Philip Nwosu and Okwe Obi, Abuja
Following Federal Government’s proposal for the establishment of Ruga settlements in some states of the country, South East Governors Forum (SEGF) has vowed that no part of the South East would be ceded for the purpose of establishment of the project.
It said the zone is purely agrarian with limited landmass for farming and therefore, cannot accommodate Ruga.
Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, said the zone actually proposed a deal with MACBAN to take their cattle to the northern parts, where grazing reserve were established long time ago and rely completely on the grasses grown in the South for feeding of their cattle.
He added that though there was no plan for Ruga settlement in any part of South East and South South, the zones could make good business with sale of grasses to herdsmen in exchange for meat.
Governor Umahi, who was the chairman of the Technical Committee on Farmers and Herdsmen clash, carved from the Federal Economic Council under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made a recommendation for revamping of the already existing grazing reserves in various parts of the North to enable farmers have unhindered access to their farmlands while herdsmen rely solely on proceeds from the farmers.
“The way it works is that the herdsmen will bring down their cows to the South East and sell to us as meat, while they will load the grasses, which are grown here in the same trailer with which they transported their cows to feed their cattle in those grazing reserves, which should be made comfortable for them.”
Umahi also said with this proposed deal, herdsmen are expected to embrace anti-open grazing by returning to the ranches in the North and do their business on the trade by barter basis of selling cows to the South and buying grasses to feed their cows in the North.
Governor Umahi called for tolerance among youths of various ethnic nationalities to solve the problem of hate speech, saying Igbo youths should learn how not to insult their leaders, whom he said were doing everything possible to protect them from any form of internal and external aggressions.
Also on the issue, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Reverend Adewale Martins advised the government to listen to the cries of Nigerians against the establishment of cattle colonies in states across the country.
He spoke to Daily Sun shortly after administering the sacrament of confirmation on over 500 adherent of the Catholic faithful at the St Joseph Catholic Church Kirikiri Town, saying that the establishment of Fulani settlement in states, in the name of RUGA, will create fear and suspicion among the people of the state.
He urged the Federal Government to take the fear of the people of Nigeria into consideration and think out a way of settling the problems between farmers and herders, especially in the consideration that crisis between the herdsmen and some communities in the country, which had claimed many lives, had been witnessed in the past.
His words: “Before now, it had been settlement for herdsmen and suddenly we are hearing RUGA; it’s a very strange name to me, it just like finding another word for what people had rejected, which obviously means that the Federal Government needs to listen to what the people are saying. The experience of the so-called herdsmen in so many place are not pleasant. So, naturally, if you want to come settle them there, it’s bound to bring up fear and suspicion and, therefore, it’s important that Federal Government listen and think out another option for what they are talking about such that the way people are thinking, they can be given assurance that nobody is trying to take their land.”
The Catholic Archbishop again supported recent comment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that there is an agenda to “fulanised” Nigeria by the present government, explaining that, “people are worried and they are concerned, the experience of the Fulani herdsmen that we had in the last five years had not been pleasant at all, and if nothing had been done to checkmate their activities, anybody can have a feeling that there is an agenda. And indeed, it gives one a very strong feeling that there is an agenda to stir the country towards that direction, an agenda to dominate others which our government needs to take seriously.”
He called the government to take the allegation serious and do more to reassure Nigerians that it was not working towards that direction, especially as the measure of trust that they need from Nigerians is no ponger.
In a related development, Benue State extraction, Ontiv Professional Association Abuja, has urged the Federal Government to stay action of Ruga or face legal action.
At a media parley in Abuja, yesterday, its Chairman, Benjamin Nyior, questioned the speedy mobilisation of contractors to site when discussions were still ongoing with representatives of government.
“In rising against it, we shall seek all lawful avenues of redress to achieve the wishes of the people of Benue State.”