By Akanimo Sampson
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is not on the same page with the Northern Governors’ Forum on the fire-stoking Ruga settlements plan by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for his nomadic Fulani herdsmen.
While the Northern governors are urging all stakeholders in their region to remain calm and be democratic in expressing their views about the suspended Ruga settlement, ACF, the umbrella body for the area, is calling on Nigerians not to heat up the polity on the Ruga issue, insisting that herdsmen in the country should be encouraged.
ACF has expressed strong support for the Coalition of Northern Groups which gave the government and state governors an ultimatum to reverse their decision on the project, saying all Nigerians, irrespective of their positions, should refrain from taking decisions that are inimical to peace and unity of the country.
ACF National Publicity Secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim-Biu, who made their position known in a statement in Kaduna said, “Now that the Federal Government has put on hold the Ruga settlement programme that it is inconsistent with the National Livestock Transformation Plan approved by the National Economic Council and moreover, the programme is designed as voluntary for willing state governments.
“ACF is therefore urging all concerned to exercise restraint in taking actions that may be inimical to peace and stability in our polity. ACF also shares the concern of the Coalition of the Northern Groups on the plight of genuine herdsmen in pursuit of their livelihood in some parts of the country.
“ACF is therefore appealing to government to institute measures that would ameliorate the suffering of not only herders but all those involved in the value chain of livestock production.’’
Meantime, Simon Lalong, the Chairman of the Northern governors and Plateau State Governor, made their appeal in a statement he issued last Wednesday in Abuja, urging all stakeholders to be democratic in their views while allowing government to handle the matter.
According to him, the forum was already reaching out to major stakeholders, particularly in the North, after receiving the position of the leadership of the Coalition of Northern Groups, adding that with the ensuing development following the announcement of the suspension of the initiative; it had become pertinent for him as Chair of the forum to make clarifications on the true position in order to calm nerves.
“We have acknowledged the varied responses that have been coming in throughout the hours after the announcement of the suspension which we see as part of the beauty of democracy. This allows citizens to participate in shaping and moderating the functions of government with regards to matters of public interest. We urge all stakeholders and all shades of interested parties, especially from the North, to remain calm and air their views democratically and decently while allowing the government chance to handle the matter.
“We are happy to announce that we are reaching out engagement with major stakeholders in the matter particularly in the North. This is after receiving the position of the leadership of the Coalition of Northern Groups with the hope of getting the public to fully understand the whole concept and the wisdom behind the decision by the government.
‘”We acknowledge here the Coalition’s concerns and in particular, its decency in urging the northern people to remain civil and resist the temptation to be drawn into anything untoward. We are reassured that the leadership of the Coalition is genuinely and responsibly concerned with the betterment of the whole nation and with the well-being of the Northern region and people in particular, and that it will continue to work for calm and understanding.’’
While assuring that at the end of the day, what was coming out of the suspension will turn out to be more beneficial and in the best interest of the whole nation, Lalong added, “We are working on a complete package that comes with multi sectoral and multi-dimensional benefits that will serve the interest of all, both in the short and long terms. We once again urge for understanding and cooperation from all.’’
Though the federal government, on Tuesday, announced the suspension of the planned Ruga settlement project, there are increasing suspicion that Abuja was bent on pressing on with the plan.
President Buhari’s new media aide, Bashir Ahmad confirmed the suspension on his verified Twitter handle. He tweeted, ‘’the federal government after consultations with stakeholders has suspended the Ruga Settlement Project, for now, Kebbi State Governor stated that after a meeting with Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.’’