Makurdi Federal High Court presided over by Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon has declared the Federal government’s plan to establish Rural Grazing Area, RUGA Settlement and cattle colonies in Benue State as unwarranted, unlawful and unconstitutional. The Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice filed the suit against the Attorney General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, seeking the interpretation and determination of their rights as enshrined in the 1999 constitution and land Use Act.
Delivering judgment in the suit 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 was 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.
Justice Olajuwon further issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Attorney General of the Federation, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of State for 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 of Benue State 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 only the governor has the right to grant the statutory right of occupancy to any person”. Reacting, the Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Mike Gusa described the judgment as sound, as it companied with rules and norms of democracy.
He explained that the policy of the Federal government to establish RUGA settlement and cattle colonies came late since the state already had in place the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.