THE Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) is unhappy at what it terms apparent lack of sensitivity in some parts of the country to matters affecting the north.
Citing the Ruga scheme which was suspended during the week by the federal government, the NEF said the matter is not being adequately addressed and the development is capable of creating additional security and economic problems for the nation.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said last night it was still studying the situation, while the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide sued for peace against the background of the tension generated by the Ruga issue.
The NEF said in a statement in Abuja on Friday that government at the federal and state levels must develop policies and take positions that will address what it called the harassment of herdsmen and their cattle.
Reacting to the controversy surrounding the Ruga settlement issue, Deputy Convener of the forum, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande asked the Coalition of Northern Groups to exercise responsible restraint and take no further action in view of the potentially productive involvement of northern governors and respected Nigerians.
Kwande said: “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.
“The leadership of the NEF has been 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 Northern Governors Forum, His Excellency Governor Samuel Bako Lalong of 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.
“In consideration of the appeals of many well-meaning leaders and Nigerians, including the Forum of Northern Governors, and in the exercise of its responsibility as the platform of Northern Elders, the NEF advises the Coalition of Northern Groups to exercise responsible restraint and take no further action in view of the potentially productive involvement of Northern governors and other respected Nigerians.
“Most Nigerians recognize the genuine grounds for raising serious grievances in the light of provocations and apparent lack of sensitivity to a matter that affects the North and indeed the rest of Nigeria in a most critical manner.
“Northern Governors’ concerns and commitment to find solutions to a problem which is not being adequately addressed and one which has the potential to create additional security and economic problems for the nation is welcome.
“NEF will engage with the forum and the coalition and any Nigerian who seeks genuine solutions to the problems being faced by Northern communities and the livestock industry.
“Federal and state governments must adopt policies and positions which address the harassment of 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 nation should remain sensitive to its rising deficits in security of lives and economic assets, and must do everything possible not to escalate tensions and distrust among Nigerians.
“We urge the northerners to heed the call for restraint made by the coalition earlier pending the outcome of the meetings with the Northern governors when NEF shall come out with a definite position on the matter.”
ACF: we’re still studying the situation
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), in its reaction last night, said it was still studying the situation, especially Thursday’s directive by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo to Igbo across the nation to defend themselves in the event of any attack on them.
It said: “In view of the outburst of Ohanaeze over the issue and the response of the Coalition of Northern Groups, ACF is studying the situation.”
We’ll explore every peaceful avenue to avoid bloodshed— Ohanaeze youths
However, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, sued for peace over the 30-day ultimatum issued by a Coalition of Northern Groups following the suspension of the Ruga programme by the Federal Government.
The youth wing of the apex Igbo socio-cultural group in a statement signed by its national president, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, on Friday said although it is keen to avoid bloodshed, the gesture must not be seen as weakness by the northern groups.
Isiguzoro said: “We have studied diligently and weighed the implications of the recent threat and 30-day ultimatum from Coalition of Northern groups over the suspension of Ruga settlement programme by the presidency. There has been unnecessary tension in the southern Nigeria, especially Igboland, because of the northern group’s threat.
“We are fully aware that the recent threat is targeted mainly at the lives and properties of peaceful Nigerians of Igbo extraction who are doing businesses in the 19 northern states, and this is a declaration of war against the Igbos.
“Instead of resorting to counter threats or hate speech, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide will facilitate a peaceful dialogue with the leadership of the coalition to ensure that the ultimatum is resolved peacefully like the previous quit notice issued against Igbos in 2017 by the same group.
“We will not fail to explore all peaceful avenues for the protection of lives and properties of Igbos living in the 19 northern states. But our peaceful approach should not be mistaken for weakness as there are other options open to us over the recent threat, but we will legitimately pursue peaceful ways to avert this imminent mayhem and ethnic cleansing against Igbos in the North.”
The Igbo group went on to remind the leadership of Northern groups of the grave implications of the recent threat, saying: “Hate speech ban is still effective and in the interest of national peace and security, we call on the group to withdraw the 30-day ultimatum immediately since there is another option for the herdsmen to have ranches in the North through NLTP, except they’re out to use Ruga settlement programme for land grabbing and other nefarious activities in the South East and other parts of southern Nigeria.
“We want to warn that the youths of South East and South-South are not ready to stomach the threat of ethnic cleansing against the Igbos in the North. We call on Igbos to be vigilant and defend themselves in the North, and relocate their businesses to the East.”