Environmental and human rights activist, Annkio Briggs, has cautioned against celebrating the suspension of the Ruga settlement policy by the Federal Government. She also tells Daily Sun that they are disappointed in some of the statements made by some northern elders over the Ruga policy.
How did you receive the suspension of the Ruga settlement policy by the Federal Government?
The suspension did not douse any tension because it is a trick and anybody hailing the decision is either unaware or foolish. The suspension is because of the reaction that trailed the move for the Ruga settlement. They have another plan to bring the Northern coalition to threaten Southerners to leave their zone if the Federal Government does not rescind their decision to suspend Ruga. They are forgetting that if Southerners leave the North, the Northerners will also leave the South. The spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum, Prof Ango Abdullahi has now said that they have a right to our water and grass; please somebody should tell him that he cannot own a right to something that is on my ancestral land unless I give him the right. They have no right to any water or grass outside of their region. I also read where the NEF is saying that people are victimising the Fulani; we are really surprised and disappointed in the elders because they have never for one day spoken against the genocide being perpetrated in the North East and Middle Belt against Christians. Just because people in the South have said no to Ruga, they are now saying the Fulani are being victimised. We need to identify who is a Fulani person.
There are 36 states and six zones in this country. Now, if there are states that want to bring in foreigners illegally in anywhere in Nigeria, which they are doing, (Niger people are here in Port Harcourt, Lagos and all those places begging and I do not think they have a visa), it is against the law. Therefore, it must be illegal all over Nigeria. Now, the Fulani are business men that are breeding and selling cattle. People of the South South, South East and South West who seem to be the only people eating beef would not want to own other people’s ancestral lands. If there is any Fulani for the reason that they claim to be Fulani Nigerian, feel that they have a right to bring the Fulani across Africa to come and overtake Nigeria and impose their culture, way of life and religion on Nigeria, the people who will accept it will accept it but the people who will resist it, will resist it. But I can assure you that the Niger Delta person will not accept it.
What is your take on the call by the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for the Federal Government to give the herders the Sambisa forest?
The Miyetti Allah runs private businesses. This government should stop deceiving itself and in the process thinking that it wants to deceive Nigerians. The Miyetti Allah is an organisation of private business people that are herding cattle. The business is not a birthright for the Fulani people. Under what treaty or law is Nigeria going to consider giving the Sambisa forests to them. Is the Miyetti Allah part of the government that is in power? Why are they saying we should give them the Sambisa forest because we said no to Ruga settlement, cattle colony and forceful taking of our land because we have grass in the South of Nigeria? If you look at the size of the Sambisa forest, it is about 686 square kilometers. That is the size of some states in this country. In some areas like the Niger Delta, that area may accommodate even up to two or three states. So, how are you saying that such an expanse of land that belongs to Nigeria be given to a particular group? This is unacceptable. I say so because what they are trying to do is to raise their number by bringing in people that will be the size of states in Nigeria. What they want to do is that by the time they finish, they will be a big part of Nigeria. Already, they are getting more than us from the resources of our oil and gas. So, if we allow them to take the Sambisa forest they are asking for, they will get more and who are these people? That is why we are calling for the restructuring of the country. We must restructure this country so that when you come into Nigeria without the proper documentation, then you will not have a right to stay. This is another trick to bring in the Fulani people that are not Nigerians to overwhelm even the Fulani that are Nigerians. You know the Fulani that migrated to Nigeria are very small. So, when you bring other Fulani that are not Nigerians, you are now oppressing the real indigenous Nigerians.
Apart from the Ruga settlement controversy, there are also reports of plans to establish vigilance groups in all parts of the country; is there more to all of these things? Is the development not part of the fears raised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that there are plans to Islamise the country?
Yes, it is part of it and I, personally and my organisation blame Obasanjo for all these because he allowed Sharia. It is not within our constitution. For Obasanjo to allow some governments in the North to establish Sharia law was the beginning of what we are seeing now; to Islamise the nation.
Now, for them to say that they want to set up vigilance groups all over Nigeria is an insult because in the past, they disbanded the Bakassi Boys even when the Police is not able to secure the nation. We have been asking for regional or state police so that everybody will secure his own state. The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) said he had security for his people and they were not armed, yet the government proscribed the organisation. Now, you can imagine the Fulani having the audacity to say they want to set up vigilance groups in the South East for instance; to do what? They have occupied all the forests and there is no community today where you will not find them. Even in my own community, they are there. You have to ask yourself, what is going on in Nigeria?
If you remember, last year Governor Nyesom Wike set up a kind of community policing outfit in Rivers State and you saw what the Army and government did. In Kano, for long, they had the Hisbah, a Sharia-compliant police. They have them in other parts of the North. So, basically we are being governed by a so-called 1999 constitution that is religious-compliant in a country that is secular. This is a clarion call for all Nigerians especially people in the South East and South South to be very careful.
We of the Southern part of Nigeria should learn from the experience of other people. We should look at what is happening in the Middle Belt. Look at what is happening to the indigenous Hausa people that own the North. The only people that are immigrants in this country are the Fulani. They were not indigenous to these areas even before the white man came. We are the indigenous people to what the British called Nigeria in 1914. This is a threat that is not only limited to Nigeria; it is across West Africa, Africa and the world.
The Middle Belt is the food basket of Nigeria and they have completely destroyed that area. You will see that there will be shortage of food very soon in this country because nobody is longer farming in the Middle Belt. Where are we going to get food to feed the 200 million people of Nigeria? But they are importing rice and other food stuff through the Northern boarders for themselves. The search for oil in the Lake Chad basin, what is it for? You said you are searching for oil and you are using trillions of Naira to search for oil and you are not seeing anything; where is all the money going?
What is your take on the projections by some prominent people in the North that power should still remain in that part of the country after President Buhari’s administration?
I do not know what they mean that power will not come back to the South; they are going on the impression that the South wants to remain. How would they have got power if Obasanjo and Jonathan did not allow it to go there? If they want to keep the power, they can, but we will go our separate ways. Is it by force?
With the gloomy picture facing Nigeria, what is the future of this country? I ask this question in view of the growing level of ethnic distrust among various people that make up the country?
The country has been divided along ethnic and religious lines and that is the truth. When the people of a country begin to feel isolated and hold onto that isolation, then there is no unity. If there is no unity, then the country is finished.
I want to call on all our governors who have our mandate to do what we want and in our best interest as a people. The governors, senators, House of Representatives and the state assembly members owe us a responsibility and we are getting ready to demand that they speak our voice. If they do not speak what we want, then we will make them to know what we want. The things that we do not want very clearly are these Ruga settlements and even ranching. Anybody who wants to eat beef should go to supermarkets or wherever and buy it. Cattle herding is a private business. Anybody who wants to do cattle business should do it in his own place. You do not come to my house and insist that you would set up shops in front of my house.