The Middle Belt Forum has shown its support for the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, over his stance against the rural grazing area initiative introduced by the Federal Government.
In an interview with SaharaReporters on Friday, the spokesman for the forum, Inuwa Dogo, said the Middle Belt is strongly against RUGA as it will only worsen the security situation.
Dogo said RUGA is not a solution to the killings in Nigeria and will not bring about peace.
He said, “I don’t believe in RUGA, if they are killing so as to take the land of the people, then the people should not accept and in the middle belt, we completely reject anything of that nature. They believe if they kill people, then there will be no other alternative than to accept whatever they want which will not happen.
“There is no part of the country that it will not reach. No place is safe. RUGA will only make the security situation worse because they will be nearer and entrenched and kill and kill until they take over everywhere. Any community that thinks RUGA is the solution is deceiving itself because RUGA is not and will not be the solution.
“RUGA will only make the situation worse and we stand by the side of Ortom and all the other Middle Belt states, they must never cave in to RUGA. Everybody sitting down thinking there is any Federal Government policy that will save us is deceiving himself. RUGA will not save us, it will only make the security situation worse. We are totally against it.”
The RUGA policy is controversial policy, introduced by the Buhari Presidency, aimed at creating “reserved communities where herders will live, grow and tend their cattle, produce milk and undertake other activities associated with the cattle business without having to move around in search of grazing land for their cows”.
The policy was quickly suspended by the Federal Government after Southern Nigerians and many state governments in the southern region kicked against it.
Ortom had in 2019 said Benue State had no land for the Federal Government’s proposed RUGA settlements for Fulani herdsmen.
The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, explained that RUGA settlement policy was imposed on states.
According to him, Benue state already had an existing law which had phased out open grazing.
Amid the recent killings in the state, the governor had accused the president of working for the Fulani tribe to take over Nigeria.
Ortom made the allegation while reacting to the recent killing of residents in a fresh attack where suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded Abegana village, the host community to one of the Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camps in Benue State in the early hours of Tuesday and killed seven people, while several others were injured.
Ortom, who decried the incessant killing of people in the state by suspected Fulani herdsmen, confirmed that 70 people were killed in three local government areas of the state — Makurdi, Guma and Gwer West — in the past two weeks and seven were killed at Abegana IDP camp.
But in a response, the Presidency said if Ortom wants peace in Benue, he should cooperate with Buhari’s regime by accepting RUGA and other policies.
Buhari’s media aide, Garba Shehu, claimed the recent spate of insecurity ravaging the state resulted from Ortom’s rejection of Federal Government’s initiatives that could bring peace to the state, which include RUGA.
Shehu, in a statement on Thursday, claimed the governor’s refusal to adopt the Federal Government’s initiatives showed he did not value people’s interest.
The governor had rejected the policy describing it as deceptive and against the interest of Benue indigenes, who are predominantly farmers.
“Benue under the Ortom administration ought to cooperate with the federal government in the implementation of a number of national strategies, programmes in addressing underlying issues militating against peace, progress, and development.
“This can still get done when the interest of the people is placed above all other interests. A government voted into office by the people should treat the people as its masters and not as its servants,” said the statement.
Buhari also accused the governor of stirring religious and ethnic violence, accusing Mr Ortom of the divide-and-rule tactic.
“As Nigerians, we accuse colonial rulers of the policy of divide and rule.
“Today, it is our leaders who pit region against region, religion against religion, ethnic group against ethnic group, and community against community,” the statement added.