SOUTHEAST governors have yesterday insisted that they have not earmarked any land in the region for the Ruga settlement programme.
The Federal Government announced the suspension of the policy which, it argued, would end recurring herders’/farmers’ clashes.
The governors under the auspices of the Southeast Governors’ Forum (SGF) yesterday advised the Federal Government on what to do.
In statement by its Director-General, Prof Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, the Forum urged the Federal Government to kick-off the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) in the North.
Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku called for “total cancellation” of the Ruga scheme, describing the as a form of “colonialism.”
The SGF statement reads: “The attention of the SGF has been drawn to the various attacks and campaign of calumny by our people alleging that governors of the Southeast have secretly donated land for RUGA programme being promoted by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the NLTP as approved by the National Economic Council (NEC).”
The governors maintained that none of the “Southeast governors has donated any land or intends to donate any land for any of the two programmes due to lack of enough land in the entire Southeast.
“Governors of Southeast appreciate the fact that we have good and law-abiding herdsmen who have been living with us; some of them were even born here. We have been living in peace with them until recently when we started witnessing invasion of our land, kidnapping of our people, killing of defenseless natives and destruction of their farmlands.
“These herdsmen that have been living peacefully with us together with the natives have insisted that these evil as now experienced in our land are the handiwork of herdsmen moving from other states into Southeast and most of the time, these herdsmen are not even Nigerians.”
The governors said that they will not chase away herdsmen who are peaceful and have been living peacefully among them.
The statement further reads: “That we agreed with Herdsmen living peacefully with us and the natives that movement of cows into the Southeast should be by road transportation using trailers to their specific cow markets. No more allowing foreign herdsmen to move their cattle by foot as this is the point of conflict with the farmers and natives.”
The governors also noted that they are committed to selling grasses and by-product of farms to support NLTP for states that have keyed into the programme.
They stated their believe that herdsmen deserve a better life and commended the federal government for their good intentions in this direction
“However, it must be emphasized that what Federal Government and NEC approved was NLTP and it is not compulsory for all the states but for any willing state whowants to participate in NLTP”, the statement said.
The governors cautioned Nigerians to be careful with comments not to heat up the polity, arguing that the wisdom of economics allows states to develop along the lines of their economic comparative advantage.
They said: “In this direction, we advise the Federal Government to immediately start the implementation of NLTP in the Northern States that have accepted the programme and where we have large expanse of land.
“This will surely stop the movement of cows from one state to the other and put a stop to the crisis and suspicion between farmers and herdsmen.
“The objective and success of this programme must be viewed along the lines of conflict resolution, welfare for herders, peaceful co-existence among farmers and herders, rehabilitation and reintegration of the displaced farmers/herders and natives and increase in the wealth of herders, farmers and the nation at large
“We ask all our people living outside the Southeast, especially in the North to ignore the threat contained in the video message by self-styled Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG). We are in talks with the Northern Governors and their leaders who speak for their people and they have assured us that there is no harm that will befall our people living in various Northern states across Nigeria.
“Finally, we advise those drumming for war to remember our mothers and children and have a rethink. In a state of war, even your friends could become your enemies. Let us bond together as one people and start to think on how to rebuild our youths whose future we ate up in the time past, rebuild our nation whose patriotism we ignored in the time past and love one another.”[?]