President Muhammadu Buhari vowed yesterday that he will bring to end killings in Benue, Taraba, Zamafara and Pleateau States.
He gave the assurance when he received members of the Northern chapter of the Christian Association Of Nigeria led by its chairman, Rev Yakubu Pam at the presidential villa.
Describing killings across the country as wicked and unacceptable, he said no religion or culture accepts the killing of people.
He said, “I thank you very much for taking the time to pay this visit today and for the issues you have raised. The recent killings in Benue, Zamfara and lately Plateau are wicked, condemnable and completely unacceptable acts.
“We, Nigerians, are religious people and no religion or culture accepts the killing of people for any reason whatsoever. This is why we must all rise as one to condemn these vile and wicked acts to ensure that all the culprits are brought to justice.
“We owe it to the memory of those who lost their lives in the violence in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Zamfara and elsewhere since 1999 to bring the conflicts to a decisive end. I assure you that we will do this”.
President Buhari stressed that even a single life lost in any part of the country is one too many, adding that he came to office vowing to ensure the protection of lives and property.
Restating his commitment to the vow he made despite the challenges the country has experienced, he said, “I, therefore, seek your support as clerics and religious leaders to join hands with this administration and give us your full support.
“As you all know, deploying law enforcement agencies is fully our responsibility as a government while creating the platform and mechanisms for dialogue is a collective effort”.
He disclosed that the military and the police have arrested hundreds of suspects across the various flash points in the region and several prosecutions are going on.
“In a number of cases, we have seen convictions. Nigerians are right when they say they want to see more convictions and I would like to appeal to the judiciary to help us fast-track these cases,” he stated.
He also faulted those accusing him of shielding killer herdsmen as evil minded, saying the allegations are political.
Buhari noted: “When some, for clearly political purposes, attempt to suggest that this government is doing nothing about the killings, and that I, being Fulani, must be encouraging these satanic acts, it seems to me that there is no limit to the evil in the minds of men.
“Otherwise, how can anyone in their right minds suggest that I, as an elected President even with substantial votes in the affected areas, will for any reason do harm by an act of omission to those same people?”
President Buhari explained that the problems in all these areas are historical, noting that there is no administration that has not had to contend with killings in these same areas over the years.
Buhari recalled that in 2001 after thousands were killed in Plateau State, a State of Emergency was declared and an Administrator replaced the then governor.
According to him, to suggest that his Administration is doing nothing is terribly unfair.
He stated: “We must not forget that the same Plateau State which has been crisis-ridden for years has in the past three years been celebrated for its peacefulness. The Governor’s hard work for peace and the presence of the military’s Operation Safe Haven must have had some impact.
“In recent weeks, we have beefed up its strength with the deployment of extra Special Forces from the Defence headquarters. Besides, we currently have no fewer than three special military intervention forces in the troubled zones.
“Operation Safe Haven to secure Plateau State, Operation Whirl Stroke 1 (OPWS) to secure Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa and OPWS 2 to secure Zamfara and Kaduna States. These forces are supported with investigative and intelligence gathering capabilities from the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services and other agencies”.
He said government could achieve lasting peace only with the sincere and active cooperation of communities, religious leaders, youths and other stakeholders.
Buhari continued: “These include the Media in whose hands lies the power to frame, shape the perspectives and narratives which influence the thinking of millions of people within and outside Nigeria.
“Finally, let us collectively shame those who are stoking the fires of ethnic and religious conflicts for their short-term political gains. This country belongs equally to Christians and Muslims and even those who claim ignorance of God”.
In their presentation, chairman of the Northern CAN told the president that the security architecture of the country should be revisited to give it a new lease of life and responsiveness to earn the required trust, confidence, and support of the general populace.
He said all communities ravaged by the herdsmen’s violence in the North should be rebuilt and adequate security be put in place to enable displaced persons to return to their homes and means of livelihood
According to him, the federal government should roll out a robust advocacy programme to enlighten the nomadic herders on modern cattle rearing against open grazing and roaming across states and national boundaries.
He further stated that the federal government should encourage herders to acquire land for cattle ranching across the country as a means of private business investment
He added: “While the Federal Government under the current administration is celebrating an agricultural revolution, most farmers, especially in the north, can no longer go to their farms due to the sustained attacks by armed herdsmen.
“We, therefore, urge the government to reconcile its priority by providing the necessary safety for the farmers to go on with their farming activities”.
Rev Pam observed that the continuous abduction of underage Christian girls who are forcefully converted to Islamic religion and given out for marriage without the consent of their parents breeds religious disharmony.
He stated that the situation does not only violate the fundamental human rights of the girls but is also a call to anarchy if such actions were to get an even score by the Christian population.
Pam appealed for the president’s quick intervention to ensure that the numerous girls held under such circumstances are released to their parents.
He said, “In the spirit of the above observation, we wish to demand that intensive and speedy actions should be taken for the release of girls in captivity, especially Leah Sharibu.
“That all perpetrators including the so-call foreigners as alleged of these heinous crimes against humanity in parts of northern states should be arrested and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others.
“The Federal Government should as a matter of urgency make adequate provisions for farmers who have been adversely affected by this undesirable herdsmen attacks. “We are appealing to Mr President to call on his colleagues in politics irrespective of a political parties to work together and make 2019 election to be free and fair and a model for all other African countries”.
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