The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III yesterday declared that Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and other Fulani groups are not terrorist organisations.
Abubakar, who is a grand patron of the Miyetti Allah, added that just like other tribal associations in the country, Miyetti Allah protects the interests of the Fulanis.
The Sultan further explained that despite insinuations from different quarters, there was no time the group asked Fulani herdsmen to kill other Nigerians, even as he put the blame for the wanton killings on the inaction by security agencies.
“Government at all levels and security agencies should be blamed for the senseless killings,” the Sultan said during his remark at the General Assembly of Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP) held in Abuja.
The forum, an initiative of KAICIID Dialogue Centre, is aimed at bringing Christians and Muslims together to foster unity and peace.
While reacting to the recent killings in the country, the Sultan said the leadership of Miyetti Allah did not ask herdsmen to kill.
“There is no war going on between Christian and Muslims,” he said. “There is no war between Christianity and Islam. What is happening is a disagreement which is common to every family.
“As an elder statesman, as a religious and traditional leader, I will say things the way they are. Only the truth can set Nigeria free. This is a period of great challenges but it should make Nigeria stronger. Nigerians should not cook up stories that are not true. The comments that followed the Benue killings were not good. Innocent people’s lives are being taken and people think it’s normal.
“In Islam, if anyone takes a life unjustly, it is like taking the lives of all humanity. You can’t kill yourself and others thinking you will get 70 virgins. No one can fight for God.”
The Sultan stated that it was not a time to trade blames, but that people should be enlightened to stop the killings.
“Both Christians and Muslims are one family under God and no one can protect his or her religion by killing. Stop fighting for God. People who kill others and kill themselves thinking they will get 70 virgins in heaven are deceiving themselves,” he noted, describing the killings as senseless.
“Even yesterday (Wednesday) I heard that six people were killed in Benue. What are the security agencies doing? These killings must stop. We must speak the truth. You can’t form your opinion on something you don’t know,” he said.
While responding to calls from various quarters for the Miyetti Allah group to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation, the Sultan said: “Miyetti Allah does not have control of Fulani herdsmen. I am a patron of Miyetti Allah. It was formed 32 years ago. It was for the cattle breeders to help themselves. Those who are killing are criminals. Let the security agencies do their job. Just like other groups in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah is just an association.
“Miyetti Allah has never sat down and planned on how to kill people. They have never sat down and planned Jihad. Jihad is an Arabic word which is to strive. We strive on living our daily lives.”
Speaking further, the Sultan explained that the actions of the group have no religious connotation and warned religious leaders to be cautious of what they tell their adherents in order not to mislead them and cause more confusion.
“Some Fulani herdsmen don’t even care about religion and not every Fulani is bad. A majority of Nigerians are good. It’s not a religious problem. It’s economic problem between herdsmen and farmers. When they fight, so many lives are lost.
“I was watching a highly revered cleric holding a paper and telling his congregation how Fulanis are planning to take over Nigeria. How can that happen? It’s impossible, just like the issue of Islamising Nigeria. As religious leaders, we have to be mindful about what we tell our followers. So, all these allegations are impossible and baseless,” he said.
Sultan Abubakar, who is the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, noted that Nigerians cannot live together if there is no love.
“It is important not to label everyone a criminal because his brother is a criminal. Miyetti Allah cannot join terrorism. We will never support terrorism. We are not a terrorist organisation. Believe us,” he added.
According to him, the governments of Nasarawa and Benue states know the efforts made on peace building which started eight years ago, but he lamented that Nasarawa and Benue states failed to implement recommendations towards solving the problem.
The Islamic leader lamented that innocent people are bearing the brunt of the clashes, noting that “children of the downtrodden are the ones being killed while the children of the rich are living abroad.”
According to him, the security agencies need to provide answers to salient questions.
“The questions Nigerians should be asking are: “Where do the Fulanis get the weapons from? How can they attack a village and disappear?
“We must challenge the security agencies, the LGA, states and the federal governments if we are to do the right thing. And once we are doing the right thing, let’s leave the rest to God,” he said.
The Sultan declared that “we will never condone or protect anybody that takes arm to kill people,” adding CAN and JNI will resume their regular meetings on February 20.
On his part, the national president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Ayokunle Samson, said due to the security challenges, both Christians and Muslims must come together and speak with one voice.
The CAN president, who was represented at the occasion by Bishop Steven Dani Mamza, said CAN is an advocate of peace with every religion.
“What leaders say means a lot to the followers. For Nigeria to achieve peace, Nigerians must be sincere. Many religious leaders say things which mean different things.
“If we must move forward, Nigeria must be put at heart first by Nigerians before anything else. If someone is killed in Sokoto, Kano, Benue, Enugu, all religious leaders must rise and condemn it,” he said.
The Catholic Bishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, noted that there is tension in the country and if the government did not act on time, it might consume everyone.
“But what is happening is not beyond Nigerians to handle. We can handle all the crisis if we are sincere. It’s useless praying about peace when you are not working towards peace,” Onayekan said, adding that since it was the truth that killed Jesus, Nigerians should stand on the side of truth even at the expense of their lives.
“The more you talk, the more there is war. If our talking is not centred on truth, we can’t achieve peace. Jesus say, by their fruit we shall know them. History is not good on our side. We have to tear some pages in our books. Let’s pray that our religions pour cold water on the fire of hatred. We must take the risk of trusting one another because the atmosphere is full by hate speeches in the social media. We are in the same boat. If we continue fighting under that boat, our future will sink,” Onayekan warned.
The head of the KAICIID delegation to Nigeria, Mr Abderrahmen El Yessa, said the group would continue to support social cohesion in Nigeria.
Govs Vow To Prosecute Perpetrators Of Benue Killings
The governors of the 36 states of the federation yesterday set up a committee to end the incessant farmers /herders’ clashes in the country, vowing to punish the killers of Benue people.
This was disclosed by the Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, after the National Economic Council ( NEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja.
The committee, which is to be headed by Osinbajo, and has the governors of Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Edo, Plateau, Ebonyi and Oyo states as members, has the mandate to bring all perpetrators of violence in the country to justice.
He said, “On the farmers and herdsmen crisis, council constituted a working group to collaborate with the federal government in addressing the issues of impunity regarding killings and violence.
“The committee, consisting of nine governors under the chairmanship of the vice president, will work in accordance with commensurate commitment to ensure that all perpetrators of violence are brought to book. The committee has started its meeting right after this NEC meeting.”
LEADESHIP Friday recalls that suspected herdsmen have killed over 100 persons in Benue following the introduction of the anti-grazing bill to stem the tide of farmers/ herders’ clashes in the state.
Also in Taraba, over 70 persons were reportedly killed in another round of violence between farmers and herdsmen.
President Muhammadu Buhari had vowed that killer herdsmen will not escape justice and had ordered the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to relocate to Benue to forestall further killings in the state and arrest the killers.
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