NIGERIA’S Northern Elders Forum (Nef) and the Coalition of the Northern Groups (CNGs) have asked Fulani herdsmen to leave the southern part of the country in response to the rejection of plans to implement the controversial 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.
Of late, Fulani cattle herdsmen have been guilty of murderous attacks on farming villages across Nigeria, 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 rejection of the Ruga policy, Nerf and CNG have suggested that the herdsmen should return to northern Nigeria where their safety and that of their property can be guaranteed. They added that they were worried about the fact that some southern leaders had openly threatened war against the Fulani herdsmen.
After a meeting in Abuja yesterday between the two groups, Professor Ango Abdullahi, the Nef chairman, said the call on the herdsmen to rerun to northern Nigeria was borne out of the alleged realisation that their lives had a been put at risk by the recent actions and utterances of southern governors. He said he backed the call by the CNG for them to leave southern Nigeria immediately.
Professor Abdullahi added: “We are worried about their well-being. If it is true that their safety can no longer be guaranteed, we would rather have them back in areas where their safety is guaranteed.
“The bottom line is that their safety is far more important than their stay there. This is a country we all wish to keep together but not at the expense of other sections.”
He also called for the establishment of a judicial enquiry that would be saddled with the responsibility of determining the quantum of loss of properties by herdsmen and farmers. This, Professor Abdullahi said, should be done with a view to paying compensation due to each of the warring parties.
CNG spokesperson, Abdulaziz Sulaiman, alleged that the southern governors had on July 9, , jointly agreed to stop the movement of herders and cattle in the south. He also said the governors even arrogated to themselves powers to decide which category of herdsmen could be allowed to live in the south.
Mr Sulaiman also regretted that herdsmen were being blamed for the killing of Mrs Funke Olakunri, the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti. He said this was wrong as the culprits had yet to be identified.
“Throwing caution to the winds, Gani Adams, Fani-Kayode, Yinka Odumakin and a host of other southern regionalists shamelessly insisted on changing the narratives around the killing of the Fasoranti lady. In the process, they threatened all forms of violations and breaches against northerners including the threat of an all-out war.
“With all these statements and steps taken by the southern governors and opinion leaders, we are worried that none of the northern governors or federal official has deemed it apt to caution them. The failure or neglect of the police to trace a connection between the Fasoranti daughter’s murder and the seeming pre-arranged conduct of Fani-Kayode, Odumakin and Adams by their haste to shift the blame in order to render the Fulani object of attack is certainly suspicious.
“We are also concerned about the sincerity of the federal government in implementing the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) going by the manner previous efforts at executing developmental projects like the Mambila hydro-electric power project and several initiatives on the herdsmen dilemma were invariably stalled. We are equally worried that the NLTP is vested in the office of the vice-president that is believed to have frustrated previous projects meant for the north.
“We find it difficult to trust the commitments of this government ,which has for the past four years, failed to execute any positive initiative towards resolving the herders’ problems nor shown any encouraging concern for the dilemma of the Fulani who have been attacked in various states. Based on the above observations sir, and the fact that the instigation of hatred against the Fulani persists, we feel obliged to advise the leadership of the Northern Elders Forum to consider calling on the Fulani to forgo their right to live and flourish anywhere in the south and relocate to their various states in the north to ensure their safety,” Mr Sulaiman added.
However, Baba Usman, the general secretary of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban) said: “I am not aware of this development. I didn’t know anything about it and am just hearing it from you now, so, I have no comment on it.”