By Edem Edem
Cross River State chapter of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), in conjunction with the All Cross River State Nationals Front (ACRSNF) have warned the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government against using any part of the state for Ruga Settlement.
In a statement entitled “Cross River State has no land for RUGA cattle colony” signed by Engineer Bassey Ekefre, Secretary of PANDEF and Ntufam (Bar) Edet Okon Asim, Secretary of ACRSNF, and made available to DAILY POST on Monday, the groups condemned Federal Government’s alleged intention to forcefully acquire lands in states.
“The Cross River State Chapter of the Pan Niger Delta Forum in conjunction with the All Cross River State Nationals Front wishes to warn the Federal Government that Cross River State has no land for the proposed Ruga/Cattle Colony being forced on the federating states of Nigeria by the Federal authorities.
“The Federal Government should therefore not even contemplate including the state as a participant in the proposed program. Besides our complete and vehement rejection of the idea and intention of the rogue program, government will require about four fifth of the state to create one such settlement going by the proposed forbidding dimensions of the settlements,” they said.
PANDEF pointed out that Cross River State is already host to wild-life reserves, a federal government/ United Nations programme, which has prohibited the citizens from accessing large portions of land for agricultural and commercial purposes.
“The struggle for the remaining arable land among our burgeoning population of over six million has often led to communal strife and conflicts during farming seasons. There is therefore no spare hectare of land left to spare for settlers no matter how good intentioned they may be.
“It is important for us to remind the Federal Government that the civil war raging on in South West Cameroon has left Cross River with a heavy burden to bear as hundreds of thousands of refugees from the so called Republic of Ambazonia have flooded into Boki, Ikom, Ogoja, Yala, Bekwarra, Obudu and Obanliku local government areas of Cross River State.
“It will therefore be mindless and downright insulting for anybody to further contemplate a fresh land – grabbing scheme or ingress of more settlers into our state. We wish to advise the Federal Government to focus more on Northern states which have large expanses of empty land with low population density for the proposed program, while embracing modern technology in irrigation to solve the challenge of desertification.
“The Federal Government may wish to consult the states of Israel and Libya for assistance in that regard, to avoid the inter – tribal conflicts that this program would inevitably ignite”.The group also call on the state Governor, Senator (Prof) Ben Ayade to speak and stand up for the peoples of Cross River State, by telling the Federal Government clearly and timorously that Cross River totally rejects the very idea of RUGA settlements and will offer no land or cooperation for that purpose.
“This is neither politics nor diplomacy. This is a matter of life and death, and the State Governor must rise up and speak for the peoples of Cross River State. The State Governor must mobilize every constitutional arsenal at his disposal to ensure the full protection of the ancestral lands, forests, waterways and heritage of peoples of Cross River State now,” the groups said.