A group called the Nsukka Zone Elders Forum (NEF) has warned the governor of Enugu State, Peter Mbah, against doing anything that might make the security situation in the state even worse. This comes as tensions are rising in the wake of the state government’s plans to build ranches in various parts of the state in an effort to reduce conflicts between indigenous communities and Fulani herders.

In a statement, the group criticized what it saw as a new attempt to revive the Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) program, which had previously been suspended under former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. They urged the state government to find innovative ways to address the security issues in the state, rather than reviving a program that would deprive the people while appeasing migrant herders, in their view.

The statement was endorsed by Barr Okey Ambrose, (Uzo Uwani), Prof Denchris Onah, (Isi Uzo), Gen. Chris Eze (rtd), (Udenu), High Chief Cyril Ossai, (Igbo Eze North), Barr P.I.P. Ezugwu, (Igbo Eze South), Arapa Engr Joel Ezugwu, (Nsukka), Barr Sam Otoboeze, (Igbo Etiti), Barr Emeka Awkadigwe, (Uzo Uwani), Dr Felix Ugwu, (Igbo Eze South), Prof L.C. Ogenyi, (Isi Uzo), Chief Nnanwike Nwodo, (Igbo Etiti), Barr Peter Odo, (Nsukka), Chief Dr Frank Okenwa, (Udenu) and Chief Dr Matthias Omeh, (Igbo Eze North).

You may remember that news broke that the state administration was planning to build cattle ranches for Fulani herders in some areas of the Uzo-Uwani and Isi Uzo Local administration Areas, which led to an increase in tensions in the state.

Despite debunking the rumors, Aka Eze Aka, the state commissioner for information, did acknowledge that the government intends to set up ranches in certain areas of the state to limit the frequent confrontations between locals and Fulani herders who migrate there.

In a statement headed “Ranching is not RUGA,” the Commissioner laid out the goals of the state government in launching the contentious program.

On this issue, the government’s stance is crystal clear. Our farms and woods have long been targets of armed bandits and kidnappers who pose as herders and perpetrate horrific acts of kidnapping, rape, and murder.

“The government of Enugu State has resolved to put a stop to these and introduce ranching, the most modern way of rearing cattles,” the Commissioner stated in his statement.

However, NEF claimed that the current government’s selective pacifism in addressing the herdsmen’s slaughter of indigenous people in the state shows a lack of competence, even as it accuses the state government of being insensitive to the attacks and killings of the people in the past.

“The only way to look at this shameful situation is from the perspective of the Enugu State Government. It seems like they’re hell-bent on stealing community land and giving it to the same individuals who are accused of orchestrating the brutal killings. It’s like they’re demanding compensation for all the years they’ve spent terrorizing these communities through bloodletting,” the group stated.

Their main point was that the government’s plan would turn the aggressor against their victims. They claimed that any government that isn’t strong or cares about its citizens’ sentiments wouldn’t come to this decision.

After looking at everything that has happened, particularly the government’s disregard for people’s feelings and the current security situation regarding the relationship between indigenous people and herders, we can’t help but conclude that the government of Enugu State is hell-bent on making things even worse in the areas they’ve picked out for these offensive programs.

“If the Enugu State Government thinks that taking the land from the people and giving it to the people responsible for the clashes is the only way to stop the farmer-herder conflicts, then people will see it as a sign that the government is either not strong enough to protect the people or is siding with the oppressors to hurt innocent people even more,” NEF stated.

After the national outrage that led to the program’s suspension, months after the federal government mooted it nearly five years ago, NEF wondered why the Enugu State Government was determined on reinstating it.

In the sake of peace and justice, it urged all decent Nigerians, especially the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, to convince Governor Peter Mbah to scrap the plan.

Also, NEF brought it to the attention of the governor of Enugu State that the government’s principal duty is to ensure the safety of its citizens, and that it should not compromise its security by appeasing those it views as criminals.

Additionally, it brought attention to the fact that the government has the authority to use and distribute land, but that this power must be limited to matters of paramount public interest. It raised the question of what this paramount public interest actually is when it comes to displacing indigenous people from their property and giving it to others for commercial purposes.

According to NEF, the creation of such settlements has actually raised crime rates in the past, which is in line with their claims about what’s happening in Ugwuoba, a livestock resettlement in the state’s Oji River Local Government Area.

The residents of Ugwuoba, Oji River Local Government Area, have been victims of a wide variety of crimes, including drug dealing and robbery, and we would like to bring this to the attention of Governor Peter Mbah. The landowners and migratory herders were at odds when Colonel Robert Nnaemeka Akonobi, the military ruler of Enugu State, established that colony.

Crime has been on the rise in the region ever since this was done, and residents have recently voiced their concerns about the security situation and made complaints about it.

“We are concerned that the current program could lead to a repeat of the situation in Ugwuoba in the Nsukka geo-cultural zone,” the statement stated.

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