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No To RUGA Settlements!

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Just last month, barely few weeks after his swearing in for a second term as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government began hurried effort to perfect implementation of the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) programme initiated by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and approved by the former Federal Executive Council (FEC) and National Economic Council (NEC) under the “National Livestock Transformation Programme”, ostensibly aimed at establishing Fulani settlements in “willing states” to “resolve” the festering farmers/herders clashes across the country.
The implementation of RUGA, under the supervision of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, comes on the heels of heightened tension across the country with the largest Christian community in Africa, of surreptitious plots by the Federal Government to Islamise and ‘Fulanise’ Nigeria, in violation of the objective principles and tenets of the Constitution recognizing the territory as a “Secular State”.
Indeed, the controversial scheme, smartly conceived as a platform for the rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons as a result of the farmers/herders’ crisis, and factored as a basis for the development of ranches in any willing state of the federation, has been stoutly resisted by more than 25 states. Even a section of the population in the 11 states alleged to have given “consent” to the establishment of cattle colonies or ranches in their states, has shown infectious opposition to any programme designed to grant herdsmen special status and public-funding privilege in any form or guise.
Expressing the stark opposition of Rivers people to RUGA, Governor Nyesom Wike, last Tuesday, said that his government had not given any approval for the siting of RUGA settlements anywhere in Rivers State, because the state had no land for the implementation of such a policy, as it needs available arable land to drive its commercial agriculture policy to fast-track economic diversification, boost youth empowerment and job creation, and improve revenue generation for the betterment of the people. The Governor reiterated that he “will continue to defend the interest of Rivers people who have overwhelmingly rejected cattle colonies, RUGA settlements and any such policy”, and “advised Rivers people to join the State Government to protect all arable lands by reporting any form of encroachment under whatever guise” to appropriate authorities for immediate action.
Wike is not alone in this. The Ijaw Youth Council, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Yoruba Council of Elders and Afenifere, Middle Belt Elders’ Forum, and a collection of all Southern and Middle Belt leaders, have unanimously condemned the move by the Federal Government to revamp the old grazing reserves, and deploy the N2.26 billion Grazing Reserve Budget, in addition to other extra-budgetary allocations, to fund the devilish plan, describing the veiled policy as another confirmation of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s design to Islamise and ‘Fulanise’ Nigeria, which must be resisted at all cost.
The Tide completely agrees with Wike and other leaders across the country, who had voiced unambiguous opposition to the Presidency’s push for Federal Government’s direct or indirect involvement in efforts to give herders an uneven advantage in their private business of cattle breeding and sales. Just as we clearly condemned the Federal Government for initiating the idea of lobbying state governments on behalf of Miyetti Allah and other herders for the creation of special colonies or grazing areas for cattle across the country early in 2018 as a possible solution to the farmers/herders’ clashes, we still restate our opposition to this new coinage: “RUGA”, as its intents and purposes are the same.
We vehemently condemn the Buhari-led Federal Government, not just for pushing the implementation of this dangerous policy, but for showing to Nigerians that it places more importance on cattle than human lives. We know for a fact that the harbinger of farmers/herders’ crisis is not the dearth of grazing land for cattle in states of origin or residence of their owners, as there are large enough fertile forests in the North-East and North-West for cattle grazing, just as there is enough water in the Northern Belt for the cattle to drink. After all, there are thousands of irrigation and mechanized farmers in the North who are doing fantastically well in their agricultural ventures.
But fundamentally important is the fact that the Federal Government has no business intervening and lobbying for cattle rearers to spread their tentacles across all cities and communities in the country. Similarly, the Buhari Presidency has no legal obligation to allocate tax-payers’ funds for the establishment of cattle colonies, grazing reserves or RUGA settlements anywhere in Nigeria, as cattle breeding and sales are purely private business opportunities and choices that people make for their interests in life. Therefore, lobbying for cattle breeders to have choice fertile lands and fresh water belts clearly amounts to favouring one business class over millions of others.
This is patently why we had and still argue that establishing ranches by cattle owners is the way to go. As private business owners, who decide the price of their goods and services, cattle breeders, if they are genuine entrepreneurs with clear passion and drive, should approach state governments or communities for lands on lease, and on agreement and payment of appropriate fees, must build facilities in line with best global practices for their ranches. Such ranches will definitely create job opportunities, boost economic growth and contribute to national development through payment of appropriate taxes, royalties, levies and fees.
Relying on the Grazing Reserve Act of 1964 to promote RUGA settlements in the 21st Century is unacceptable. We, therefore, advise the Federal Government to completely hands off this unpopular programme in the interest of unity, peace, equity and justice for all. Merely suspending implementation of the RUGA programme is absolutely not enough. It must take a step further by, without further delay, cancelling the entire idea. Even the ultimatum by the so-called Coalition of Northern Groups to the Presidency to rescind its decision to suspend the policy, should be seen as an affront, and treated as a treasonable offence, punishable under the law. Besides, we challenge the Buhari administration to arrest and prosecute armed herders, who engage in wanton killing of farmers, raping of women and abduction of children under whatever pretext. This is one way to prove that the fight against insecurity is borne out of a genuine desire.

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Editorial

That Sowore’s Call For Revolution

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An attempt to set the nation on fire was averted by the Department of State Services recently, when it arrested Mr. Omoyele Sowore,the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general elections and founder of an online leaks newspaper, Sahara Reporters from his home in Lagos for alleged acts of treason and terrorism.
Sowore had burnt his fingers by giving an hashtag #RevolutionNow to a planned protest by the Coalition for Revolution (CORE).
The CORE claimed to have planned a three-phase protest. The first stage tagged “end anti-people economic policies,” calls for redress in contemporary social issues, like immediate payment of N30,000 minimum wage, putting a stop to the devaluation of the Naira; stop estimated electricity billing; immediate release of Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky; payment of outstanding salaries and pensions, etc.
The second phase is tagged, “end special privileges for the ruling class,” and it calls for a ban on all government officials from using policemen as security guards and sending children to private schools or foreign universities, etc. The third phase is “returning political power and national wealth to the working people.”
One of the aims of this phase is: “to reduce the cost of governance by abolishing the Senate, thus, establishing a uni-cameral legislature with only the House of Representatives.”
Riding on the crest of the degree of violence such revolution evokes, the DSS justified Sowore’s incarceration by saying, “These threats include threats of subversion, threat of terrorism and, of course, ethnic agitations, separatist, economic sabotage and others. We must understand the meaning of revolution. Primarily, it means a revolt, it means insurrection, it means insurgency, it means forceful takeover of government and we are operating a democratic system in Nigeria.”
Within 48 hours, the DSS dragged Sowore to court and obtained an order to keep him for 45 days. The order is to give security operatives the opportunity for unfettered investigation into CORE’s alleged unconstitutional acts.
According to Wikipedia, in Political Science, a revolution (Latin: revolution, “a turnaround”) is a fundamental and relatively sudden change in political power and political organisation which occurs when the population revolts against the government, typically due to perceived oppression (political, social, economic) or political incompetence. Sowore’s call, we believe, is in tandem with this definition, therefore, asinine and irresponsible.
Though there have been preponderance of opinions on the call for revolution, The Tide is of the view that in essence, Sowore was calling for a forceful change of government and therefore condemns the call.
Granted, the Constitution gives any citizen right to a peaceful protest but a revolution is a different ball game. Revolution could be emotive. Its use in a civil protest could spur participants to engage in acts of violence or sabotage. It may be on this account that the DSS decided to incapacitate Sowore and cripple the attempts to actualise the protest in several cities in the South.
No doubt, the issues they raised are germane, the insecurity situation in the country is at an all-time high and the economy is in very bad shape at the moment. However, we believe that every civil disagreement can be resolved through honest, sincere and open discussions without unnecessary recourse to actions liable to further inflame tensions, endanger lives and property of Nigerians without achieving lasting results.
We cannot be oblivious of the far-reaching negative consequences of revolution. You can start a revolution but definitely the end cannot be predicted. It is on this premise that we reject the call for revolution in Nigeria which at this time of our democratic experience can hardly mean well for the wellbeing of the people.
While we condemn the use of the word revolution, we call on the Buhari administration to consider Sowore’s ‘Revolution’ as a wake-up call to the fact that the masses are trapped in the floodgates of difficulties – kidnapping, armed banditry, poverty, unemployment, and general economic downturn.
Suffice it to say that apart from those who live in ivory tower and access cheap funds from government treasury, millions of other Nigerians are languishing in socio-economic quagmire. Against this backdrop, we advocate that the Buhari led All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government must come to terms with realities and evolve practical and sensible measures that could tackle the myriad of problems of the nation. With a good and determined leadership, Nigeria will be on its way to utopia.
We also call on the DSS to be thorough and open-minded in this investigation to gather evidence to prove or disprove their hypothesis of terrorism and treason in the #RevolutionNow protest. Any call for revolution now is belated and should not be allowed in Nigeria.

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Editorial

Tackling Insecurity In Kenpoly

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Perturbed by the activities of criminals and hoodlums in their campus and its environs, students of Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic (Kenpoly), Bori, in Rivers State, are bemoaning heightened insecurity. Many students are roundly raped while robbery attacks are on the increase.
There is no doubt that the growing level of insecurity in Bori has spilt over to the polytechnic. Robbery incidents are comfortably executed and almost on a daily basis, students are heard crying helplessly in their hostels. Female students are the worse for it as they are molested and robbed, while their male counterparts are brutally beaten.
According to reports, the attackers mainly target students living off-campus. The victims have been left to their fate as repeated entreaties and calls to the police in Bori to come to their rescue had fallen on deaf ears.  However, the police had defended their non-response by claiming that they were not informed about the development.
Their defence notwithstanding, it is disappointing that there is scant security presence at the school. The only security outfit seen on the ground is the anti-cultism squad which entirely has very few men amounting to an acute shortage of manpower on their part.
The happenstance indicates that life is no longer comfortable and safe for the polytechnic community given the incessant or unabating criminal activities. Apart from the incidents of robbery and rape, cult attacks and maimings have become the order of the day. Sadly, the pathetic phenomena have been ascribed to some unscrupulous students of the school in collaboration with a few natives.
Unfortunately, the Khana Local Government Area Chairman, whose primary duty is to protect lives and property in the area has failed to demonstrate sufficient concern about the obvious threat to students of the polytechnic. According to sources at the school, several correspondences made to him on the matter had received no response.
We are worried by this impression being created by the chairman, and call for pragmatic approach by the chief security officer of the local government to combat crime and criminality in the institution, albeit, the area. We urge him to work with all relevant security agencies to bring the situation under control.
The entire scenario playing out at Kenpoly is appalling and shameful. Therefore, we call on the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mustapha Dandaura, to urgently do the needful. The police should be held accountable if the trend continues and more students are maimed or killed. Despite the denials by the force, the truth is that the Bori police division on its part has remained dormant in the equation of providing adequate security as they are of little or no assistance to the students’ community in their ordeal.
As the trend escalates, the school authorities have to beef up security around the school and the off-campus hostels. They can do this by taking measures such as drafting military and police officers to vulnerable points around the school to curb the menace. This is where the expertise and professionalism of operators of ‘Operation Sting’ come in handy.
Furthermore, the school authorities should provide its security unit with new security equipment such as scanners, analyzers, bomb detectors, and CCTV cameras to assist the security personnel in achieving efficient and effective operations. The authorities have to realise that not only students are at the receiving end of this menace, lecturers and non-lecturers alike had had a fair share of the heinous attacks by these criminals.
Also, we advise all students of the institution to be wary and security-conscious always and monitor the movements of their fellow students because the proliferation of these criminal and robbery incidents is perpetrated by some students within the institution. Similarly, the security situation at Kenpoly underscores the need for governing authorities of higher institutions in the State to build additional hostels to reduce the number of off-campus students.
The constant attacks on Kenule Polytechnic have left an impression of a general state of insecurity, not only in Khana LGA, but the entire State. That is why we think that the Rivers State Government should not let this matter lie low, but should, where necessary, employ similar drastic measures applied in the Rivers State University (RSU) cult clash saga to restore normalcy in the polytechnic.
To this end, The Tide welcomes the proposed meeting of the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike with heads of all state-owned tertiary institutions, including Vice Chancellors, Rectors as well as Provosts and Chairmen of Governing Councils to be held today. We believe that such a meeting will properly convey the resolve of the governor to end the various security challenges confronting these institutions while charting a path towards achieving educational excellence in the State.
It is also important to note that not all students of the polytechnic whose lives are threatened are indigenes of the State; many of them hail from different parts of the country. Therefore, if the dangerous trend does not cease, a wrong signal may be sent out to the effect that Rivers State is unsafe.

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Editorial

Rivers: Our State, Our Responsibility

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For those whose stock-in-trade is to debrand and de-market Rivers State for egocentric considerations and other selfish reasons, the recent campaign powered by the State Ministry of Information and Communications christened: “#Our StateOur Responsibility” may well serve as food for thought. It is, indeed, a lesson for every Rivers man and woman worth their onions.
As instructive as the campaign may be, the fact remains that despite the political and socio-cultural differences of our people, there can be no better place or State where we, particularly those of us living and doing business in the state, can proudly call our own than Rivers State, as envisioned by our founding fathers.
It is against this backdrop that The Tide is particularly appreciative of the bold initiative of the ministry for powering the campaign to, among others, correct the erroneous impression by the infinitesimal minority portraying the State in negative light.
While elucidating on the motivation for the campaign, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Paulinus Nsirim, affirmed that to achieve the desired results, all stakeholders should collaborate in order to sustain what Rivers State proudly symbolises since its creation in May, 1967, especially in the over four years of Governor Nyesom Wike’s stewardship.
It is, indeed, particularly heart-warming that the ministry acknowledges the pivotal role of the media as agenda setters and public opinion moulders whose practitioners could take the campaign to all strata of the society, and for this reason, kick-started the advocacy with the media.
Interestingly, too, the ministry recognises the importance of other stakeholders including traditional rulers, market women, petty traders, the political class, among other stakeholder groups in the advocacy which, according to the ministry’s arrow-head, would be taken in phases to make it all-encompassing and comprehensive.
No doubt, Rivers brand is one in a million which no matter how much the insignificant minority may strive to de-market, will continue to remain a factor in the historical, economic and socio-cultural relevance of the Nigerian State.
As Nigeria’s hydrocarbon hub, richly endowed with oil and gas resources, the State’s potentialities in agriculture and tourism cannot be wished away, no matter how much the detractors try. Moreover, the hospitable nature of the typical Rivers person is exemplary and second to none in the country. These facts are incontrovertible.
Perhaps, that is why most visitors feel much at home whenever they find themselves in Rivers soil. Truly, Rivers State is a microcosm of Nigeria, where virtually people from every tribe or ethnic group find comfort or solace.
Thus, the campaign must be holistic and should embrace all aspects of our life as a people with common destiny. So, we have to key into the vision of the Wike’s administration of making the state an investors’ haven and a tourism destination.
We, therefore, implore enemies of the State to desist from their negative narratives by looking beyond current political differences, as such destructive tendencies will be detrimental to the same people they are meant to protect. No doubt, such vices disparage the State and the consequences are grave and unimaginable.
It is our appeal therefore, that rather than paint the State black, we must collectively promote the potentials and opportunities that abound in the State and drive the milestones recorded by the Wike-led administration.
It is on record that the State has successfully hosted over 20 local, national and international events cutting across sports, media, law, tourism, art, politics, real estate, banking, science and technology, education, religion, among others, without any security breach or untoward incidents recorded. All these events attracted national and international personalities and attest to the fact that the State is safe and secure.
Rivers State is rated the second strongest economy in Nigeria after Lagos and no matter how much enemies of the State try to de-market it, the State will continue to grow from strength to strength, especially with a visionary leader like Nyesom Wike on the driver’s seat.
To deride the State which is naturally and humanly blessed is simply ridiculous and the meanest display of unpatriotism, contempt of the people and ingratitude to the State. Such detractors of Rivers State and her people have the moral responsibility and obligation to respect the feelings and aspirations of her people.
Our elders and well-meaning individuals have a major stake in the Rivers project and, therefore, must always strive to call such vicious critics to order in the interest and well-being of all.
This is our charge.

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