Magnus Eze, Enugu and Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Ripples over the contentious but suspended Federal Government Ruga settlement programme is far from over as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 17 states of southern Nigeria alleged “underground” plot to bring back the project.
It called on Christians to be vigilant not minding the suspension of the policy aimed at earmarking settlement for herds.
The warning contained in a statement released in Enugu, yesterday, by CAN Secretary, Dr. Joseph Ajujungwa came as Ohanaeze and Arewa groups trade tackle over the policy.
Ajujungwa called on every southerner “to be watchful” stressing that “even as we pray, we don’t need to keep quiet; they are experts in underground work.”
The scribe was emphatic that southerners did not have land for grazing field or cattle colony, hence, his call on the South East governors to stick to their gun on their earlier decision against the policy.
“Do you know what it means to give 10 hectares of land to herdsmen? We say no to that. As CAN, we will preach it from our pulpit, every Imam should peach from the mosque and the traditionalists should stand against it; nobody should relent; no land should be given; any traditional ruler that does that should be dethroned.
“In the North, we have largest hectares of land, very vast that nobody is occupying. Why are they not building the ranches, RUGA or whatever there? They can come here, take grass and go, and we buy cows in exchange, just like the governors said. We do not have such mass land required.
“We are also calling on the Federal Government to be mindful of what they are doing because cattle rearing is a private farming business. Why should the government support individual cattle farmers against other farmers?”
On the ultimatum issued by a coalition of northern youths, Ajujungwa cautioned that nobody has the monopoly of violence.
“As they are planning to attack, others are planning to defend themselves and we cannot run away for them.
“CAN is calling on all Christians, all law-abiding citizens of southern Nigeria to please watch and pray. Watch means that you must open your eyes to see what is going on and, therefore, pray; do not relent.
Also reacting, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council worldwide warned the Coalition of Northern Youths not to misconstrue its peaceful approach to issues of the nation as weakness.
The group condemned the 30-days ultimatum given to the Federal Government and governors to implement the suspended RUGA settlement policy as a declaration of war against the south and southerners living across the northern part of the country.
In a statement issued in Abakaliki by its President General, Mr. Okechukwu Isiguzoro, the Igbo group vowed to explore all peaceful avenues for protection of lives and properties of Igbo resident in the North.
An Arewa group had threatened to sack southerners resident in the North and implement the Ruga policy across the nation if the Federal Government failed to rescind it decision to suspend it within 30 days.
Rather than splitting hair over the Ruga policy, which was clearly rejected by southern Nigeria, especially South-East /South-South governors and people, Ohanaeze Ndigbo advised the Coalition to direct northern governors to embrace the National livestock Transformation Programme option.
“We warn that youths of South-East and South-South are not ready to stomach the threat of genocidal ethnic cleansing against the Igbos in the North. We call on Ndigbo to be vigilant and defend themselves in the North and relocate immediately their business headquarters to the East.”
In its own reaction, the Arewa Defenders Forum (ADF) called on the Federal Government to re-introduce Ruga, which it said was a critical measure to address insecurity in the North.
President of the group, Nuruddeen Alkasim, in a statement after an emergency meeting in Kaduna, raised concerns over alleged “Islamisation and Fulanization” plot noting that the suspended programme was designed to bring an end to suspicious killings using the name of Fulanis and their northern identity for political convenience.