Judex Okoro, Calabar
The Cross River State chapter of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has stated that the state has no land for the proposed Ruga cattle colony being proposed by the Federal Government.
The group, in conjunction with the All Cross River State Nationals Front, advised the Federal government not to even contemplate including the state or any state in the Niger-Delta as a participant in the programme.
Speaking with journalists on Monday the secretary of the group, Engr. Bassey Ekefre, rejected the proposal even as the state is a reserve for many endangered species.
He said: “Besides, our complete and vehement rejection of the idea and intention of the rogue programme, government will require about 4/5 of the state to create one such settlement going by the proposed forbidding dimensions of the settlements.
“Cross River State is already a host to wildlife reserves, a Federal government/United Nations programme which has prohibited the citizens from accessing large portions of land for agricultural and commercial purposes.
“The struggle for the remaining arable land among our burgeoning population of over six million has often led to communal strife and conflicts during farming seasons. There is, therefore, no spare hectare of land for settlers no matter how good intentioned they may be.
“It is important for us to remind the Federal government that the civil war raging on in south-west Cameroon has left Cross River with a heavy burden to bear as hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Republic of Ambazonia have flooded into Boki, Ikom, Ogoja, Yala, Bekwarra, Obudu and Obanliku local government areas of Cross River State.
“It will, therefore, be mindless and downright insulting for anybody to further contemplate a fresh land-grabbing scheme or ingress of more settlers into our state.
“We wish to advise the Federal government to focus more on the northern states which have large expanses of empty land with low population density for the proposed programme, while embracing modern technology in irrigation to solve the challenge of desertification.
He called on Governor Ben Ayade to speak and stand up for the people of Cross River State by telling the Federal authorities that the people totally reject the Ruga settlements and not to offer any piece of land for that purpose.
“This is neither politics nor diplomacy. This is a matter of life and death, and the Governor must rise up and speak for the peoples of Cross River State. He should mobilize every constitutional means at his disposal to ensure the full protection of the ancestral lands, forests, waterways and heritage of peoples of Cross River State now,” he stated.