Edwin Clark, leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, has warned President Muhammadu Buhari against reintroducing Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) in the country.
Mr Buhari had approved the creation of Ruga settlements for herdsmen across the nation without stakeholders carried along.
Though it is said to be optional, for interested states, the project was suspended largely due to the rejection of it in the South, fuelling speculation in some quarters that the government was out to grab lands for herders of Fulani extraction.
There are reports that the initiative will be reintroduced after been repackaged with presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, saying the federal government has gazetted lands for the project in the 36 states of the country.
Warning against the reintroduction, Clark while addressing journalists at his Abuja residence on Monday said the move will disintegrate the nation if brought back.
“Let us go back, we have been living with Fulani and their herds for very long time; even when I was young, they lived with us. When they are bringing their cows, they used their sticks and everybody gave way but today we see herdsmen armed with Ak-47 all over the country moving around, killing people, raping women, killing children and so forth, destroying farms and today not one single one has been arrested, no single one has been caught and his gun removed; that is the country we belong,” the elderstatesman said.
He wondered why the government wants to establish settlements for those it claimed were foreigners killing Nigerians if the present administration had no ulterior motives.
“Government is not interested in seeing that the herdsmen with arms that came from Niger, Libya and other places are addressed; they want those people to be settled in our midst. It is not the Fulani who are going round with cows that they want to settle. These (foreigners) are not the ones they want to settle. So I disagree with that project.”
Clark called on the federal government to withdraw the initiative rather than suspend it because it will not be acceptable to Nigerians.
He described the project is an abomination to the entire people of Nigeria made up of other ethnic nationals.
“They should now withdraw it completely. Whether they suspend it for another 10 years or so, if it comes back, Nigeria will not survive as a country. It is good they withdrew it. If they say they have just suspended it and they are bringing it back, no Nigerian will agree to it and that may be the beginning of the disintegration of this country. God forbid!”
While applauding the government’s effort at diversifying the economy, the elderstatesman suggested ranching as the solution to herders and farmers clashes.
“Ranching is the solution. If you want to maintain cattle rearing, it is ranching. That is what operates everywhere in the world. Even in less civilised developed countries in Africa. If you go to Brazil and East Africa, ranching is what they are doing. Even our founding fathers in the first republic established ranches. There were ranches at Obudu Cross River State, Ondo State and in the north. Nobody kicked against it but for you to introduce a settlement for resolving the problem between herdsmen and farmers is unthinkable,” he added.