PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has asked Nigerians to ignore the recent call by the Northern Elders Forum (Nef) for Fulani cattle herdsmen to leave the south of the country in response to the widespread opposition to the Ruga cattle colony programme.
Over the last few weeks, the political temperature has risen in Nigeria after the government came out with the ill-thought out Ruga policy that would involve states handing their land over to Fulani cattle herdsmen to rear their livestock. Apart from the fact that to work, the policy would require the abrogation of the Land Use Act with vests land ownership with state governors, Ruga is also seen as a security threat.
Fulani cattle herdsmen have been guilty of murderous attacks on farming villages across Nigeria lately, carrying out violent assaults on farming communities that protest damage to their crops by livestock. As a result of the security threat these herdsmen pose, many states have vehemently said they would not make land available for Ruga settlements.
In response to the opposition to Ruga, Nef and the Coalition of the Northern Groups (CNGs) have asked Fulani herdsmen to leave the southern part of Nigeria. In a swift response, however, President Buhari questioned the intentions of the Nef and the other so-called leaders in delving into issues with unsolicited, ill-intentioned advice.
Presidential spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu, said: “All citizens of Nigeria are free to move and live within any part of the country they please, whether or not they are originally from there. In line with our country’s constitution, the government of Nigeria and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will protect citizens of Nigeria wherever they find themselves.
“No one has the right to ask anyone or group to depart from any part of the country, whether north, south, east or west and they have no one’s authority to make such pronouncements. The polarising role of the Northern Elders Forum and all those other groups dabbling into issues of security to score cheap political points has for long been a sore point in Nigeria’s body polity.
“They should not be allowed to mislead anyone, least of all the Fulani herders. The Buhari administration is fully devoted to finding a lasting solution to the herder-farmer clashes in different parts of Nigeria, that would be acceptable to all the parties involved.”
Southern leaders have described the Nef and the CNG call as irresponsible, arrogant and an unpatriotic action. Pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Ijaw National Council have all asked the Nef to withdraw the ultimatum.
Afenifere accused the Nef of heating the polity with its claims that Fulani herdsmen were not safe in the south, describing the statement as insensitive and arrogant. Ohanaeze Ndigbo warned the Nef and CNG not to overheat the polity and cause unnecessary commotion in the country.