John Ameh, Olalekan Adetayo, Friday Olokor, Adelani Adepegba, Success Nwogu and Chidiebube Okeoma
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said the claims that being a Fulani, he must be encouraging the killings being perpetrated by armed herdsmen in parts of the country seemed to him that there was no limit to the evil in the minds of men.
He wondered how anyone in their right minds would suggest that he, who emerged as President with substantial votes from the affected areas, would do any harm to the same people who voted for him.
Buhari said this while receiving members of the Christian Association of Nigeria from the 19 northern states and Abuja at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President said it was unfair for anybody to accuse his government of not doing anything to stop the killings.
Buhari said, “When some (people), 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?
“Secondly, the problems in all these areas, as you all know, are historical. There is no administration that has not had to contend with killings in these same areas over the years.
“Indeed, in 2001, you may recall that after thousands were killed in Plateau State, a state of emergency was declared and a governor was replaced by an administrator. To suggest that our administration is doing nothing is terribly unfair.
“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.”
The President said the government had deployed extra special forces from the Defence Headquarters.
Besides, he said no fewer than three special military intervention forces were currently in the troubled zones.
These forces, he said, were supported with investigative and intelligence gathering capabilities from the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services and other agencies.
Buhari said the military and the police had arrested hundreds of suspects across the various flashpoints in the region and several prosecutions were ongoing.
He added, “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.
“Let me make it clear that even a single life lost in any part of the country is one too many. I came to office vowing to ensure the protection of lives and property, and I remain committed to this despite the challenges we have experienced.
“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.
“The military and the police have arrested hundreds of suspects across the various flashpoints 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 to fast-track these cases.
The President said the government could achieve lasting peace only with the sincere and active cooperation of communities, religious leaders, youths and other stakeholders.
These, he added, included the media in whose hand, he said, “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,” Buhari told his guests.
Arrest, prosecute killers, Northern Christians tell Buhari
Earlier, the Chairman of CAN Northern States, Rev. Yakubu Pam, had on behalf of the delegation urged the President to revisit the country’s security architecture in order to give it a new lease of life and responsiveness to earn the required trust, confidence, and support of the general populace.
Pam also called on the government to ensure that all communities ravaged by the killer herdsmen were rebuilt and adequate security is put in place to enable displaced persons to return to their homes and means of livelihood.
He urged the government to roll out a robust advocacy programme to enlighten the nomadic herders on modern cattle rearing against open grazing and roaming across the states and national boundaries.
He also urged the government to encourage herders to acquire land for cattle ranching across the country as a means of private business investment.
Pam also called for the release of Leah Sharibu and others in Boko Haram’s captivity and stoppage of the marriage of Christian girls without their parents’ consent in the North.
The clergyman said, “We, therefore, wish to state 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.
“The appeal, therefore, is for your quick intervention to ensure that the numerous girls held under such circumstances are released to their parents.
“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-called 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 .”
Killings: CAN declare July 9 to 11 praying, fasting days
On its part, the national headquarters of CAN in a statement declared July 9 to 11, 2018 as national days of prayers and fasting against the killings in the country.
It also directed the faithful to embark on a peaceful protest on July 11 to the National Assembly, state Government Houses as well as state Houses of Assembly to register their displeasure with the officials and lawmakers.
The Christian body explained that its decision was hinged on the “willful and persistent killings of fellow citizens in general and Christians in particular nationwide mostly in Plateau and Benue states where mass burial has become the norm without any positive response from the country’s security agencies.”
“CAN is worried, disturbed and disappointed that despite all the clarion calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to re-organise his security team by replacing all the security chiefs, he has consistently turned a deaf ear to such calls.
“From all indications, the President seems to be satisfied with their poor performance and the attendant problems that had led to avoidable loss of lives and property in the country,” Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant, (Media & Communications) to CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, said in the statement on Thursday.
The group said, “We call on all Christians in the country and in the Diaspora to participate in the three-day praying and fasting programme to end all the senseless, unwarranted and selected killings in the country. If the government has failed us, we are very sure that our God will never fail.
“All National Executive Committee members of CAN, the Church and denominational leaders have been invited to participate in a peaceful protest march to both the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly to impress on the government the need to effectively stop the unprecedented killings.”
CAN be added that it had directed its leadership at the state and local government levels to organise the same protest march to the Government House and the Local Government headquarters respectively.
It implored Christians to be law-abiding and peaceful during the protest march.
The association also knocked the Presidency for reportedly issuing the death threat against those who failed to give up their land for ranching, describing it as satanic.
Security agencies compromised – Plateau PDP elders
In Jos, the Elders Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party in Plateau State stated that the security agencies had been compromised.
The PDP elders said that for 48 hours gunmen took over some local government areas in the state and killed over 200 persons, there were no rescue efforts.
The PDP elders in a communiqué issued after their meeting in Jos and signed by their chairman and former governor of Plateau State, Fidelis Tapgun, and Secretary, Justina Vrengle, said Buhari should “use his moral and constitutional powers to protect the people of the state.”
They stated, “We insist that the perpetrators and sponsors of these heinous crimes against humanity be arrested and brought to justice.”
According to them, it is only when the sponsors are brought to justice that the people will rebuild confidence in their leaders.
Also, the Plateau State Caucus at the National Assembly has asked the Nigeria Police and the DSS to investigate the claim of a lawmaker from the state, Mr Idris Wase, that highly-placed politicians are behind the killings there.
Wase, a member of the House of Representatives, had told lawmakers on Tuesday that he had information as far back as 2015 that “300” persons were trained in Israel to cause mayhem in Plateau State and that he knew the sponsors.
He had also claimed that truckloads of arms were shipped into the state, adding that he had information on all those behind the violence.
Wase further stated that whenever he was needed to volunteer information, he would do so, not minding that it would be to his own risk.
Reacting to Wase’s disclosures on Thursday, his colleagues in the caucus, called on security agencies to invite him immediately.
Mr Johnbull Shekarau, who read the text of a news conference addressed by the caucus, said the security agencies must begin to find out from Wase why he kept such information from them for over three years, only to speak after many lives had been lost.
Buhari has ordered me to prosecute perpetrators of Plateau massacre – IGP
In Owerri, the Imo State capital, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, said the President had ordered him to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the killings in Plateau State.
The IGP, who spoke while declaring open the South-East security summit organised by the Nigerian Police, said “The President and the Minister of Interior have visited Plateau State and the President was categorical that the perpetrators of this dastardly act will be brought to book.
“In line with the directive of Mr President, the police have launched a high-powered investigation into the incident and I can with confidence inform you that no stone will be left unturned in getting to the root of the killings.”
Only patriotic actions will end killings – Emeka Anyaoku
A former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Emeka Anyaoku, said that the security challenges in the country could be defeated if patriotic actions were taken.
Represented by the Chairman of Imo State Council of traditional rulers, Eze Samuel Ohiri, Anyaoku advocated strong synergy among the security agencies.
Governor Rochas Okorocha urged leaders of the country to stop the blame game and tackle the security challenges head-on.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who was represented by Senator Andy Uba, expressed concerns over the proliferation of small arms, saying over 60 per cent of arms manufactured in the country emanated from the South-East.
We are committed to ending killings – COAS
Meanwhile, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Saddique Abubakar, on Thursday said the leadership of the Nigerian Air Force and other service chiefs were committed to putting an end to the recurring killings and other criminal activities in the country.
He stated that the service chiefs and their agencies would continue to collaborate to enhance the security of lives and property across the country.
Abubakar, who was represented by the Chief of Administration of Nigerian Air Force, AVM J. Yahaya, spoke in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital during the inauguration of a 30×1 staff quarters built by NAF for the men and officers of the 303 Medium Airlift, Nigerian Air Force, Ilorin. (Punch)