On RUGA, it’s sad people in authority don’t read the constitution – HAYAB

Hausa-Fulani pastoralists move while their cattle grazing near some farms in the outskirts of Sokoto, Sokoto State, Nigeria, on April 22, 2019. – Massive expansion of farming in Nigeria has cut access to grazing land for nomadic herders and fuelled persistent violence. (Photo by Luis TATO / AFP)

Vice Chairman of the 19 Northern States, and Abuja Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend John Joseph Hayab spoke on the controversies surrounding the attempt by the Federal Government to introduce RUGA policy in states. SAXONE AKHAINE reports.

President Muhammadu Buhari has decided to suspend the Ruga Policy. How do you see the reversal?
All the controversy about the RUGA project by the Federal Government ought not to have been generated in the first place.

We are in a democracy where we have to rule the people according to the constitution, but it is sad that people who are in authority and those privileged to have been with the President and who claim to be close to him do not read the Constitution.

The laws of Nigeria do not permit or empower the President or the Presidency to exercise power over land in the country. The law gives the governors control of lands in the country. What kind of meeting did the President or his representatives have with the governors before he began implementation of Ruga?

Already, we have the challenge of suspicion between most Nigerian communities and the Fulanis. The first priority of government should have been to build trust among Nigerians, between Fulanis and the people and search for a way out of the problems. You have not even done that but you decided to start acquiring peoples’ land and give to the Fulanis.

This whole thing is to give people a bad name. It is not that people don’t like Fulanis, but you can see that criminal activities are going on in every part of the country in the name of Fulani and nothing has been done to address it and you are taking lands again, to give to the Fulani.

If government had addressed this matter properly, we wouldn’t have seen this tension around the country. We don’t even have any reason to think of Ruga in the first place, especially when you know that there is the issue of Fulani versus farmers’ crisis and Fulani versus host communities’ crisis.

So, I commend government for yielding to pressure and stopping Ruga policy. And those in authorities should not be allowed to confuse us anymore, but focus on good governance. If there would be anything that the government must do let them carry people along and let there be better understanding.

The Presidency claimed it was not aware of how Ruga came about, is that believable?
You see, there is so much cloud surrounding the Ruga policy and how it came about. And there so much cloud surrounding the activities of government. It is so cloudy for people to see or understand.

Because every day we hear one voice and we hear another voice denying. We see an action, and later we see another person coming out to deny it. That is not how to run a government in a democracy. But our government has taken us to a level such that we no longer believe the things we read or hear. It is so bad for a country like ours. It is so bad for our future. We are saying that for once can’t our leaders be honest and So, I think the government is doing what it is doing simply to look down on the sensibilities of Nigerians. So, with the outcry and protests against RUGA, that should tell the President that Nigerians are smatter and wiser that he thinks.

There are serious security challenges in the country, which the government has not found answers to. What are your fears for Nigeria?
We want peace and progress for this country. No one will benefit if we go to war, it will be so terrible that no one will be sure if he will survive it. So, I as a Pastor and Preacher and Christian leader, I don’t wish Nigeria will reach a point of no return. But, you can see evidence that something like that is brewing.

Nigeria is pregnant and if it burst it will be too bad for those who are arrogant with power and for those who feel they own everything. But, that is not the matter. The issue is simply this, what is going on simply is a confirmation that the whole Boko Haram saga has sponsors among those we are watching and they have just changed tactics.

Before now, they went into select place to bomb. But now, they go into communities to kill large number of people, including children and pregnant women. So, it is just another dimension of the same Boko Haram criminals that our government and security agencies have refused to deal with.

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