RUGA Settlements: Ultimatum By Northern Coalition Fuels Uncertainties in Niger Delta

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Niger Delta Militants
Niger Delta Militants

By Akanimo Sampson

A seeming unguarded ultimatum by a coalition of Northern groups has triggered a backstage consultation in the vastly polluted Niger Delta, Nigeria’s main oil and gas region that could boil over with another armed rebellion.

The coalition has given governors who are opposed to the RUGA Settlements for Fulani herdsmen’s 30 days to reconsider their decisions in the best interest of their states. Their Spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said the debate to accept or not to accept the programme was already causing disaffection for Fulani herders.

According to him, “While we warn all state governments that stand against the implementation of the Ruga Initiative to desist and give peace a chance, we place President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government on notice that they must completely stop this raging madness within 30 days beginning from today, Wednesday (July 3).’’

Though the coalition was silent on what its next line of action will be should the states fail to comply with the ultimatum, it however, believes that a referendum is the only rightful way to go for groups who are opposed to the idea of one Nigeria.

But, the Federal Government had in a seeming dramatic u-turn suspended the trouble-sparking settlement programme for the Fulani herders.

According to the National Executive Committee (NEC), the decision to suspend the plan follows a lack of consistency with the NEC and Federal Government approved National Livestock Transformation Plan.

The umbrella platform of some active militant groups in the Niger Delta, the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), in their reaction to the “leechist’’ Northern coalition’s ultimatum said, “We have felt the hands of Esau. We also know the voice of Jacob. In furtherance thereof, we declare that any attempt to infringe upon the peaceful and secure life of any Niger Deltan anywhere across the Bantustans of the Nigerian state will be met with just recompense.’’

Spokesperson of the Niger Delta militants, Cynthia Whyte, said in a statement that for more than 60 years, the peoples of the oil region sacrificed “their lives, their blood, their land and vast resources for the survival and continued existence of an ungrateful Nigerian state.’’

The JRC alleged that leaders of the true struggle for the emancipation and liberation of the region have continually been murdered, assassinated, hung, imprisoned and forced on exile by leaders from the North, “with the active connivance of saboteur elements, failed politicians, fraudulent and self seeking leaders from the Niger Delta.’’

According to the militants, 85% of oil blocks and acreages shared out to Northern opportunist families like the Indimis, Deribes, Sani Bellos and others have contributed to the despoliation of the air, lands and waters of the Niger Delta rendering our fishermen and farmers jobless, poor and hopeless.

“We have borne too much headache for the Nigerian state, we cannot afford the luxury of a new Ruga migraine. We will wait for the expiration of the 30-day ultimatum, and when they start, we know where we will begin. A word has always been good enough for the wise.’’

Earlier, Chief Nnia Nwodo, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, had on Thursday described as irresponsible the 30-day ultimatum the Northern coalition gave the Federal Government to rescind its decision to suspend the Ruga programme.

Nwodo called on the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria to be ready to defend themselves against any threat from any quarter, pointing out, “My attention has been drawn to a broadcast by Abdul Azeez Suleiman, speaking for a coalition of northern groups in which he had the audacity to give the Federal Government an ultimatum of 30 days to rescind its decision on the suspension of its Ruga settlements policy.

“Abdul went further to threaten the expulsion of Southerners resident in the North at the expiration of his ultimatum if the federal government does not rescind its suspension decision. This irresponsible, unlawful and provocative outburst reminds me of the Northern youths’ notice to quit the North to southerners two years ago.’’