A Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi, on Monday, declared the federal government policy, plan, or proclamation to establish RUGA Settlement and cattle colonies in Benue State as unwarranted, unlawful and unconstitutional.
Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon, delivering judgment in the suit filed by Michael Gusa, the Benue Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, against the Attorney General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Minister of Agriculture, declared that any move by the federal government to compulsorily acquire land for RUGA Settlement or cattle colony in Benue without the approval of the state government is null and void.
The Judge granted an order nullifying every action or decision taken to establish RUGA Settlement or cattle colonies for herdsmen in the state.
Justice Olajuwon 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 in the governor of the state, and that only the governor has the right to grant statutory right of occupancy to any person.
Gusa described the judgement as sound, saying it complies with rules and norms of democracy.
He said when governor Samuel Ortom assumed office, innocent people were killed by herdsmen after 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.