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Rights Group, Intersociety Warn Southeast Governors Against Ceding Of Lands For Cattle Ranching

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety); Nigeria’s leading Research and Investigative Human Rights and Democracy Advocacy Group, has strongly warned against the ceding of lands by south East governors for the establishment of cattle Ranches/settlement, saying lands in the five states of the zone are too tiny to be release for such purpose.

It said SouthEast lands are too tiny for (Fulani) “Ranching/Settlements’ ‘ adding that  Enugu, Abia And Anambra Governments must say no to it.

The group which commenced operation since 2008, stated that she “is bringing to the attention of Governors and Governments of Enugu, Anambra and Abia States and those of Imo and Ebonyi to the fact that South-East landmass (measuring 29,525km2) is too tiny for grab for (Fulani) Ranching/Settlements (abuse of the constitutional Concurrent Legislative List) in any part of the Region. 

It added that “the Governors in question, particularly Gov. Peter Mbah of Enugu State are strongly advised to back off from any form of moves-under whatever disguises or camouflages aimed at establishment of herders’ settlements in any part of their respective States. 

“These moves must be done away with in the entire South-East or be lawfully and popularly resisted.

” It has been observed by Intersociety since Dec 2023 and Jan and Feb 2024 that despite denials and reasons given by the Govs and their Governments or defenses publicly made to justify the widely suspected politically motivated moves to establish the so called “non native trailer parks” or “agro-industrial farms” or “mechanized farm settlements” or “ modern cow ranching”, etc; most social clusters have remained saturated with strong suspicions that the Govs and their Governments are being economical with the truth. 

The organization stated this in a statement jointly signed by her key officers which included, its Board Chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi, Criminologist-Researcher, Chinwe Umeche, Head, Democracy and Good Governance Program, and 

Obianuju Igboeli Esquire Head, Civil Liberties and Rule of Law Programe, and was 

made available to African Examiner in Enugu on Monday.

“While such moves have clandestinely been intensified at sub-state government level in Anambra, since 2022 through the Ministry of Homeland Security and its Commissioner; in Enugu and Abia States, they are believed to have reared their ugly heads since Dec 2023 after the electoral apex court judgments in the 2023 governorship polls in the two States. 

“These moves are made more suspicious going by the fact that these Govs and their Governments particularly those of Enugu and Anambra hardly speak out publicly in strong condemnation of jihadist Fulani Herdsmen violence in their respective States, including abductions and killings in captivity, sexual violence, open killings, property robberies and seizure and wanton destruction of farmlands and crops, etc.

“Intersociety has recently traced the current food insecurity in Nigeria including shortages and price hikes to “Islamic-Fulanization” and terrorization of the country’s food baskets (.i.e. Ondo, Ogun and Oyo in South-West; Delta and Edo in South-South; Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kogi and Niger in North-Central; Southern Kaduna and Southern Kebbi in North-West; and Taraba, Southern Borno and Northern Adamawa in North-East per Boko Haram and Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen).

” The moves by the named Govs and their Governments and reasons given have also become more suspicious following disclosures by the Governments of Enugu and Abia of the involvement of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the moves. 

“While the Government of Enugu State said “it is planning to build a military base in Nimbo (Uzo Uwani) to protect its planned cow ranching and the people of the area”, the Government of Abia State said “it is collaborating with the Federal Government to build a (non native) trailer park at Aro-Ngwa”. 

“The two explanations are utterly suspicious because going by the provisions of Nigeria’s existing 1999 Constitution, it is outside the Legislative Mandate of any State to build a military base or get a Federal Government approval or collaboration before building a trailer park on Concurrent Legislative List-controlled land spaces located off a Trunk A (federal) Road. Promising to “build a military base” is also sobriquet: “Fulanization” of the so called “modern cow ranching”, following brazen partisanship and deep distrust of the military by many citizens across the country since July 2015.

“It is therefore, most likely correct to say that the ongoing moves by the named Govs and their Governments are tantamount to “the Voice of Jacob and the Hands of Esau”. It must be clearly pointed out that it is the duties of the referenced Govs and their Governments, as Chief Security Officers of their respective States, to rise to the occasion at ensuring security and safety of those they were elected or selected to govern and protect including mustering enough political will to flush out marauding Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen wrecking havocs in farmlands located in communities across their States and restore farmers’ access to their farmlands and cultivated and harvested crops

“The Governors and their Governments are also duty bound to ensure general security and safety of lives and properties in their domains and provide access and good roads, energy supply, ICT technologies, social amenities and services as well as modern urban and rural planning (.i.e. forest reserves and tree planting, etc) so as to attract huge direct foreign investments (under public-private-partnership-PPP).

On the issue of fears Over State-Level Replication Of “Fulanized” Federal Agric Policies And Programs, Intersociety, posited that “the doubts and fears by members of the public including cross sections of communal stakeholders are also thickened going by partisan and segregated ways and manners in which the Federal Government of Nigeria handled its rural agricultural policies and programs since 2016 during which the then Government under Retired Major Gen Muhammad Buhari not only promoted primitive Fulani Cattle grazing and its networks as a national policy but also have it militarized. 

“The then Government was also widely accused of promoting and protecting non state actor terrorism perpetrated by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen. As a matter of fact, chief among them was “RUGA”; a Fulani word for “human settlement using rural grazing routes”. 

“Other “Fulanized” federal agric policies and programs included “Waterway Control”, “National Livestock Transformation Plan”, “Nigerian Military Ranching”, “National Cattle Ranching/Fulani Settlement programs”, “FADAMA”, etc. 

“Findings by Intersociety across the South-East since 2017 have identified the “presence of Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen till date” in many, if not most of the facilities used for the above named including key formations of the Nigerian Security Forces (NSFs). 

“Therefore, apart from the fact that the Nigerian Government under Retired Major Gen Muhammad Buhari brazenly abused such public responsibilities and trust under the Exclusive Legislative List; fears are thickening that such public policy and program blunders are being replicated by some State Govs and Governments; a brazen and impeachable abuse of the Concurrent Legislative List.

It noted that “Enugu worst hit Over strong suspicions in Communal Land grab for (Fulani) Ranching, stressing that Enugu State under Gov Peter Mbah is worst hit over strong suspicions in the State Government’s communal land grab/drives for (Fulani) Ranching or Settlements.

” The State Government under Peter Mbah has strongly and widely been accused of coercing some communities in the State with large acres of farm/bush/forest lands into ceding or surrendering large part of them for “mechanized farming or “cow ranching”; a move seen by many observers as a camouflage for “Jihadist Fulani settlements in the State”. 

“Clear cases in point are Elugwu-Akwu-Achi in Oji River, Nimbo in Uzo Uwani and reported others in Awgu, Nike (Enugu-East), Isi-Uzo, etc. Strong suspicions abound that such acres of communal lands, if ceded or “donated”, may end up as “Jihadist Fulani settlements” likely to have been disguised as “Enugu State Government Cow Ranching/Mechanized Farming/Agro-Industrial Settlements”, etc. 

“Some natives of the affected communities spoken to by Intersociety; also believed that the move by the State Government is politically motivated and likely linked to “tenure-office-protection-deal” (if true). 

“Intersociety has followed the development in Enugu State since Dec 2023 and January 2024 prompting her to launch an investigation during which some leaders of the affected communities expressed fear of being witch-hunted by the Government of Enugu State if they publicly or informally reject the land cession request.               

“The Ancient Kingdom of Achi in Oji River LGA is now divided into twelve autonomous communities under “Achi Agu (six autonomous communities)” and “Achi Uno (six autonomous communities)” or “Isii n’ uno, Isii n’ agu”. 

“One of the twelve autonomous communities: “Elugwu-Akwu (Achi) Autonomous Community” under “Achi-Agu Division” in Oji River LGA of Enugu State was visited by the Government of Enugu State and told to cede its ancestral joint farmland to the Government of Enugu State for “Mechanized Farming”. 

“The land in question, “Ohege Farmland Settlement”, contains multi acres and is very large and was anciently retained as “joint farmland” where families seasonally cultivate and harvest. 

It argued that the land also has a history of protracted disputes including long years of court cases between the Elugwu-Akwu-Achi and the Umuagu-Inyi which ended in 1998 in favor of Elugwu-Akwu-Achi and has since then been preserved for seasonal farming and antiquity. 

The group said ” It is further noted that several attempts and resistances have occurred in the recent past between the Community and past Governments of Enugu State.  

“Recently, through one of the natives of the Community, resident in Lagos, the Government of Enugu State visited in January 2024 through the State Commissioner for Agriculture, the Attorney General, the Surveyor General and other top Government functionaries during which they informed the Community of the Government plans to take over the land for “mechanized farming”. 

“The Enugu State Government also told the Community that “it will also partner with the Community” after “they have signed an agreement with the State Government ceding the land” and that “the unskilled workforce to be employed will be drawn from the area”.

“It was further discovered that while some leaders of the Community were in a haste to grant the State Government request, others raised the issue of “Government Master Plan” for the project and demanded for it.

” They also rejected Government’s plan to “survey the land” and insisted on surveying it first.

” The Government of Enugu State was told to provide more information regarding “the Mechanized Farming” so as to convince them that the Land, if ceded, will not end up in the hands of herders, Federal Government and allied others (.i.e. the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria-MACABAN and the Fulani Nationality Movement-FUNAM). 

“The meeting ended with the Government of Enugu State promising to get back to them. Video clips of the meetings are attached in this statement for clarity and authentication.


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