By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, S-South, Dapo Akinrefon, Gabriel Ewepu, Chinonso Alozie, Olayinka Ajayi & Odera Ebeze


L
AGOS — Outrage trailing introduction of the Ruga settlements policy continued yesterday, with Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, saying it’s going to be an explosive issue, adding that the President ought to have lost the last elections on account of the “lackadaisical attitude which he took to the issue of cattle-rearers.”

SOYINKA

He also wondered if there was any society where cattle take priority over human beings.

Soyinka spoke as Benue State Government yesterday disclosed its decision to approach the Supreme Court to stop the Federal Government from going ahead with the project in the state, even as the Rivers State Government vowed never to participate in the project.

Similarly, Igbo National Council, INC, and Ijaw Youth Council warned that no land would be made available in their territories for the project, just as former Deputy National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George, faulted the timing of introduction of the project, saying it was suspicious.

Soyinka, who was a special guest at the official launch of Solution 17 for Sustainable Development Goals , an initiative geared towards youth empowerment in Lagos yesterday, maintained that the practice of herders’ settlement across Nigeria was neither strange nor mysterious.

‘Ruga, and explosive issue’

Fielding questions from newsmen, he said: “Ruga is going to be an explosive issue and it had better be handled very carefully. Why is it that we fail to take our models from successful performers? And then, Buhari took such a long time. For me, he deserved — and I have written this down — to have lost the last election if only on account of the lackadaisical attitude which he took to the issue of cattle-rearers. People have been killed in hundreds till today and it is only because of the failure of leadership at the critical time.

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“There are ways in which people deal, and have dealt for decades — for centuries with cattle everywhere. I travel everywhere. It is nothing so strange; there is nothing mysterious about cattle rearing.

“Why should cattle become a problem just because we like to eat beef? I don’t understand it. There are solutions which are very simple. People have talked about ranching, but the ranching has got to be done in places which are environmentally congenial to that particular kind of trade and at the same time do not afflict humanity.

“What’s the point in trying to provide food and the food chokes us; which is what cattle and cattle-rearers have been doing? We have a situation where cattle walk up to my own door in Abeokuta which is supposed to be a residential area.

“There is a problem when cattle go to Ijebu-Ode and eat up Sodipe’s (a furniture maker’s) planted seedlings; and this is someone who is working towards a guaranteed environment by planting trees to replace the trees (timber) which he has used. Then cattle come and eat up all of that and you expect people to sit down and be quiet?

“That is the most important thing and the cattle rearers have been given a sense of impunity: they kill without any compunction; they drive farmers also who are contributing to the food solution of the country away; burn their crops; eat their crops; and then you come with Ruga.

“I think there is going to be trouble in this country if this cattle-rearing issue is not handled imaginatively and with humanity as the priority. There cannot be any kind of society where cattle take priority over human beings. It is as elementary as that”.

Benue govt  heads to S-Court

In a similar development, Benue State Government yesterday disclosed its decision to approach the Supreme Court to stop the Federal Government from going ahead with the project in the state.

Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to the state governor, Terve Akase, who disclosed this while speaking on African Independent Television, AIT programme, Kaakaki said the state has contacted its lawyers to get their papers ready to begin the court process.

He said: “The Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, came out to tell the world that the Federal Government has gazetted land in all the 36 states. We came out quickly to challenge the Federal Government to show us the document that gazetted land in Benue because the Land Use Act is clear that even the Federal Government will not and cannot invade a state and take land.

“The land has to be given to the Federal Government by the State. Government can only get land of a project for general interest. We don’t have such gazette land in Benue State. What they are telling the world is not true.

“Benue State Government has already briefed its lawyers to get their papers ready. The Federal Government has said the donation of land for the project is voluntary; that the state has its right to pull out of it and they listed Benue as one of the pilot states, and we are saying we don’t want to be part of the pilot states. But if the government insists on siting these Ruga projects in Benue State we will go to court.”

However, he called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow people around him to mislead him over the Ruga project being a man of integrity.

FG should abide by S-Court ruling on land matters — Falana

Also speaking on the programme, human rights activist, Femi Falana, SAN, urged the Federal Government to uphold the decision of the Supreme Court over land matters between the federal and state governments.

He said: “What I am saying is that when the Supreme Court has taken a decision on any matter, no government, either the state or federal government, can change it. I am advising all parties, all attorney generals to advise their governments properly so we do not engage in illegality.

“With respect to Benue State Government, it has the right to draw the attention of the Federal Government which operates under the rule of law to the decision of the Supreme Court on the finality of the right of state government to approve the building of Ruga or ranch in that state.

“That is what is done in any civilized society. We are not supposed to engage in any incitement and the rest of them. What should be done in this case is for Benue State Government to rush to court if the Federal Government is not going to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court on this matter.’’

We’re not part of Ruga — Rivers govt

On its part, Rivers State government vowed yesterday never to participate in the Federal Government’s  Ruga settlements for  herdsmen.

The government in a statement signed  by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry  of  Information, Paulinus  Nsirim, noted that the state had no land for the implementation  of such a policy.

It noted that the second term of Governor Nyesom Wike has prioritised  commercial agriculture,  hence all available arable land in the state would be needed to drive commercial agriculture across the state to create employment  for Rivers youths.

The government emphasised  that it has not given any approval for the siting of Ruga settlements anywhere in Rivers State, adding that no such that no approval would come from it for  the  Ruga settlements.

The statement said the governor would continue  to defend the interest of Rivers people,  who have overwhelmingly rejected cattle colonies, Ruga Settlements and any such policy.

Igboland has no room for Ruga — INC

Reacting in the same vein, Igbo National Council, INC, yesterday, warned that no land in Igboland should be converted to Ruga settlements, describing lands as heritage from their forefathers.

INC National President and Secretary, Chilos Godsent and Zulu Ofoelue, in statement issued in Owerri, said that just as the cattle was source of livelihood for herdsmen, lands were also the source of their own livelihood in the South-East zone.

ZMSG concludes plan to implement Ruga initiative

The group also called on governors, state Houses of Assembly in the South East to stand up in unity against the planned Ruga settlements for cattle by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

It stated: “The Igbo National Council, INC, wishes to thank the people of Nenwe Aninri in Enugu State for their patriotism, boldness and courage to defend their community against planned invasion by herdsmen  and Miyetti Allah.

“The Igbo National Council (INC) will continue to stand shoulder  to  shoulder in solidarity with the people of Nenwe Aninri and other communities in Igbo land in our resolve to defend the father land from unholy invasion and neo-colonialism by foreign Jihadists militia.

“We, therefore, call on our political elites, community leaders of Igbo race to stand up to the present realities, re-organize and strengthen the capacities of their youth groups, community vigilante groups and the Town Union Government   in readiness to protect our ancestral heritage and humanity at large.

Wike rejects Ruga settlements

“Consequently, we call on the governors and State House of Assemblies of the South-East and South-South and Benue State to immediately make declaratory statements in strong condemnation and outright rejection of the proposed establishment of RUGA Settlements in Igbo land by the Federal Government.

“We wish to state emphatically that the business of cattle raring is a private one which has no overriding public interest. Our lands are also our own source of livelihood and our heritage.”

Ruga: IYC warns S-South govs

Also reacting yesterday, IJAW Youth Council, IYC, said the Ijaw ethnic nationality had no land for the proposed RUGA settlement for cattle rearers.

The council also admonished   the governors of the six South-South states and Ondo in the South-West  not to bow to pressure from the   Federal Government in their own interests.

President of the Council, Pereotubo Oweilaemi, who disclosed this in a statement, said: “We reject   Fulani Vigilante Group in our territory and we do not   have land to accommodate foreigners.

“The desert North is big enough for herdsmen to rear their cattle. We will not accommodate people whose ultimate goal is to carry out religious jihad against their hosts in order to establish their Islamic caliphate.

“The herdsmen, who have been terrorizing the indigenous people in the Meddle Belt as well as some parts of Southern Nigeria, are seen as a trojan horse to us.

“IYC rejects in its entirety the move by the Federal Government to establish the said Ruga settlement for herdsmen. The government should not by act or omission instigate ethno-religious crisis in the country.

“The genocide being perpetrated against the Middle Beltans by these herdsmen has not been addressed by the present government with a determined effort.

“At the height of the killings by the terrorists, the Presidency only said the Middle Belt people should relinquish their ancestral lands to the killer herdsmen. How can we cede our land to such persons who take delight in massacring innocent people?

“We will not invite such trojan horses to our land for the sake of future generations. We are warning the six governors of the South South states and governor of Ondo State not to accept that dangerous proposal.

“Should any of them be politically cajoled to accept the proposal, then we will take a bloody revolution against them and their imperial interest. This is not a warning. Ijaw people are ready to defend our land, even with the last drop of our blood.”

Ruga policy unsettling Nigeria  Bode George

Meanwhile, former Deputy National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George, yesterday, expressed worry that the timing of the RUGA settlement was suspicious, adding that the country was highly divided along tribal and religion lines.

Speaking while addressing newsmen in Lagos, George urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently convene a national town hall meeting on the policy.

The PDP leader argued that the settlement for herdsmen by the Federal Government was unsettling the country

He said: “The Nigerian state is definitely not at ease. There are so many multifarious challenges confronting us all. From the desert to the sea, there is that palpable tension, festering social dislocations everywhere.

“Our democracy is equally battered by the constant insidious encroachments of herdsmen into our farms, provoking tensions and murderous violence. The upsurge of bandits and kidnappers are the latest evils threatening the stability of our nation.

The newly proposed Ruga settlements for herdsmen across the nation should be given more thoughtful appraisal, more tempering analysis, lest we are thrown into destabilization.”

He lamented that the “scourge of banditry, the new fangled menace of ubiquitous kidnappers and the murderous largeness of the Boko-Haram zealots have all compounded the situation.

Expressing fears that Nigerians were being pushed to the brink, George said:  “We are now being pushed to the brink. All kinds of faceless actors are now turning our present situation into a free-for-all hate-mongering, reckless populism and sheer profiteering.

“It should not be this way. Our leaders should not be stampeded into panicky, unreflective actions. Let the ruling party, the opposition, the non-partisan and everyone else step back from the brink and withdraw into a more reflective, more sobering position.

“The essence of democracy is the triumph of the people’s will. It is about the necessary assertive hurrah of the choice of the people.

“Thus, where the wish and the will of the people prevail, the crucial essence of democracy is thus fulfilled. But, unfortunately, we are now straying. The electoral process is very flawed, distorted, mangled, fractured, dishonest, primitive, savaged by deliberate human intrusions.

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