Socio-cultural groups, including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and organisations in Benue State have faulted the plan by the Federal Government to establish Ruga settlements for herdsmen in states across the country.
The Federal Government had on Tuesday said in the next five years, the establishment of the Ruga herdsmen’s settlements would stop open grazing by herdsmen.
It said that no fewer than 12 states had accepted the settlements in their areas.
But the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, said the South-West would not surrender an inch of its land for Ruga settlement for herdsmen.
Afenifere’s spokesman, 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.
He stated that the moves had confirmed former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s statement that there was a plan to ‘Fulanise the country.’
Asked if the Ruga settlement would end pastoralist and farmers’ clashes as claimed by the Federal Government, Afenifere stated, “They can tell that to the marines; The Federal Government simply wants to carve out land from every community to give to the Fulani.
“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 would be given for Ruga because it is a plan to colonise the country. It is like what the British did.”
Odumakin pointed out that the plan was capable of precipitating crisis and jeopardizing the unity of the country, stating that the agenda was “sectional and clannish.”
He said, “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.”
On its part, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, warned the Federal Government not create unnecessary tension with the plan to establish Ruga settlements for herdsmen across the country.
The Ohanaeze President-General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who spoke to The PUNCH through his Special Adviser on Media, Emeka Attamah, said 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 Federal 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.
He said Ohanaeze would 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.
Nwodo stated, “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.”
Nwodo said that Ohanaeze was fully in support of the South-East governors’ position that there was no land for the establishment of Ruga settlements in Igbo land.
Also, the three main socio-cultural organisations in Benue State: the Mdzough U Tiv, the Ochetoha K’ Idoma and Omi Ny’ Igede, said the Ruga settlement was another ploy to claim the Benue land.
In a statement signed by Chief Edward Ujege, Adoya Amali and Bem Okpa, the group vowed that the people of the state would resist the establishment of Ruga settlements with the last drop of their blood.
They noted that the decision to establish Ruga settlements for the Fulani herdsmen of West Africa was to deprive the indigenes of their land.
The groups recalled that the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier directed that the non- existence cattle routes, grazing reserves and cattle colonies should be established in Benue State.
They noted that the award of contract by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for the establishment of Ruga settlements showed the urge by the Miyetti Allah to claim the Benue valley as the original settlers and owners.
The statement partly read, “We hereby state unequivocally that the Fulani herdsmen have never occupied or owned the Benue valley. The Federal Government under the present leadership and the Miyetti Allah are one and the same. Benue State 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 Federal Government cause the deterioration of Benue State economy and go on to blame it on the people and state government?” he asked.
Meanwhile, a socio-political organisation, the Igbo Oriental Think Tank, has warned that Nigeria might not survive an impending genocide as a result of the establishment of Fulani settlements by the Federal Government.
The Igbo group said establishing the settlements popularly known as Ruga in the 36 states of the federation should be halted with immediate effect so that Nigerians could sit down and decide the way forward.
The IOTT in a statement issued in Abuja by its Coordinating Secretary, Dr Kenneth Anozie, obtained by The PUNCH on Wednesday, 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.
The statement added, “It has come to our notice with shock and disbelief the current plans by the All Progressives Congress government of President Muhammadu 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 (fighters) 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.” – Punch.