The convener of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Edwin Clark, has warned the federal government against reintroducing the suspended controversial RUGA scheme.
Clark pointed out that the reintroduction could lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.
While agreeing to diversifying Nigeria’s revenue base from oil to other sources of income such as agriculture, he warned that policies to be introduced to boost agriculture should not offend the sensibilities of host communities or other parts of the country.
Clark stated this while speaking with journalists in Abuja.
He said: “Nigeria belongs to all of us. It is true that this country has been depending on oil and gas. One appreciates the efforts of the FG to diversify into areas of agriculture, but the recent introduction of RUGA is an abomination to the entire people of Nigeria. It is obnoxious, it is unacceptable.
“We cannot remain in a country where various different groups of people live to make Nigeria since 1914 and today you are introducing some sort of settlement of a particular group of the country in every part of the 36 states simply because you believe you are solving the problem of herdsmen and farmers. That is not the issue; you are not solving it.
“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 civilized 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 accused some government officials of nursing hidden agenda and allowing foreigners from Niger, Chad and some other neighbouring countries to illegally settle in Nigeria under the guise of herdsmen.
He said: “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 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. 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!”