Northern leaders under the umbrella of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), would want those opposed to the setting up of Fulani herdsmen settlements, popularly called Ruga, across the country to drop their opposition and allow the policy take off. General Secretary of the pro-North group, Anthony Sani revealed the influential body’s position in this interview in which he took a critical look at insecurity in the country, particularly in the North, and submitted that the region is worst hit. As a result, Sani, in this interview with NOAH EBIJE in Kaduna called on President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the 19 northern states governors to act without further delay to save the situation. The ACF scribe also spoke on other national issues.
Afenifere and Ohanaeze recently kicked against the Federal Government’s proposal for Ruga (Fulani herdsmen settlement) across the country. What is ACF’s stand on the issue?
When those opposed to open grazing bynomads in favour of ranches are the same ones opposed to any programmes that can lead to the emergence of the nationally preferred ranches, one begins to wonder what they actually want.
RUGA is settlements of nomads which the federal government and some state governments want to encourage in bigger sizes in the hope of encouraging sedentary way of life away from nomadic culture that are amenable to clashes between herdsmen and farmers. In order to stave off such tendencies, the governments wish to help nomads establish and manage bigger settlements that are still called RUGA for the express purpose of encouraging sedentary way of life and the husbandry leading to establishment and management of ranches for common good.
I therefore do not see the wisdom of the opposition to open grazing by nomads and also opposition at the same time to any programmes as precursor for establishment and management of ranches that is the preferred national choice.
More distressing is the argument by the opposition to the scheme that government has no reasons for getting involved in ranches that are private business concerns. And they do this strident opposition without due regard to the fact that governments have established river basins and dams in order to improve productivity in agriculture across the country. Governments have also been subsidizing agricultural inputs like tractors and fertilizers. We are also aware that there are certain private concerns that are regarded as “too big to fail”. Hence, the significance of bailout to banks and discos for distribution of power. As Nigerians, nomads are also entitled to some form of support from government. It is therefore gross injustice to allow the activities of some criminal herdsmen who do not act on behalf of the entire herdsmen, majority of whom are innocent to make some Nigerians oppose any action of governments on herdsmen, however good.
How do you also react to the rejection by South East governors, Miyetti Allah’s call for vigilance groups by herdsmen in the zone?
I believe the decision of Miyetti Allah to have vigilante group is to help monitor situations that inspire clashes between herdsmen and farmers. It is also within the purview of the governors to ensure security by providing protection of lives and property. If the government who are helmsmen of the states do not consider the help of Miyetti Allah as helpful in ensuring security in their states, then one would not expect Miyetti Allah to force its support on the governors who are in charge of security in the states. Any support by Miyetti Allah is complementary to those of the governors. But in the event that the state governors require the support of Miyetti Allah in complementing the efforts of the security agents, there would be no cavil if such support are not denied by Miyetti Allah.
Former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, in a recent interview with Saturday Sun, said North is suffering in silence in terms of insecurity and alarming rate of poverty in the region. Do you agree with him or don’t you think he has stated the obvious?
As long as there are still challenges of insecurity posed by insurgence, banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling, armed robbery, clashes between herdsmen and farmers as well as poverty that comes with unemployment, North is suffering. But I do not agree that the North is silent on its suffering. We have been crying out about the suffering and calling on both the federal and state governments to confront these unsavory challenges that are not beyond redemption. Happily enough, President Buhari is from the North and all the Northern Governors are members of the National Economic Council where all these challenges can be discussed and solutions proffered. Similarly, all the Northern Governors meet under the auspices of Northern States Governors Forum where they can discuss and arrive at best ways of making the most of our diversity and how best to work hard and overcome what divide the people.
The Federal Government proposed a ban on Almajiri system in the North. What is your take on this?
This issue of Almajiri is a serious matter in the sense that it has to do with culture and tradition that may not be amenable to taming by administrative fiat. It requires some form of cultural renaissance as solution. And that may explain why the presidency has said the decision on how best to approach the matter requires some extensive consultations among stakeholders who are expected to contribute on how best to go about it. As for ACF, any best approach arrived at will be welcome and supported by the forum, which has been in the vanguard of the campaign for overhauling of the entire system of Almajiri for performance.
Many Nigerians believe that with the present composition of the National Assembly where the ruling APC is in charge of leadership, President Buhari will be able to perform better. Do you think so?
That is what most Nigerians expect from the APC regime, which has been given the electoral mandate needed for execution at both executive and legislative arms of government without any hindrance. It shows most Nigerians clearly know what they want which informed their votes in the elections. We hope the prime movers at both arms of government would appreciate this decision by Nigerians and deliver on the promise of their mandate.
There have been raging controversies on the jumbo pay by members of the National Assembly. How do you wish this to be resolved?
The Senate President has said there is no jumbo pay to members of the National Assembly because a senator takes home monthly salary of N750,000. Many people, including Prof Sagay, have cried foul and submitted that when all other allowances and perquisites are duly added, each senator takes home about N280m per annum. Most Nigerians believe this amount is over and above the value, which a senator gives to Nigeria.
I would suggest the RMFC should take a look at the salaries and allowances for all public office holders, including those of ex-governors who are senators or ministers and take double salaries and allowances which are not in sync with their contributions with a view to arriving at a realistic salaries and allowances which are in tune with the national economy.
What is your expectation of the qualifications for those who should be appointed as ministers, and what do you think is delaying the appointments?
The President should look for people who share his vision and aspirations for Nigeria through whom he can multiply his strength through them. And in doing so, the factors of merit, inclusiveness by way of federal character that is in the constitution, technocratic proficiency and rewards for campaigns must intersect in such persons. This is because all these factors are not mutually exclusive.
I believe the president knows Nigerians may not wait for too long this time around. This is because he has been on the seat for the past four years which is not the same with his first tenure when on inauguration, he met what he never expected and had to take more time in order to study what he met and in order to save cost. The situation is not the same now. As a result, we do not expect the president to take too long before he constitutes his cabinet this time around.