• ‘Only fairness, equity can guarantee peace in Nigeria’
A policy by President Muhammadu Buhari to use public funds to set up Ruga farming settlements for herdsmen in 12 states has been rejected across the country.Three major socio-cultural organisations in Benue State described the policy as a renewed plan to take over the people’s land and give it to Fulani of West Africa in the name of settlements for herdsmen.The groups, namely Mdzough U Tiv, Ochetoha K’ Idoma and Omi Ny’ Igede, led by their leaders, Chief Edward Ujege, Amali Adoya Amali and Ben Okpa vowed that the people of Benue would resist the construction of the settlements even if it meant their extermination.
“Let it be known that the common man in Benue State will use all constitutional means to resist the illegal occupation of our land. The plan is to deprive the indigenes of their land, given to them by their fore fathers which is their main source of livelihood.
“We are, therefore, inviting the international community, well-meaning friends, all socio-cultural associations like Afenefere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum, South South Forum and the United Nations, all who value human lives to come to our assistance to avert this evil attempt by the Federal Government. We also call on all Benue indigenes at home and in the diaspora to rise up to the occasion,” the ethnic nationalities said.
They reminded the President Buhari-led Federal Government that Benue has an established legislation that prohibits open grazing and establishment of ranches and that the Land Use Act enshrined in the country’s constitution has vested land within the state in the governor, and all non-urban land in the local government in the chairmen of local councils.
On the anti-open grazing law being implemented in the state, the groups said the House of Assembly is constitutionally permitted to make laws for the wellbeing of her people and such laws must be respected.“The Federal Government under the present leadership and the Miyetti Allah are one and the same. The award of contract by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for establishment of Ruga settlement boils down to one and the same as the urge by Miyetti Allah to claim the Benue valley as the original settlers and owners.
“But we hereby state unequivocally that the Fulani herdsmen have never occupied or owned Benue. We are in no doubt that Buhari as a person hates Benue State indigenes to a fault. If not, how can the Federal Government turn her back on the huge suffering of over 500,000 internally displaced people in the state?
“How will the Federal Government cause the deterioration of Benue economy and go on to blame it on the people and the state government? Since the coming into power, the administration has not undertaken any major project in Benue State apart from trying to grab our land for construction of Ruga settlements,” they said.Also, a group in the south-south region, Midwest Movement, rejected the plan to establish settlements for Fulani herders in Delta and Edo states.
In a statement yesterday, the pan-Edo/Delta group consisting of members from the ethnic nationalities of the old Midwestern Region, said: “While not opposing the desire of the Federal Government to settle nomadic herdsmen (and any other such groups whatsoever), these should be done in areas and land that are native to such groups.
“The planned aggregation in whatever guise, of the lands of the 12 ethnic nationalities of the Midwest Region of Nigeria, without recourse to consultations with the traditional and bonafide owners, is akin to an invasion.“As peace-loving people, and firm believers in a one Nigeria where peace, justice and equity reign, the Midwest/Bendel peoples of Delta and Edo states firmly advise the Federal Government against the perpetration of any policy that may impact negatively on the seeming already strained unity of the Nigerian federation.
“We call on Mr. President, the governors of Edo and Delta states, our national legislators, our leaders, the international community and all persons of goodwill to help keep Nigerians and its indigenous peoples safe.”A south-east group, Igbo Oriental Think Tank, warned that the country might not survive an impending genocide that would result from the effect of such a policy by the government.
The group specifically warned that if the policy is not halted immediately, there would be violent attacks against the Igbo, north central minorities, southern minorities and the Yoruba nation.In a statement, the Coordinating Secretary of Igbo Oriental Think Tank in Abuja, Dr. Kenneth Anozie, stated: “It has come to our notice with shock and disbelief the current plans by the All Progressives Congress (APC) regime of Muhammadu Buhari to forcefully set up Fulani settlements across the 36 states of the federation, but with particular reference to 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 vigilance group across the south-east and other parts of Nigeria.“The current threat by the same Fulani herdsmen to continue massacring Nigerians across the country when juxtaposed with this current plot makes the Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda of the current regime as alerted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo look very real.
“The current kidnappings and daily massacre of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram are enough threat to the continued existence of Nigeria, which should not be allowed to be worsened by the resultant effect of this present plot to destroy the country.”
Besides, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) urged President Buhari to opt for fairness, equity and equality of rights for all ethno-religious affiliations as a way to ensure the restoration of peace and stability in the country. The group said the government needed to appreciate the import of the United Nations Vienna Declaration of 1993 which states thus: “all human rights are universal, indivisible and inter-dependent” and “democracy, development and respect for human rights are inter-dependent and mutually re-enforcing.”
HURIWA reminded the Buhari’s administration of an outstanding case of unambiguous unfairness and injustice meted out to the largely unarmed but proscribed Igbo speaking followers of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) whereas the hierarchy of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) which actively supports armed Fulani herdsmen is an ally of the presidency.
In a statement yesterday in Abuja by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group also criticised the government over the opaque nature of working out a highly discriminatory settlement policy to benefit only the Fulani speaking ethnicity amidst ballooning poverty, crises of underdevelopment and lack of economic opportunities which afflict the over 350 ethno-tribal communities that make up the country.