A seeming backstage peace initiative between governors of Eastern Nigeria, the battle ground of the undying Biafra agitation by Igbo youths, and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has been stalled by the Ruga settlements programme being vigorously pursued by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The Igbo governors were locked in a barter kind of deal with the rampaging Fulani herdsmen which they perceived as a panacea to achieving enduring peace between farmers and herdsmen in their geo-political bloc.
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State who let the cat out of the bag said, “we actually proposed a deal with MACBAN to take their cattle to the Northern parts where grazing reserves were established long time ago and rely completely on the grasses grown in the South for feeding of their cattle.”
Though he stoutly denied any plan by governors of both the South-South and the South-East zones to cede any part of their land for Ruga settlement, he however, insisted, ‘’there is no plan for any Ruga settlement in any part of South-East and South-South zones; but we made a proposed deal with MACBAN that can allow the zone to become very good business with sale of grasses to the herdsmen in exchange for meat. South-East and South-South states will not provide land for Ruga.’’
Governor Umahi who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Emma Uzor, in Abakaliki, the state capital, explained that the 11 states in the two geo-political zones of Nigeria will not provide an inch of land for the establishment Ruga settlement for herdsmen and their cattle.
As the Chairman of the South-East Governors Forum, Umahi spoke following the raging controversies and insinuations trailing the President Buhari plan for the establishment of Ruga settlements in some states for the Fulani herdsmen across the Sahel who are hit by spreading desertification.
Continuing, he said, ‘’there will be no part of the South-East that will be given out for the purpose of establishment of Ruga. The zone is purely agrarian with limited landmass for farming and therefore cannot accommodate Ruga establishment.’’
The Ebonyi governor, who was the Chairman of Technical Committee on Farmers and Herdsmen clash carved from the National Economic Council headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said the committee had recommended the revamping of existing grazing reserves in Nigeria.
According to him, the revamping of the already existing grazing reserves in various parts of the North as recommended by the committee was to enable farmers have unhindered access to their farmlands while herdsmen rely solely on proceeds from the farmers.
Umahi was the Chairman of National Economic Council sub Technical Committee on farmers and herdsmen clash that toured the states of Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Zamfara and others.
‘’Part of the committee’s recommendations to the federal government was the revamping of grazing reserves in the North where all the cattle rearers in the South will take their cattle to these places and rely on the grasses that are grown in the South.
‘’The way it works is that the herdsmen will bring down their cows to the South-East and sell to us as meat while they will load the grasses which are grown here in the same vehicles with which they transported their cows to feed their cattle in those grazing reserves.
‘’With this proposed deal, herdsmen are expected to embrace anti open grazing by returning to the ranches in the North and do their business on the trade by barter basis of selling cows to the South and buying grass to feed their cows in the North’’, Governor Umahi said.
While admonishing Igbo youths on peaceful coexistence, he urged them not to insult their leaders who were doing everything possible to protect them from any form of internal and external aggressions.