Southern, Middle Belt Reject NLTP, Water Bill


Segun James

Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has rejected the new National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), saying it is RUGA in disguise.

The SMBLF said it was worried that instead of mobilising national consensus to confront the monumental tragedies confronting the country, the federal government has occupied itself with policies that are divisive and smack of domination and conquest of sections of the country by another section.

The group in a statement signed by Messrs Yinka Odumakin, South West; Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, South East; Senator Bassey Henshaw, South-south; and Dr. Isuwa Dogo, Middle Belt, restated the rejection of SMBLF “to the use of the collective resources of Nigerians to convert herdsmen, majority of whom are non-Nigerians, from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles while doing their private business that has nothing to do with the rest of us beyond being their market”.

“It is akin to government making budgetary allocations to Coca Cola to produce drinks to sell to Nigerians. Apart from the plan not making any economic sense for the country there are other fundamental problems it raises.

The leaders cited the issue of citizenship, which was revealed by the Bauchi Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, who claimed that the Fulanis from all over the world would benefit from the scheme.

“The Fulani man is a global or African person. He moves from Gambia to Senegal and his nationality is Fulani… So, we cannot just close our border and say the Fulani man is not a Nigerian,” the governor was quoted as saying.

The group therefore asked: “why are we closing our border with Benin Republic where there are many people of Yoruba origin there? Are Igbos who are aborigines in Haiti to come to Nigeria without consular services? What is the contribution of those Fulani imports to the development of Nigeria to come and live on our resources when our citizens are the poorest on earth? Why is it difficult to apply common sense in our inter-ethnic relations in Nigeria?”

This position of the Bauchi State governor, SMBLF said showed clearly that NLTP would only “escalate the clashes between the indigenous communities and cattle settlers as experiences in Southern and Middle Belt areas of Nigeria have shown that the Fulani imports do not assimilate into the ways of lives of Nigerians in those parts of the country where they reside. They live apart from the locals and set up communities with alien culture that disrupts the cultural flow of the indigenes.

“The subterfuge of the whole deal is exposed in that while government officials deceive Nigerians that the plan will stop open grazing for ranching, option one in it provides for the establishment of corridors for migrant cattle with feeding and watering points along the routes. This is as stark as the lie that “livestock” includes other sources of meat. The entire plan is about cattle and herdsmen.

The leaders also rejected the Water Resources Bill, which is “a Bill for an Act to Establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria, Provide for the Equitable and Sustainable Redevelopment, Management, Use and Conservation of Nigeria’s Surface Water and Groundwater Resources and for Related Matter.”

“This bill seeks to abrogate all existing laws and institutions governing the management and control of water resources nationwide and replace them with new ones in a manner that gives the President, through the Minister of Water Resources, the power to control the nation’s rivers (especially those that pass through more than one state), lakes and underground water.”

The leaders insisted that the Waterways Bill is another land-grabbing move like RUGA by ethnic supremacists who are working against the unity of the country.

“Major rivers in Nigeria can be made available by Federal law if the bill is passed, to Fulani pastoralists and there is nothing the indigenous people within such vicinities can do about it.

“The police and the security agencies will be handy to enforce it and it will be another white farmers versus the African landowners scenario in Southern Africa during the Apartheid season.

“It is a recipe for unending armed conflicts. It also means the Federal Government can, wherever it identifies a large body of underground water (aquifers), decide to open a “Federal” water scheme, and no one can stop Fulani cattle owners from taking over such places.

“The ‘all people’ in the bill also means that pastoralists from any part of Africa, as explained by Bauchi governor, can come and settle along the lush waterways of the Middle Belt and Southern protected by Nigeria’s Federal law to the detriment of indigenes who have for centuries depended on their natural resources for their livelihood.”