By Godwin Etakibuebu
Last week, on this page, I asked a very simple but point-blank volatile-in-nature question, to wit: “When did Fulani cattle business become that of the Federal Government?” I also pleaded with Nigerians, mostly those flowing eminently in the legal profession, to help provide answer to the question. I must thank all those that responded positively to my plea.
Having gathered diversified opinions from many across the country, some even helped out from outside Nigeria, this Column can now move ahead delivering an opinionated sagacious judgment on the whole drama.
In so doing, we must first and foremost identify the conspiratorial insincerity of government in introducing a seemingly “lethal weapon of mass disintegration” into a system that has been fumbling and wobbling for some years. Why would the government want to do this evil – an evil that obviously will leave the government more battered than the people?
In interrogating the matter from beginning to where we are currently; which surely is far from the end, l took more comprehensive recognizance of many factors. These include, but not limited to, what Segun Adeniyi [the classical author and Chairman of Thisday Newspaper Editorial Board] listed as “Scenes” One to Eight in his essay of this week. For ease of understanding, I reproduced below Segun’s itemized “scenes”.
- The Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammadu Umar, says the federal government has started to establish ‘Ruga Settlements’ for herdsmen in 12 of the 36 states as a pilot scheme for a nationwide programme designed to curb farmer-herder clashes.
- Following general uproar, the General Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), Baba Uthman Ngelzarma, reveals that “This Ruga settlement model is a component part of the livestock development and transformation plan that is being implemented under the Office of the Vice-President.”
- The Office of Vice President faults the statement by MACBAN: “Contrary to claims reported in sections of the media, Ruga settlements are not being supervised by the Office of the Vice President. Ruga is different from the National Livestock Transformation Plan”, tweeted Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande.
- A 13th March letter signed by Osinbajo’s Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye and addressed to the Aku Uka of Wukari in Taraba State is published on Facebook. It introduced “Dr Kyantirimam Ukwen who will be conducting the mapping assessment in Taraba” as part of a federal government “strategy for tackling the farmer-herder crises.”
- Apparently uncomfortable with online media reports regarding the letter, Osinbajo’s office again pushes back with another statement from Akande that “as the said letter itself shows, the reference is to the National Livestock Transformation Plan, as different from RUGA. The two are not to be confused: the one is different from the other.”
- A new letter dated 21st May this year, signed by Dr Hussain Adamu, Director Procurement, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development surfaces. Addressed to a contractor in Abuja, it states in part, “I am directed to inform you that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its meeting held on 8th May, 2019 approved the award of contract for the construction of 8 Nos. Ruga Infrastructure with Sanitary Facilities (Red Brick structure) each in Taraba State as detailed in the attached to your company at the sum of N166,336,380.00 (One hundred and sixty-six million, three hundred and thirty thousand, three hundred and eighty Naira)”.
- Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu confirms that ‘Ruga Settlement’, is part of the federal government policy “to settle migrant pastoral families simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organized place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products.”
- Following a meeting with Osinbajo, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State reads a statement announcing the suspension of the ‘Ruga Settlements’ project credited to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development “because it is not consistent with the NEC and FG approved National Livestock Transformation plan…”
Two statements followed the “suspension of the Ruga project”; which itself was a voluminous fallacy that needs to be exclusively examined, because nothing about the program was actually suspended, as the “suspension” Memo, personally signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, revealed. By the Memo, which was later made public, what was suspended was “modus operandi” of executing the contracts for the implementation of physical structures for the project in Benue State.
I must add quickly that the “absolute thieveries’ intent” of those officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Abuja, who drew up the contract terms and awarded same to one contractor handpicked by the same officials, without “properly consulting and accommodating interests of others in the Villa” would have led to whistleblowing and suspension of the contract, but not the project. Of course, why will those in the presidency just keep quiet and allow the contract to go like that when the sinking of a borehole would go for Twenty Million Naira – just one borehole?
Those two statements that must come under scrutiny are the one credited to the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN] leadership and the Coalition of Northern Groups.
While the Miyetti says that it supported the suspension because what “we want is grazing route but not Ruga”, the Coalition of Northern Groups, speaking through its leader; Abdul Azeez Suleman, gave the federal government 30 days to reverse itself on the suspension, or else it will roll out its own agenda of remedying the situation.
What the Miyetti Allah said agrees and sustains the lies of, or inability of government, in defining exactly to the letter what it really wanted in introducing what is obviously looking like an extended home for the Fulani in Nigeria. In the other hand however, the Coalition of Northern Groups, in introducing its threat against Southern Nigerians, exposed the hidden intentions of the Federal Government in its stubborn pursuit of creating a “permanent home for the Fulani of the whole world”. Let us hear what Abdul Azeez Suleman said.
“If the Fulani of Northern Nigeria are not allowed to exercise their citizenship rights in Southern Nigeria, then people from Southern Nigeria will not be allowed to stay in any part of Northern Nigeria”.
This is where the narratives really becomes provocatively challenging as his [the Coalition of the Northern Group] statement threw up a lots of question for Nigerians to understand where the Nigerian wind is blowing.
- The first challenge his question throws up is the definition of Nigeria’s Citizenship. Who is a Nigerian Citizen by law – l mean constitutionally?
- Is Nigeria a Secular State or what?
- Does the Economic Community of West Africa States [ECOWAS] Treaty on free movement of goods and personnel within the region coffers automatic citizenship on individual that moves from one geographical country to another? Can a citizen of Mali moving across the border into Nigeria become a Nigerian citizen automatically by the reason of that movement?
As usual, l need help urgently in explaining these question to me by Nigerians of all professions, but most importantly, the legal learned profession, as your help will help me to draw the curtain on this subject matter next Tuesday.
Till then, like l would always advise on my radio talk-show, let all of us keep ourselves out of trouble because these are some perilous times in Nigeria in view of insecurities everywhere.
Godwin Etakibuebu; a veteran Journalist, wrote from Lagos.
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