Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has revealed that it will next week meet Northern Governors Forum and Coalition of Northern Group (CNG) to address the raging controversy regarding the Ruga programme and the decision of the Federal government to suspend the policy.
The statement signed by the deputy convener of the forum, Yahaya Kwande, in Abuja, called on the Federal and state governments to adopt policies and position that would address the harassment of Fulani and their cattle.
The elders further explained that the trust of their meeting with the governors’ forum and the coalition group would be in line with the appeal by a broad spectrum of interests and opinions to use its position to calm frayed nerves and assist in the search for a practical and fair resolution of the situation.
They called on Nigerians to remain sensitive to the rising challenges in security of lives and economic assets, and to do everything possible not to escalate tensions and distrust among Nigerians.
Appealing to the northerners to heed the call for restraint made by the coalition earlier, pending the outcome of the meetings with the northern governors, the forum said: “Federal and state governments must adopt policies and positions which address the harassment of Fulani and their cattle.
They must also adopt policies for de-escalation of inciting rhetoric and actions and short and long-term solutions to the problems which could damage the livestock industry, worsen community relations and threaten national security.
“The Northern Elders Forum has followed with keen interest, the raging controversy since the Federal government hinted at moves to introduce a certain Ruga scheme. NEF has taken note of the steps taken by the Federal government as well as diverse positions adduced by groups and interests from the South and those from northern Nigeria.
“In particular, NEF has taken note of the representations made at a press conference held by the Coalition of Northern Groups on the latest developments in the worrying failure to find solutions to the problems related to management of the livestock assets of Nigerians, particularly cattle of the Fulani.
“The forum has also taken due notice of the intense reactions which the statement by the coalition generated across the country. The leadership of the NEF been contacted by a broad spectrum of interests and opinions to use its position to calm nerves and assist in the search for a practical and fair resolution of the situation.
“Interestingly, NEF has also received the decent and statesman-like reaction of the Chairman of Northern Governors Forum, Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State in which he disclosed the forum’s move to reach out to stakeholders in the matter including the northern groups represented by CNG. NEF also acknowledges that the Northern Governors’ Forum’s chairman has also made similar overture to its leadership and a meeting has been fixed for next week,” the statement read.
The forum specifically appealed to the coalition to “exercise responsible restraint and take no further action in view of the potentially-productive involvement of northern governors and other respected Nigerians.
“Most Nigerians recognise the genuine grounds for raising serious grievances in the light of provocations and apparent lack of sensitivity to a matter that affects the North and indeed the rest of Nigeria in a most critical manner.
“Northern governors’ concerns and commitment to find solutions to a problem which is not being adequately addressed and one which has the potential to create additional security and economic problems for the nation is welcome. NEF will engage with the forum and the coalition and any Nigerian who seeks genuine solutions to the problems being faced by northern communities and the livestock industry,” the statement read.