By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The Federal Government of Nigeria has been asked to shed more light on a statement credited to the spokesperson of President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Garba Shehu, that government already gazetted lands in all states for the purpose of the proposed Ruga Settlement for nomadic herdsmen in the country.
Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), in a statement jointly signed by Mr. Yinka Odumakin (South West), Prof Chigozie Ogbu (South East), Senstor Bassey Henshaw (South-south) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), Monday said government should make the content of the document public.
Part of the statement reads, “The attention of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders have been drawn to a statement by the presidency through Mallam Garuba Shehu on the contentious issue of Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen across the country.
“While most of the statement was full of sound and fury signifying nothing, we are particularly interested in two claims in the statement “It is true that government at the centre has gazetted lands in all states of the federation but because the idea is not to force this programme on anyone, the government has limited the take-off to the dozen states with valid requests.
“We are interested in having the gazette number and its content as we know per the constitution and laws of the country that all land in each state of the federation is vested in the governor. In what capacity and with which authority did the federal government gazette land in all states of Nigeria?”
Referring to the information from Mr. Shehu as “Freudian slip from the Presidency,” the SMBLF said signposts its a dangerous sign of deployment of federal might to overawe the federating units in a desperate bid to promote the interest of one ethnic group over those of over 350 other ethnic nationalities across Nigeria.
“The statement also said 12 governors have applied to the FG to give land in their states for the take-off of this agenda. We want to know the identities of those governors from the presidency as well,” the statement noted adding that “We must say that we find it laughable the admonition to state governors by the presidency, though we are dealing with an unfolding tragedy.
“The presidency claims to find peaceful resolution to the Fulani herdsmen terror on farmers (cheekily dubbed farmers-herders conflict) but is only allegedly offering money to the herdsmen and now looking for territories for them all over the country. What have they offered the farmers? Nothing!
“A government that wants to force violent herders on armless communities now talk of no suffering any kind of ‘deprivation’ and ‘loss of right and freedom’. What better recipe for non-Fulani communities to suffer these than the Ruga recipe?
“Lastly, we hope the Buhari presidency knows the message it is sending to other groups in Nigeria with its pampering of marauding herdsmen: only the violent gets it by force.”