…Gets backing of Northern Elders
…insists no peace until Fulani herdsmen are allowed to move freely
Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has, in response to Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Yoruba Youths groups and Niger Delta youths over their threat on Southerners living in the North should Southern governors not accept Ruga in 30 days, declared that there will be no peace in the country if herdsmen were not allowed to move freely in any part of the country.
The coalition had on Wednesday, given the Federal Government a 30-day ultimatum to rescind its suspension order and implement the Ruga initiative or it would be forced to take a decisive action against Southerners living and doing businesses in the region.
Spokesperson for the group, Abdul Azeez Suleiman who had issued the threat at a televised press conference on Wednesday, told The Tribune that the group was not afraid of the review of the present union because what we have now is a collection of southerners and northerners, not Nigerians and insisted the group would not withdraw the 30-day ultimatum.
“We are not withdrawing the ultimatum on the suspension of the programme by the government. You can’t deny some citizens their rights and think there will be peace in the country,” Suleiman told the Tribune.
Responding to the call by Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on Igbos to defend themselves against any threat from any quarters, Suleiman, who said members of the coalition were not afraid of arrest, described what he called the threats of the Ohanaeze and Afenifere, as “selfish and wicked.”
“I think the two bodies are selfish and wicked. We didn’t start this threat; they started it. First, it was Chief Gani Adams who we read saying he would lead one million Yoruba to fish out herdsmen in the South West. Ohanaeze also called on their people for self-defence. Did we issue any threat? We were just making our stand known on the issue of Ruga.” the Tribune quoted him as saying.
“Let them read our letter and see where we mentioned anything like that. Another person in the Niger Delta said the Fulani herdsmen would not be allowed in their area.
“Truly, to our chagrin, we have begun to see some of these threats being practicalised. Now, we have a video footage of some Igbos chasing herdsmen out of their states. We want to tell them that we are not afraid of them. We are not afraid of anybody.
“This union, Nigeria, as long as no one will be allowed to go and fend for himself in any part of the region, there will be no peace. We are not afraid of any review of the present union, because what we have now is a collection of southerners and northerners, not Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders Forum has backed the Northern Youth Coalition in expressing disappointment over the manner the Ruga settlement programme was treated.
NEF, in a statement signed by its deputy convener, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, said it would open discussion with the Northern Governors’ Forum and the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) to address what it called the harassment of the Fulani and their cattle.
The group, however, appealed to Northerners for restraint and advised the Federal Government to show more concern to the rising threats to lives and economic assets and do everything to de-escalate tensions and distrust among Nigerians.
“The federal and state governments must adopt policies and positions which address the harassment of the Fulani and their cattle, de-escalation of inciting rhetoric and actions and short and long-term solutions to the problems which could damage the livestock industry, worsen community relations and threaten national security.
“The Northern Elders Forum has followed with keen interest the raging controversy since the Federal Government hinted at moves to introduce a certain Ruga scheme. NEF has taken note of the steps taken by the Federal Government as well as diverse positions adduced by groups and interests from the south and those from northern Nigeria.
“In particular, NEF has taken note of the representations made at a press conference held by the Coalition of Northern Groups on the latest developments in the worrying failure to find solutions to the problems related to management of the livestock assets of Nigerians, particularly cattle of the Fulani. The forum has also taken due notice of the intense reactions which the statement by the coalition generated across the country.”
NEF praised the leadership of the Northern Governors Forum led by the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong and disclosed that it had since opened discussions with other stakeholders in the polity to calm frayed nerves and douse ethnic tension.
“The leadership of the NEF is being contacted by a broad spectrum of interests and opinions to use its position to calm nerves and assist in the search for a practical and fair resolution of the situation.
“Interestingly, NEF has also received the decent and statesmanlike reaction of the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, His Excellency, Governor Simon Bako Lalong, Plateau State, in which he disclosed the forum’s move to reach out to stakeholders in the matter, including the northern groups represented by CNG. NEF also acknowledges that the Northern Governors’ Forum chairman has also made similar overture to its leadership and a meeting has been fixed for next week,” it stated.