The Pan Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, has described the Ruga settlement policy initiated by the Presidency as an ethnic agenda, saying ranching is the way to end killing by Fulani herdsmen.
Also, the Igbo socio-political body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, as well as the Pan Niger Delta Forum joined Afenifere in calling on the Federal Government to embrace and preach ranching to Fulani herdsmen instead of funding their private business.
In the same vein, the umbrella body for the North, the Arewa Consultative Forum, called on Nigerians not to heat up the polity on the Ruga issue, stressing that peaceful herdsmen in the country should be encouraged.
Speaking through its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, in an interview , Afenifere said the government must not commit the nation’s resources to the private business of individuals.
Odumakin said, “There are three things that will solve the problem of herdsmen killings. The first thing is that the Federal Government should stop behaving like the government of herdsmen. Government must begin to enforce law and order and make sure that no group or people act with impunity against the other.
“We have cases of those who have gone at one time or another to report herdsmen’s atrocities but security forces would not take their reports because the President is the grand patron of herdsmen. That constrains security agencies from acting against them because they see it as against the President.
“Nigerians voted for ranching at the 2014 constitutional conference as a way out of this crisis and that those ranches should not be the business of government. Individuals should set them up because the owners of these cattle are billionaires but those who are moving the cattle labourers.
“If there is no ethnic agenda, which former President Olusegun Obasanjo called Fulanisation, there is no need committing government’s resources to individuals’ businesses. This is why so many people believe that Buhari is pursuing an ethnic agenda.”
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Uche Achi-Ukpaga, stated that ranching was the way out, but said the ranches should be built in the North where the cattle are.
He said, “If anyone is in government and the kind of killing, maiming and other wicked acts by the herdsmen are still going on, then you resign because you don’t have the initiative to tackle it.
“Our position on Ruga is that it should be cancelled and not suspended. Suspension is like keep-in-view. Some of the actions of the government are laughable.
“People are saying that the Sambisa Forest is large enough to accommodate all the cattle in Africa, not Nigeria alone. There is green vegetation there and government can go there to do ranching or Ruga. There is land in the North and cattle are there. Why can’t they set up whatever they want to set up there?
“We want Ruga to be cancelled. We don’t want it in the South. If we must do ranching, let them do it in the North where there is a large expanse of land lying fallow. Why coming to the South where the land is congested?”
In the same vein, the PANDEF asked the Federal Government to create an enabling environment for ranching, noting that this was the solution to the herdsmen-farmers’ conflict in the country.
PANDEF said it would not entertain the implementation of Ruga in the South-South, stressing that herders, like other Nigerian businessmen, could buy land in any state and set up ranches.
The National Secretary of the Niger Delta group, Dr. Alfred Mulade, told the government to steer clear of the issue, adding that herdsmen, who wished to set up ranches, were free to do so.
Mulade stated, “Ranching is okay but it should be left to the herders just like the way any Igboman hires a shop in any part of the country for his business. It’s purely a business venture. So, the government should steer clear of it because cattle rearing is a business just like any other business.
“If the herders feel the need to do ranching, they could buy land in any part of the country. The government cannot force anything down the throats of the people.”
In a similar vein, the Taraba Volunteer Group, a civil society organisation, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for listening to the voice of reason and suspending the proposed Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen.
In a statement by the group’s coordinator, Mr. Joseph Terence, and Legal Adviser, Mr Nierus Johnson, in Jalingo, on Saturday, TVG said Ruga settlement was clearly against the import and the provisions of Section 42 (1) b of the 1999 constitution as amended which provides for equal treatment for all communities and citizens.
“Rather than spend huge sums of money to benefit only a particular community in the name of Ruga settlement, such funds should be used in alleviating the sufferings of millions of Nigerians in IDP camps.”
ACF backs northern groups’ ultimatum to FG
Meanwhile, the ACF cautioned Nigerians against heating up the polity over the now-suspended Ruga settlement.
Specifically, the ACF said all Nigerians, irrespective of their positions, should refrain from taking decisions that were inimical to peace and unity of the country.
The ACF, through its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim-Biu, in a statement in Kaduna on Saturday, also noted that it shared the concern of the Coalition of Northern Groups who gave the Federal Government ultimatum to reverse its decision on Ruga.
It stated, “Now that the Federal Government has put on hold the Ruga settlement programme, that it is inconsistent with the National Livestock Transformation Plan approved by the National Economic Council and moreover, the programme is designed as voluntary for willing state governments, Arewa Consultative Forum therefore urges all concerned to exercise restraint in taking actions that may be inimical to peace and stability in our polity.
“The ACF also shares the concern of the Coalition of the Northern Groups on the plight of genuine herdsmen in pursuit of their livelihood in some parts of the country.
“The ACF therefore appeals to government to institute measures that would ameliorate the suffering of not only herders but all those involved in the value chain of livestock production.”
Ruga will tackle herders/farmers’ clashes –Nasarawa
But the Nasarawa State Government has said it is in support of the Ruga initiative, which it believes will curb the incessant herders/farmers’ clashes in the state.
The Director-General, Strategic Communication and Press Affairs in the state, Mr. Yakubu Lamai, stated this in an interview in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, on Saturday.
He said, “Nasarawa State will support any move by the Federal Government that will tackle Fulani herders and farmers’ crisis in the state to bring peace and harmony between the parties, residents and country at large.”