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Crime: Buhari, northern govs warn against ethnic profiling

President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, cautioned against ethnic profiling of criminal elements even as he assured Nigerians that his government will continue to hunt down criminals everywhere they are. The northern governors also threw their weight behind the President, stating that Nigerians must identify, isolate and punish crime, no matter who commits it rather than resort to labelling and generalization that shields the criminals.

The President and governors spoke at the meeting of the Northern State Governors’ Forum, Chairmen of Council of Emirs and Chiefs in Northern Nigeria, with representatives of the National Assembly and other critical stakeholders in Kaduna. Buhari maintained that criminals are criminals and should be dealt without resorting to ethnic profiling, while disclosing that he had already tasked the new Service Chiefs to devise new strategies that will end threats to lives of Nigerians by hoodlums and criminals.

The President was represented at the meeting by his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari. Governors present include Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi).

Traditional rulers in attendance include the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III; Shehu of Borno, Umar Ibn El-Kenemi; Emir of Kano, Abdullahi Ado Bayero; Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari; Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar and Emir of Zazzau, Ahaji Ahmed Nuhu Bamali, among others.

On the Federal Government’s delegation led by Gambari were the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, who represented the Senate President; Director General, Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu. Also at the meeting were representatives of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF).

Buhari, who noted that the meeting was coming at the critical period when issues of security challenges were impending development, said: “This kind of robust engagement provides a veritable platform for deep reflection and dialogue on pertinent issues affecting not only the Northern Region, but the nation as a whole.

These include the unity, peaceful coexistence, security and other parameters of development…. “At the same time, we are confronting the various dimensions of security challenges that continue to slow down the emancipation of our people from poverty and economic deprivation.

“The government shall continue to deal with insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and other criminals who constitute threat to innocent citizens across the country. Criminals are criminals and should be dealt with accordingly as such, without resorting to ethnic profiling.”

The President charged the governors to discuss and devise ways of building stronger collaboration with the security architecture and the people in defeating criminality across the region and the nation at large. He said: “It is pertinent to note that the increased realization of our security and democracy indices are inextricably linked.

Democracy and rule of law promote stability and in turn reinforces the power to assert freedom and economic progress of our people. “This thread of interconnection needs support of the Northern States Governors’ Forum and entire citizenry of the country as any amount of positive sacrifice would be beneficial in bringing about national development and security of our nation.”

In his remarks, Chairman, Northern States Governors’ Forum, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau stated that the recent incidences of kidnap of schoolboys in Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Niger State as well as travelling passengers further reminds Nigerians of the difficult situation the country faces and the need for all to redouble efforts in overcoming them.

He, however, kicked against ethnic profiling. Lalong said: “While we agree that open grazing is no longer sustainable for obvious reasons, the Forum has also keyed into the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP) as a veritable option that will go a long way in ending these clashes through organised ranching.

“We, therefore, continue to appeal to our colleagues in other parts of the country and indeed all Nigerians, particularly opinion leaders, to be cautious in their utterances and actions so as not to provide the oxygen for the exploitation of our fault lines to the detriment of our nation. “At all times, we must identify, isolate and punish crime no matter who commits it rather than resort to labelling and generalization that shields the criminals and generates tension for the innocent.” Also speaking, Governor el-Rufai disclosed that the governors of the 19 Northern states are working seriously to avert anarchy following the alarming rate of insecurity in the country.

el-Rufai said the meeting was coming at a moment “when our region and our country are confronting monumental perils.” “Fate has entrusted us with a duty, not only to provide a shelter from the storm, but also to help find a way to remove the triggers of the storm. In discharge of this obligation, many of us continue to engage in nationwide efforts to avert anarchy and advance the prospects of securing a breakthrough moment for our country.

“The northern states are especially affected by these tensions and challenges. In many of our states, criminal elements are wrecking the rural economy, driving our farmers from their fields, threatening lives and livelihoods and putting food security at risk. Communal places, setting up ethnicity and religion as sources of conflict. We continue to grapple with the challenge of protecting our youths from the vice of substance abuse, and empowering them with skills and jobs.

“Working with our traditional institutions, community and civic leaders, we need to accelerate efforts to avail our region every chance to successfully engage the challenges and possibilities of the 21st Century. We need enduring peace and security to ensure that our people can prosper and that our states can develop. Amidst the fears and despairs of the moment, we have a chance to offer hope and buoy up the spirit of our people. “Our people are looking up to us for solutions. We need peace and security in the North and Nigeria.

There is no time to engage in analysis-paralysis. There is no room for trading blame. There is no space for partisanship. Our people are in dire straits. We must discharge our duty as leaders to them by collaborating across all divides to solve the challenges that confront our region and Nigeria. Chairman of northern traditional rulers and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, in his message, charged the governors to do more in salvaging the security situation as Nigerians are in a hurry to get result.

The monarch said: “Our coming together has always provided us with an opportunity to interact on issues that affect our people and our region. You know there have been many problems and people outside there would not know what the governors were doing.

“It is easy to destroy, but very difficult to build and destruction has been going on for years. For decades, things have been going bad and they were not arrested. Now the governors are trying to build, it will take time, but the people must be patient. But people are asking: How long should we have to be patient? I know people are in a hurry, so the governors too must be in a hurry to do their best.” In his submission, NEF’s spokesman, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, advised the governors to stop their bickering in public and work for the restoration of security in the region.

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