The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) said there was a surreptitious plan by the Federal Government to repeal the Land Use Act and take over the control of lands from state governors.
This, it said, was to enable the government to subsequently implement the suspended Ruga project.
The forum said it gathered that the Federal Government suspended the Ruga settlement programme due to the Act which restricted its access to land, adding that the government might move to repeal the law in order to facilitate the implementation of the Ruga grazing scheme.
The SMBLF, therefore, cautioned the southern lawmakers in the National Assembly to be vigilant and to guard against the introduction of any bill intended to repeal or amend the Land Use Act.
The forum said this in a statement in Abuja on Sunday by its co-spokespersons, Yinka Odumakin (South-West), Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (South-East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South), Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle-Belt).
The group stated that it was not any way impressed by the suspension of the Ruga settlement project, which it declared as an expansionist agenda on behalf of the Fulani nomads.
The statement partly read, “It is being alleged that there will be moves to repeal the Land Use Act in the (Ruga) suspension period so the Federal Government can have authority over land which is currently under the states.
“We therefore call on all our members in the National Assembly to be vigilant about any surreptitious bill that may be introduced to tamper with control of land and thwart such without any waste of time. The 2014 National Conference debated this issue at length and resolved to retain the Land Use Act in the constitution.”
The forum further warned the lawmakers against passing the ‘Bill to establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria,’ sponsored by the executive, noting that it was meant to give the Federal Government the sole authority and control over the nation’s rivers and underground water.
The group added, “When this obnoxious Water Bill is taken alongside the Ruga programme and the speculated assault on Land Use Act, the internal colonialism agenda is complete.
“It is pertinent to ask why the Federal Government is not going ahead with Ruga in some northern states that have accepted the policy if the whole idea was not about land-grabbing in the South and Middle Belt states.”
The political pressure group stated that the Federal Government’s support for local government autonomy was hinged on the Ruga scheme to allow aliens to take over allotted land under the programme.
It vowed not to relax its opposition to the project, stressing that only outright cancellation of the initiative was acceptable to the forum.
“The whole policy has equally opened our eyes to the reason why the President has been harping on local government autonomy now and then,” the group stressed.
Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 17 states of southern Nigeria alleged “underground” plot to bring back the project.
It called on Christians to be vigilant not minding the suspension of the policy aimed at earmarking settlement for herds.
The warning contained in a statement released in Enugu, yesterday, by CAN Secretary, Dr. Joseph Ajujungwa came as Ohanaeze and Arewa groups trade tackle over the policy.
Ajujungwa called on every southerner “to be watchful” stressing that “even as we pray, we don’t need to keep quiet; they are experts in underground work.”
The scribe was emphatic that southerners did not have land for grazing field or cattle colony, hence, his call on the South East governors to stick to their gun on their earlier decision against the policy.
“Do you know what it means to give 10 hectares of land to herdsmen? We say no to that. As CAN, we will preach it from our pulpit, every Imam should peach from the mosque and the traditionalists should stand against it; nobody should relent; no land should be given; any traditional ruler that does that should be dethroned.
“In the North, we have largest hectares of land, very vast that nobody is occupying. Why are they not building the ranches, RUGA or whatever there? They can come here, take grass and go, and we buy cows in exchange, just like the governors said. We do not have such mass land required.
“We are also calling on the Federal Government to be mindful of what they are doing because cattle rearing is a private farming business. Why should the government support individual cattle farmers against other farmers?”
On the ultimatum issued by a coalition of northern youths, Ajujungwa cautioned that nobody has the monopoly of violence.
“As they are planning to attack, others are planning to defend themselves and we cannot run away for them.
“CAN is calling on all Christians, all law-abiding citizens of southern Nigeria to please watch and pray. Watch means that you must open your eyes to see what is going on and, therefore, pray; do not relent.