A civic group, Igbo Oriental Think Tank, has sent out a disturbing call to Nigerian leaders, urging them to rally all concerned in a bid to urgently rescue the country from doom.
According to this Igbo group, Nigeria will not be able to survive what they described as ‘’an impending genocide’’ largely due to ‘’the insensitive move by the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari to establishment settlements for Fulani herdsmen’’.
The group wants all cadres of leaders in the country to rise in unison and abort the establishment of such settlements. Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture is moving to establish Ruga (Fulani Settlements) in the 36 states of the federation.
States in the Middle-Belt, Eastern, Western, and Southern Nigeria are not on the same page with the Buhari administration on the seeming land grabbing initiative that is feared to ultimately culminate in the Islamisation of the country.
The emerging consensus in the troubled country is that the initiative should be halted with immediate effect so that the federating blocs could sit down and decide the way forward.
Coordinating Secretary of the Igbo group, Kenneth Anozie, in a statement said the Nigerian economy was already grappling with enough crises in education, infrastructure, human capital development, health and other social vices which required urgent attention.
‘’It has come to our notice with shock and disbelief the current plans by the All Progressives Congress (APC) government of President Buhari to forcefully set up Fulani settlements across the 36 states of the federation, but with particular reference in the Middle Belt, South-East, South-South and South-West.
‘’This report is quite disturbing coming on the heels of the threat of the Fulani herdsmen and their sponsors, the Miyetti Allah, to set up Fulani vigilante groups across the South-East and other parts of Nigeria. The current state of insecurity, continued killings, kidnapping and the onslaught of Boko Haram who daily slaughter innocent Nigerians are enough threats already to the continued existence of Nigeria, let alone the resultant effect of this present plot on Nigeria’’, the think-tank group said.
In the mean time, front line socio-cultural groups like Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere are faulting the plan by the government to establish Ruga settlements for herdsmen in states across the country.
The Buhari administration on Tuesday disclosed that in the next five years, the establishment of the Ruga herdsmen’s settlements will stop open grazing by the killer herdsmen, and that no fewer than 12 states had accepted the settlements in their areas.
But Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group is saying that Western Nigeria is not willing to surrender an inch of her land for Ruga settlement for herdsmen. Spokesman for the group, Yinka Odumakin, said the Yoruba was not in support of the Ruga settlement meant for Fulani herdsmen, describing it as a ploy to colonise the country by the nomadic tribe.
The move, according to him, has confirmed former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s statement that there was a plan to Fulanise the country.
Contrary to the claim by government that Ruga settlement will end pastoralist and farmers’ clashes, Odumakin said Abuja simply wants to carve out land from every community to give to the Fulani, adding, ‘’when former President Obasanjo said there was a plan to Fulanise Nigeria, they said it was not so, but what are you doing? For us in the South-West, no inch of Yorubaland will be given for Ruga because it is a plan to colonise the country. It is like what the British did.’’
Pointing out that the plan is capable of precipitating crisis and jeopardising the unity of the country, he added, ‘’now that they are talking of local government autonomy, the plan is to turn the Ruga settlements to local governments for the Fulani in the future. So we reject the agenda, we don’t accept it. We are enlightened people; we can’t be deceived by such a ruse. They don’t care about the unity of this country and they are running Nigeria in a sectional way and pandering to clannish interests.’’
For Ohanaeze Ndigbo, government should not create unnecessary tension with the plan to establish Ruga settlements for herdsmen across the country.
President-General of the pan-Igbo group, Nnia Nwodo, told The Punch through his Special Adviser on Media, Emeka Attamah, that the only option to address the killings of farmers across the country by Fulani herdsmen remained the establishment of ranches in states that had land, but not certainly in the South-East.
Nwodo said what the government planned was to use dishonest means to achieve the open grazing or cattle colony agenda which it failed to achieve through the 8th National Assembly, promising that Ohanaeze will deploy everything available to it to stop any attempt to establish cattle colonies in the South-East in the name of Ruga settlements for herdsmen.
‘’Ohanaeze is appealing to the Federal Government to allow peace to reign in Nigeria. Buhari should pursue the global best practices in his quest to plant his kinsmen in all parts of Nigeria’’, he said, adding that Ohanaeze is fully in support of the Eastern governors’ position that there is no land for the establishment of Ruga settlements in Igbo land.
The three principal socio-cultural organisations in Benue State: the Mdzough U Tiv, the Ochetoha K’ Idoma and Omi Ny’ Igede, said in a statement by Edward Ujege, Adoya Amali and Bem Okpa, that the Ruga settlement was another ploy to claim the Benue land, and vowed that the people of the state will resist its establishment with the last drop of their blood.
While noting that the decision to establish Ruga settlements for the Fulani herdsmen of West Africa was to deprive the indigenes of their land, the Benue groups recalled that the government under the leadership of President Buhari had earlier directed that the non- existence cattle routes, grazing reserves and cattle colonies should be established in the state.
They also noted that the award of contract by the federal agriculture ministry for the establishment of Ruga settlements showed the urge by the Miyetti Allah to claim the Benue valley as their original settlers and owners.
‘’We hereby state unequivocally that the Fulani herdsmen have never occupied or owned the Benue valley. The government under the present leadership and the Miyetti Allah are one and the same. Benue has an established law: a law that prohibits open grazing and establishment of ranches in 2017. Ruga settlements cannot hold.
‘’That the Land Use Act has vested land within the state in the state governor and all non-urban land in the local government to the council chairmen. How will the government cause the deterioration of Benue economy and go on to blame it on the people and state government?’’, the groups said.