The Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF), yesterday, expressed concern over reports that herdsmen belonging to a particular ethnic group were being targeted and evicted in some parts of the South-East and South-West geopolitical zones, leading to loss of lives and properties.
Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, who addressed newsmen on the issue in Jos, acknowledged the recent intervention of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) led by its Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi, who met with stakeholders in Akure, Ondo State to douse the tension and forge amicable resolution of the issues. Lalong said that while the intervention was celebrated as a success to be sustained through further engagement between herdsmen and representatives of the affected communities, emerging reports of attacks on herders and the gradual introduction of ethnic sentiments in the conflict was disturbing and should immediately be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand. “The Northern Governors concede to the rights of Nigerians to reside wherever they so desire without any molestation or discrimination.
It also emphasizes that criminal elements should not be used to tar any particular ethnic group for any crime as that will portend danger to peaceful coexistence and national unity. “Rather, such criminal elements should be exposed, isolated and made to face the law of the land without prejudice to their ethnic backgrounds as the motives or criminal actions cannot be said to be the position of their ethnic group.
“In the face of the recent worrisome developments therefore, the Northern Governors Forum calls for calm and cautions Nigerians particularly those in the affected areas who might have been aggrieved or targeted to exercise restraint,” he said.
Lalong observed that Nigeria was going through a lot of tension and escalating such tensions would definitely not resolve any grievances but rather aggravate the situation to levels that could threaten national security. He urged leaders across political, ethnic, religious and community lines to avoid utterances and actions that could further fan the embers of distrust, hate, violence and retaliation, as these could easily escalate the situation and cause chaos.
The governor charged all relevant government officials, traditional rulers and opinion moulders to rise up and speak with one voice by not only condemning crime no matter who is involved, but also sending the right signals to those who want to take the laws into their hands and trample on the constitutional rights of others to live and pursue their legitimate business anywhere in the country.
“Security agencies must equally be firm and rise up to the occasion by protecting all law abiding citizens against threat to their lives and properties irrespective of their ethnic or other affiliations.
They should also send clear and unambiguous message to those threatening the peace that they will act decisively to stop them from plunging the nation to anarchy,” he said. The governors assured Nigerians of all ethnic, religious and political persuasions of their constitutional rights to pursue their legitimate businesses wherever they choose to live within the Northern region and appealed to the people to resist any attempt to lure them into any act that can threaten the peace and tranquillity of the region and the nation at large.
In the same vein, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has expressed concern that the reported quit notices and forceful eviction of Fulani herdsmen could threaten peaceful coexistence of the country.
The governor stressed that Nigerians had rights to reside anywhere they chose in the country. He, therefore, asked President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governors to take a firm action to stop the drift towards anarchy in the country. “We must avoid anarchy and vigorously promote the rule of law and the right of all citizens to life, liberty and livelihoods wherever they choose to reside.
Elected and appointed public leaders across the country must act on their constitutional obligations to protect all citizens, uphold order, and contribute to a climate for peaceful resolution of all issues. “In Kaduna State, we are learning from decades of unfortunate and needless experiences.
We have faced the tragic manifestations of the indigene-settler divide. This has been compounded by criminal activities that often have fatal consequences. But the victims of criminal actions like banditry and kidnapping in our state cut across all ethnic and religious groups.
“We have resisted the attempt to tar all members of any ethnic group for the criminal actions of some of their members. At all times, our government has upheld the right of every citizen to live and pursue legitimate livelihoods wherever they choose.
This is why we ordered the arrest of persons who issued an unlawful eviction notice to our citizens of a certain ethnicity in 2017,” he said. El-rufai said that the fears of people across the country for their safety and security imposes a responsibility on all leaders to ensure that these anxieties are assuaged and urgent steps taken to relieve human misery and stop the criminal actions directed at citizens and their property.
“This should be the top priority. It is time for governments and leaders at all levels to step in, exercise firm action, engage people and ensure that the responsibility these dire times demand are not derailed by those who only see opportunity for their own myopic agendas. We cannot allow, by inaction or otherwise, the reign of anarchy where fear creates a tragic momentum of violence, blurring the lines between victims and perpetrators and complicating a difficult moment.
We urge our representatives in the National Assembly to expedite action on the constitutional amendments that would usher in state and community policing as this is the ultimate panacea for effective law enforcement nationwide.
“Governments and security agencies must rein in all non-state actors, tackle hateful rhetoric and protect all communities. Those that engage in criminal acts must be arrested and prosecuted without regard to their ethnic or religious persuasion.
Civic leaders, across ethnic and religious lines, in all our communities should also help calm the heated passions of the moment, lest the few destroy the many, turning victims of crime against each other, to the delight of those who do not mean well. We cannot quench one fire by setting more places ablaze,” he said.