State governors from the South-East region has described the call for the relocation of herdsmen from Southern Nigeria as a welcome development.
Herdsmen were recalled from the protectorate by the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) who issued a 30-day ultimatum to opposing state governors who kicked against the establishment of Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) in their domain.
The relocation call was backed by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) who advised pastoralists from Fulani extraction to return home from the South-East, South-West and South-South regions if their place of abode is no longer conducive for them.
Constitutionally, Nigerians are allowed to reside in any part of the country but the menace of violent herders, whom the federal government once described as foreigners terrorising the citizens, has painted the pastoralists in bad light.
This led to the rejection of Ruga settlements for the herders in the south and the initiative was suspended despite some states in the North indicating interest for the project said to be optional.
The government decision to establish the settlements in all parts of the country, including states that rejected it, further fuelled speculations that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was out on a land grabbing mission for herdsmen who are largely from his Fulani tribe.
Reacting, the chairman of the South-East Governors Forum (SGF) and Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, described the call as a welcome development.
“The call by the elders forum to the cattle breeders to return home is a welcome development,” Emma Ozor, Chief Press Secretary to the governor said in an interview with Punch Newspaper.
“It could be that the elders had carefully considered and weighed the activities of the herders and their implications and decided to call them back home in order to talk to them.
“The herders are not in any way being forced to leave any part of the country and are not in any form of compulsion to do so. They are Nigerians, too, and all of us own Nigeria. But, they themselves know that their alleged illegal activities, killings and others pit them against the law and they should heed to that call by the most respected elders from the North. So, if they want to go and heed the call, it is a show of civility and maturity on their part.
“There is already heightened insecurity in the country and Nigerians live in fear currently. We believe that the elders have a genuine agenda for calling their younger generations, who are mostly cattle breeders, home. So, let that perceived genuine agenda, guide the herders’ mind in answering that call.” he added.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has advised the herdsmen not to heed the relocation call extended to them.