Adelani Adepegba, Abuja
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum has said there is a surreptitious plan by the Federal Government to repeal the Land Use Act and take over the control of lands in the country from state governors.
This, it said, was to enable the government to subsequently implement the suspended Ruga project.
The forum said it gathered that the FG suspended the Ruga Settlement Programme due to the Act which restricted its access to land, adding that the government may move to repeal the law in order to facilitate the implementation of the Ruga grazing scheme.
SMBLF cautioned Southern lawmakers in the National Assembly to be vigilant and to guard against the introduction of any bill intended to repeal or amend the Land Use Act.
The forum said this in a statement in Abuja on Sunday by its co-spokespersons: Yinka Odumakin (South West), Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (South East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South South), Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt).
The group stated that it was not impressed by the suspension of the Ruga Settlement Project, which it declared as “an expansionist agenda on behalf of the Fulani nomads.”
The statement reads, “It is being alleged that there will be moves to repeal the Land Use Act in the (Ruga) suspension period so the Federal Government can have authority over land which is currently under the states.
“We therefore call on all our members in the National Assembly to be vigilant about any surreptitious bill that may be introduced to tamper with control of land and thwart such without any waste of time.
“The 2014 National Conference debated this issue at length and resolved to retain the Land Use Act in the Constitution.”
The forum further warned the lawmakers against passing the ‘Bill to establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria,’ sponsored by the executive, noting that it was meant to give the FG sole authority and control over the nation’s rivers and underground water.
The group added, “When this obnoxious Water Bill is taken alongside the Ruga programme and the speculated assault on Land Use Act, the internal colonialism agenda is complete and we would have no one but ourselves to blame if we don’t effect our no-pasaran (They shall not pass — a slogan used to express determination to defend a position against an enemy).
“It is pertinent to ask why the FG is not going ahead with Ruga in some northern states that have accepted the policy if the whole idea was not about land-grabbing in the South and Middle Belt states,” it said.
The political pressure group stated that the FG’s support for local government autonomy was hinged on the Ruga scheme to allow “aliens” to take over allotted land under the programme.
It vowed not to relax its opposition to the project, stressing that only outright cancellation of the initiative was acceptable to the forum.
“The whole policy has opened our eyes to the reason why the President has been harping on local government autonomy now and then,” the group stressed.