Tread softly on Ruga, Fasanmi, Tsav, others tell Fed Govt

June 30, 2019

The Federal Government’s plan to establish Ruga settlements (cattle colonies) drew more reactions yesterday, with some prominent Nigerians suggesting the way out of the dispute.

Others warned that the policy could trigger friction in the country.

Afenifere leader and Second Republic Senator Ayo Fasanmi spoke against the creation of colonies. The Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad (III) cautioned Nigerians against blaming a particular ethnic group for insecurity in the land.

Southeast governors restated their position that no part of the land in their domain would be ceded for Ruga settlement.

Explaining his opposition, Pa Fasanmi said the establishment of colonies could cause disunity among the various nationalities.

Rather, the Afenifere chieftain said, the government should promote policies that will make Nigerians to live in peace and harmony, irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation.

He said that the herders/farmers clashes across the country had been putting fears in the minds of Nigerians.

Fasanmi said: “That is the reason why some Nigerians are opposed to the creation of cattle ranches in certain parts of the country. The Fulani herders have been living with us here in the Southwest peacefully over the years. We should not allow politics to create disharmony among us. The Federal Government should provide security for every Nigerian to live together in peace and harmony.”

Sultan: we must correct societal ills

In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar lll, urged Nigerians to stop blaming a particular ethnic group for the insecurity challenge facing the country.

Rather than blaming an ethnic group, the Sultan urged Nigerians to be patriotic and seek ways of correcting things that have gone wrong in the society.

“It is important for us to be courageous and expose those behind unlawful and criminal activities in the society,” the Sultan said.

Speaking at the inauguration of Sheikh Idress Faazazi Mogaji Central Mosque in Iwo, Osun State, at the weekend, the Sultan warned that harbouring such a belief could cause enmity among the ethnic groups and, consequently, affect the nation’s peace and unity.

Represented by the Executive Secretary, Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), Prof. Dawud Noibi, the Sultan condemned the pronouncement that one ethnic group brought insecurity to Yorubaland.

He maintained that those engaging in criminal activities in Yorubaland could not operate successfully without the collaboration of the indigenes and local people.

The Sultan said: “Some people in Yorubaland must surely cooperate with those involving in kidnapping and other social vices to succeed. Foreign criminals don’t know how to move around without the assistance of the insider. They are given accommodation and they are also supplied food.

“Some Yoruba people must be giving the evil perpetrators the moral support to describe the area where the families of victims can pick them after collecting their ransom.”

He advised Moslem clerics to use their position to change the mindset of the people from bad behaviour to doing the will of God.

Maintaining that mosques are owned by Allah, the Sultan advised that Moslems must pray together without any form of discrimination, irrespective of colour, ethnic group or nationality.

He said: “The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has told us that whoever builds a mosque on earth for worship of Allah, Allah will build a house for him in paradise. It is a reminder for us that we should not focus only on earthly materials. We should also prepare for our end in the above after which we go to paradise.”

The Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdul-Rasheed Adewale Akanbi, admonished clerics to demonstrate the fear of Allah, be transparent, responsible and accountable in adminstration of the mosques under their guidance and supervision.

The monarch, who corroborated the Sultan that Allah owns the mosques, advised the Imams to always follow the footsteps of Prophet Mohammad in caring for the spiritual needs of the people, saying mosques remain places of worshipping God “and people must be encouraged to enjoy have free access at all times.”

A community leader, Alhaji Liadi Tella, urged Nigerians to be more vigilant to assist the government in tackling the security challenges in the society.

Tela, who also advised the people to work with the security agents in their various communities to fight crimes, advised the government to have far-reaching policies and programmes to create employment opportunities for jobless Nigerians, particularly the youth.

Lawyer and civil rights activist Monday Ubani advised the government to be transparent in handling the issue by coming out openly to say what the cattle colonies is all about.

Ubani said: “Government should carry the people along on this sensitive matter. I don’t know why the Federal Government is giving preference to herders. Cattle rearing is one of the country’s agricultural products; what about other products? Why single out cattle rearing? Besides, it is a private business just like farming.

“Government should tread softly on this matter. We have a lot of security challenges at hand and should not add to it by forcing the establishment of cattle colonies on states.”

Former Transport Minister Ebenezer Babatope said the policy would backfire if implemented the wrong way.

He urged the authorities to consider the feelings of the owners of the land in its bid to implement the proposal.

Babatope said the government must give utmost attention to security when the cattle colonies are allocated.

He said: “I don’t know how they are going to douse the tension between farmers and herdsmen. I really don’t know how they are going to do it, but in my view the focus of the Federal Government should be on the issue of insecurity in the country.

“The security of the country is very important; they should ensure that farmers feel free in their domain. They should also ensure that Nigerians move freely in any part of the country. The Federal Government should guarantee security in the land.

“So, the government should do the needful to ensure the clashes between herdsmen and farmers are curbed. You cannot fold your hands and allow people who are not the owners of the land to collect it from you.

“If the land is taken by force, then you are postponing the evil days. The government must seek and get the true feelings of the people who live there before anything is done.”

A Southwest All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, Ayo Afolabi, said there will be some resistance if the government wants to take the people of the Southwest off their land and give it to some other people.

According to him, the Federal Government has no business allocating lands to a particular group of people for cattle colonies, noting that it should purely be the business between the farmers and herders after due negotiation.

Afolabi said: “The Southwest people, as far as we are concerned, own their land and that is what they live on. The right way to go is what they are just considering: the need for ranches.  If you are going to go into ranches, it is a business, a farming business.

“It is not for the Federal Government to fund such ranches; it is for the individual farmer to go into negotiations, to be able to acquire the land to do such ranch. The Federal Government has no business in that business. I hope it does not run into trouble. There is nothing that the government does not put its hand into that it will not run into trouble.”

Elder statesman and Second Republic politician Alhaji Tanko Yakassai queried why people frown at cattle colonies.

According to him, herdsmen are Nigerians and should be accommodated in whatever guise to enable them do their business, whether it cattle colonies or ranches.

His words: “Fulanis are Nigerians; they have nowhere else to go, so other Nigerians should accommodate them. The idea of cattle colonies is to tackle the incessant clashes between the herders and farmers. Whether it is cattle colonies or ranches, the idea is to give them a chance to co-exist peacefully with other Nigerians.”

A former Lagos State Police Commissioner and rights activist, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said there was more to the rising violence and kidnapping around the country being attributed to herdsmen.

His words: “There appears to be an attempt to give Fulanis, particularly herdsmen, a bad name. Everywhere there is violence and kidnapping, we say the perpetrators are Fulanis and we do know that in some places, people just disguise as Fulanis to commit these crimes.

“If we follow strictly the letters of the constitution, the Fulanis are Nigerians and they are free to carry out their businesses anywhere. We have wide expanses of land around the country, why can’t they carve out colonies for them to do their business. I’m sure they are making all this noise because Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, is the president. If someone else is the president, the issue will not generate so much controversy.”

On the insistence of groups in the South on ranches, rather than colonies, Tsav said that most of the cows are owned by the elites in the North and so the idea of ranches may not be a bad one.

He added: “If it were the ordinary herders that go about in the bush that own the cows, ranches would have been too expensive for them. Some of us who travel by road, usually see long expanse of land that could be used for cattle colonies.

“If the South says they don’t want colonies, it means every time they need cow, they would have to travel to the North to buy them. The matter is sensitive and requires careful handling. They should sit down and find a way to resolve it.”

Tsav said cattle colonies could not be restricted to the North, as many people are suggesting, because there is more water and fresher grasses for the cows to live on in the South.

“So, this matter needs deep and proper thoughts,” the former police chief counselled.

On using Federal Government resources to set up business for a particular ethnic nationality, without doing same for other nationalities, Tsav said: “That is another matter that requires careful handling. As I told you, most of these cows are owned by important persons in the North like emirs, military generals, police commissioners and what have you.

“So, because they cannot go out and rear these cows themselves, they give it out to herders to rear the cows on their behalf. Sometimes, they go out to rear these cows for six months and the owners would not see them and after a period of time, they bring them back and say this one has given birth It is out of the offspring that the herders are compensated.”

Southeast governors offer grasses for cows

The Southeast Governors’ Forum disclosed its proposed deal with the members of the Miyetti Allah as panacea to achieving a lasting peace between farmers and herdsmen.

Forum Chairman and Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi said though there was no plan for any Ruga settlement in any part of Southeast and Southsouth, the zones could make a very good business with sale of grasses to the herdsmen in exchange for meat.

Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Emmanuel Uzor, the governor said there will be no part of the Southeast that would be given out for the establishment of Ruga settlement.

He argued that the zone, being purely agrarian with limited landmass for farming, could, therefore, not accommodate a cattle colony.

Umahi, according to the statement, said that the zone actually proposed a deal with MACBAN to take their cattle to the Northern parts where grazing reserve were established long time ago and rely completely on the  grasses grown in the South for feeding of their cattle.

The governor, who chaired the Technical Committee on Farmers and Herdsmen Clash, created by the National Economic Council under the chairmanship of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, made a recommendation for revamping of the already existing grazing reserves in various parts of the North to enable farmers have unhindered access to their farmlands while herdsmen rely solely on proceeds from the farmers.

The statement reads: “Umahi was the Chairman of NEC sub Technical Committee on farmers and herdsmen clash and he toured the states of Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Zamfara and two other states where he made in one of his recommendations to the Federal Government for revamping of grazing reserve in the North where all the cattle breeders in the South will take their cattle to these places and rely on the grass that are grown in the South.

“The way it works is that the herdsmen will bring down their cows to the Southeast and sell to us as meat while they will load the grasses which are grown here in the same trailer with which they transported their cows to feed their cattle in those grazing reserve which should be made comfortable for them.”

The statement also quoted Umahi as saying that with this proposed deal, herdsmen are expected to embrace an anti-open grazing scheme by returning to the ranches in the North and doing their business on the trade by barter basis of selling cows to the South and buying grass to feed their cows in the North.

The governor called for tolerance among youths of various ethnic nationalities to solve the problem of hate speech, saying that Igbo youths should learn how not to insult their leaders whom, he said, are doing everything possible to protect them from any form of internal and external aggression.

Zamfara Governor seeks Gowon’s advice on banditry

Zamfara State Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle yesterday sought for advice from former Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon on how to end banditry and other security challenges in his domain.

Gen. Gowon was visiting the Government House, Gusau.

The governor said his administration was passionately and urgently seeking the advice of elder statesmen of Gowon’s calibre, recalling that the civil war was effectively managed under his watch as head of state between 1967 and 1970.

Matawalle said: “With your experience and expertise in security, we are asking for your advice on how best to end the security challenges facing our dear state.

“Tapping from the wealth of Gen. Gowon’s experience as a former Army General and Head of State who fought for the corporate existence of the country will assist us positively on security intelligence and intervention.”

According to the governor, “Nigeria now needs more of Gowon’s personality with the current situation of banditry, kidnapping and other heinous crimes in order to advise current leaders in handling the terrible situation.”

Describing the former head of state’s regime as the most challenging and how he overcame the security challenges which were followed by lots of development programmes that had direct bearing on the common man, Matawalle noted that the Udoji Award assisted positively in stabilising the nation and reducing crime.

On his administration’s efforts to end banditry, Matawalle spoke of various methods, including reconciliation, which have started to yield positive results as over 216 AK47 rifles have been surrendered to the authorities in under two months.

Gen. Gowon said he was in the state for the Northwest zonal prayer rally, which is a prayer mission to pray for the governors of Northwest for God’s wisdom and blessings in their governance.

He added that the prayer was organised by Nigeria Prays, a Christian group, which he chairs.

Gen. Gowon, who described Nigeria as a praying nation, enjoined all well-meaning citizens of the state to continue to pray for peace and unity of the country and Zamfara State.

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