Governors of Eastern Nigeria, the hotspot of Biafra agitation by Igbo youths, have advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to worry about the divisive Ruga settlements programme for his nomadic Fulani kinsmen, but should instead concentrate his administration on rebuilding the fractured Nigeria.
The governors who are insisting that they have not earmarked any land in the region for the Ruga settlements programme and the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) strongly urged President Buhari, ‘’rebuild our nation whose patriotism we ignored in the time past to enable us love one another.’’
The Buhari administration had before now announced the suspension of the Ruga settlements policy which, it argued, will end the recurring herders’/farmers’ clashes in virtually all parts of the troubled country.
The governors made the advice on the platform of the Southeast Governors’ Forum (SGF) in a statement by its Director-General, Prof Simon Uchenna Ortuanya. The Forum wants the Buhari administration to kick-off the NLTP in the North.
According to Ortuanya, ‘’the attention of the SGF has been drawn to the various attacks and campaign of calumny by people alleging that governors of the Southeast have secretly donated land for Ruga programme being promoted by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the NLTP as approved by the National Economic Council (NEC).
‘’Southeast governors are maintaining that none of them has donated any land or intends to donate any land for any of the two programmes due to lack of enough land in the entire Southeast.
‘’The governors appreciate the fact that we have good and law-abiding herdsmen who have been living with us; some of them were even born here. We have been living in peace with them until recently when we started witnessing invasion of our land, kidnapping of our people, killing of defenseless natives and destruction of their farmlands.
‘’These herdsmen that have been living peacefully with us together with the natives have insisted that these evil as now experienced in our land are the handiwork of herdsmen moving from other states into Southeast and most of the time, these herdsmen are not even Nigerians.
‘’We will not chase away herdsmen who are peaceful and have been living peacefully among us. We agreed with herdsmen living peacefully with us and the natives that movement of cows into the Southeast should be by road transportation using trailers to their specific cow markets. No more allowing foreign herdsmen to move their cattle by foot as it’s the point of conflict with the farmers and natives.’’
Though they declared that herdsmen deserve a better life and commended the federal government for their good intentions in this direction, the governors however, emphasized that what government and NEC approved was NLTP and ‘’it is not compulsory for all the states but for any willing state who wants to participate in NLTP’’.
While urging the government to immediately start the implementation of NLTP in the Northern states that have accepted the programme with their large expanse of land, the governors cautioned Nigerians to be careful with comments not to heat up the polity, arguing that the wisdom of economics allows states to develop along the lines of their economic comparative advantage.
Continuing, they added that the objective and success of NLIP ‘’must be viewed along the lines of conflict resolution, welfare for herders, peaceful co-existence among farmers and herders, rehabilitation and reintegration of the displaced farmers/herders and natives and increase in the wealth of herders, farmers and the nation at large.’’
The governors have accordingly urged Igbo people living in the North to ignore the alleged threat contained in the video message by self-styled Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), claiming that they are in talks with their brother Northern governors and their leaders who have assured them that no harm that will befall Ndigbo living in various Northern states across Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Senior Policy Adviser (Agriculture Interventions Coordination) in the Office of the Vice President, Dr. Andrew Kwasari, had said, ‘’the National Livestock Transformation Plan has not been suspended. In fact, it has been enhanced because Mr President, in his wisdom, has spoken and directed that this is the plan that we should be working around to implement.
‘’We will need all-encompassing committee of the National Economic Council, National Food Security Council, and the Federal Executive Council working together to deliver this plan. So, for us, this is the type of leadership that the country needs. So, there is no mention of suspension whatsoever for the NLTP.’’