in Benue State for RUGA Settlement, cattle colonies or any other purpose contrary to the 1999 constitution, the Land Use Act and the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
The judge held that by section 1 of the Land Use Act of 1978, ownership of land in any state of the federation is vested on the governor of the state and only the governor has the right to grant statutory right of occupancy to any person.
Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Michael Gusa described the judgement as sound, as it complies with rules and norms of democracy.
.He said when Governor Samuel Ortom assumed office innocent people were killed by herdsmen as the Governor saw the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law as the solution to the killings and the global best practice in rearing cows.
He added that the policy of the federal government to establish RUGA settlement and cattle colonies came late, as the state already has the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
Report by Osbert Tor-najime