More states, groups reject Ruga settlements for herders

• We won’t cede Ekiti land to outsiders, Fayemi vows
• ‘No plan for it in south-east, south-south’
• Benue flays claim of gazetted land in 36 states
• Bauchi backs govt, list of pilot states released

Vowing never to give up their land, more states and groups have rejected the plan by the Federal Government to settle Fulani herdsmen outside their communities nationwide. They consider the scheme a means of giving undue advantage to a private business.

Governor Kayode Fayemi yesterday assured Ekiti people that nobody coming from outside the state would be allowed to take over the land from them.

He said non-indigenes wishing to do business in the state must respect the culture of the indigenous people and must pursue their interest in line with the laws of the land.

The governor gave the assurance when he paid an early morning visit to the people of Orin-Ekiti in Ido/Osi Local Government Area to commiserate with them on the killing of a farmer, Mr. Emmanuel Ilori, by suspected herdsmen last Saturday.

Fayemi said that traditional hunters and security agencies would work together to ensure adequate security for the people, adding that the residents of the state would now witness a deployment of more soldiers, armed policemen and other security agencies so that they can sleep with their two eyes closed.

On his alleged plan to give Ekiti land to “outsiders” in exchange for future political ambition, Fayemi said: “Nobody is coming to take our land in Ekiti, the governor of Ekiti State has power over the land of Ekiti and it is the person that the governor gives land in Ekiti that can use the land of Ekiti.

“If there are negative comments being peddled around that some people are coming to take over Ekiti land, it’s a mere hearsay. It cannot happen in Ekiti except I am no longer the governor and there is nobody that can be governor in Ekiti that will cede Ekiti land to outsiders because our land is not even enough for us.”

Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State said there was no plan to establish Ruga settlement in any part of the South-East and South-South zones.

Umahi, who is the chairman of the South-East Governors Forum made the comment in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Emma Uzor, in Abakaliki.

He explained that though the South-East zone did propose a deal with members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) towards achieving lasting peace between farmers and herdsmen, there was no plan by governors in the zone to cede any part of their land for Ruga settlement.

“There will be no part of the South-East that will be given out for the purpose of the establishment of Ruga settlement, the zone is purely agrarian with limited land mass for farming and therefore cannot accommodate Ruga establishment.

“We actually proposed a deal with MACBAN to take their cattle to the northern parts where grazing reserves were established long time ago and relied completely on the grasses grown in the South for feeding of their cattle.”

The people of Cross River State and other parts of Niger Delta rejected the Ruga settlements policy and asked Governor Ben Ayade and other governors in the region to speak up on the matter for the sake of peace.

The people who spoke under the auspices of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in conjunction with the All Cross River State Nationals Front, at a press briefing yesterday, said: “Ayade should stand up for the people of Cross River State by telling the Federal Government clearly that Cross River totally rejects the very idea of Ruga settlements and will offer no land or cooperation for that purpose. This is neither politics nor diplomacy. This is a matter of life and death.”

The Secretary of the group, Mr. Bassey Ekefre, said: “Besides our complete and vehement rejection of the idea and intention of the rogue programme, government will require about four-fifth of the state to create one such settlement, going by the proposed forbidden dimensions of the settlements.

“Cross River State is already host to wild life reserves, a Federal Government/United Nations programme which has prohibited the citizens from accessing large portions of land for agricultural and commercial purposes. The struggle for the remaining arable land among our burgeoning population of over six million people has often led to communal conflicts during farming seasons. There is therefore no hectre of land left to spare for settlers.”

Contrary to the position of the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the Benue State government has said that the Federal Government did not gazette lands in the 36 states for the Ruga settlements.

In a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, Terver Akase, he said: “We expect the Federal Government to publicly tender documents of the claimed gazetted lands in Benue State to put the matter to rest. The Federal Government should show titles to the lands it claims to have in Benue State, the evidence of compensation it paid to owners of such lands, as well as the purpose for which the lands were acquired.”

The Benue government said it had already made known its stand on the Ruga settlements matter that it would not be part of the project.

The Enugu Diocese of the Anglican Communion said yesterday that the implementation of the policy by the government might exacerbate the fragile security situation in the country.

Urging the Federal Government to be cautious in its implementation, the church which expressed worry that the decision was taken without any consultation with the state governments and other stakeholders, added that the government should not take reactions trailing the policy for granted.

In a statement issued at the end of the second session of its 17th Synod held in Enugu, the church viewed the move to “impose the policy as an act of desperation by the Federal Government to unduly satisfy the wish of a particular ethnic group on the rest of the country”.

The statement signed by the Archbishop, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, urged the Federal Government to withdraw the obnoxious policy in the interest of peace, unity and development.

However, Governor Bala Mohammed said Bauchi State was completely in support of the Ruga settlement initiative. He disclosed this yesterday while speaking with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The pilot states for the implementation of the scheme, according to the government, are Sokoto, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Taraba, Katsina, Plateau, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger.

Fielding questions on the initiative, the governor said “about 70 per cent of the population in Bauchi are Fulani and therefore we must leverage all these.”