RUGA: Northern Elders back coalition, calls for relocation of herdsmen in the South

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Ango Abdullahi

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has backed the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) in calling for the relocation of herdsmen in the southern part of the country.

The CNG had threatened to evict southerners living in the North by ensuring their safety were not guaranteed should their state governors who are opposed to the implementation of Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) in their respective states continue to maintain their decision.

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration had approved the creation of Ruga settlements for herders in all the 36 states as a permanent solution to herdsmen and farmers clash nationwide

Though it is said to be optional for interested states, the decision of the government to establish the initiatives in states that rejected it fuelled speculations that the project is a land grabbing mission for herdsmen largely from the Fulani tribe where Mr Buhari hails from.

The initiative has been suspended due to the rejection of it in the South despite some states in the North indicating interest.

For CNG, there has been insinuations in the south suggesting the security of herdsmen in the protectorate is no longer guaranteed hence the call for their relocation to the North.

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Abdul-Aziz Sulaiman, spokesman of the group cited the decision of some state governors to restrict the movement of herders into their region by foot and a recent reprisal threat of the death of Funke Olakunrin, said to have been killed by herdsmen.

“In the process, they threatened all forms of violations and breaches against northerners including the threat of an all-out war,” Mr Sulaiman said after his group met with the leadership of the NEF.

“With all these statements and steps taken by the southern governors and opinion leaders, we are worried that none of the northern governors or federal official has deemed it apt to caution them.

“Based on the above observations, and the fact that the instigation of hatred against the Fulani persists, we feel obliged to advice the leadership of the Northern Elders Forum to consider calling on the Fulani to forego their right to live and flourish anywhere in the south and relocate to their various states in the north to ensure their safety noting the inherent return value of such denial,” the group said.

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Backing the call is the Ango Abdullahi, chairman of the NEF, who called on herders to relocate to the North if their stay in the south will threaten their existence.

“We have heard in the few hours ago that some violence had already started to manifest in some sections of the country against the herdsmen, who for all know that would affect peaceful coexistence in the communities where they have lived for many years,” Mr Abdullahi said.

“If it is indeed true that their safety is not guaranteed in the places where they are residing, we would rather have them back into areas where there safety is guaranteed, and they should be coming back as much as possible to the north,” the NEF helmsman added.

The CNG is yet to withdraw their 30-day ultimatum and their threat of violence. Meanwhile, the Presidency has advised Nigerians to discountenance the threat with security agencies refusing to invite them for questioning.