ABUJA —LEADERS of thought, elder statesmen from four of the six geo-political zones of the country, under the aegis of Southern and Middle Leaders Forum, SMBLF, have written President Bola Tinubu, asking him to nip in the bud the incessant killings and wanton destruction of lives and property in the Middle Belt.
The leaders also described the killings as a threat to the corporate existence of the country, saying the buck stops at the President’s table to resolve the issue.
Their position came on a day the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, asked the President to deploy radical security and economic policies that would address the rising spate of insecurity across the federation.
The letter, made available to journalists yesterday in Abuja, was signed by the leader of SMBLF and South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader, Afenifere; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide; Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President, Middle Belt Forum; and Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, National Chairman, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF.
The letter read: “The unrelenting massacre bordering on ethnic cleansing and armed occupation of the territories of the indigenous peoples of the Middle-Belt and most parts of Northern Nigeria by identified ethnic militias have shown without any doubt that the Nigerian state, its government, and security forces have continued to fail in the fundamental duty of the security and welfare of citizens as the primary purpose of government as stated in Section 14(b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Former President Muhammadu Buhari deliberately handicapped himself by a deceitful mindset that people of the North-West were of the same tribes and religion and wondered why they were fighting among themselves.
Conflict in N’West caused by desire for territorial spaces
The truth, however, is that the north-west geopolitical zone is most diverse in ethnic content and the war therein is orchestrated by the desire for new territorial spaces for the Fulani both within and outside Nigeria against the other ethnic nationalities especially the Hausa majority which has for ages been falsely touted as being indistinguishable from the Fulani.
“Mr. President, unfortunately, and as it was with the Buhari administration, rather than accept the reality of the danger posed to the corporate existence of the federation by an extra-territorial agenda of the Fulani ethnic nationality, backed by organized and well-armed militias, which was, since 2018, declared by Amnesty International as the ‘4th most deadly terrorist organization in the world’, your administration has also, now, in bad faith, dressed this evil in the false garb of ‘herders/farmers’ clash’, and the blood-thirsty ethnic militias as mere bandits.
’It is a conflict where one side, fully armed, continues to attack and kill the innocent, who are being deliberately defanged by agents of the government.
“SMBLF holds as indisputably self-evident that all ethnic nationalities were and have settled in their portions of Nigeria before the amalgamation and establishment of Nigeria in 1914, and thus, the current rabid territorial ambition and quest for the alteration of the demographic structures of the federation will lead to chaos and internecine wars, the end of which may be the dismemberment of the fragile Nigerian federation.
“Mr. President, your predecessor had all the facts and evidence of an ideological Fulanisation agenda but preferred to pander and prevaricate than bring justice to the victims of oppression and genocide.
“In light of the foregoing, the SMBLF, moved by the patriotic desire for the corporate continuity of Nigeria and, the peaceful and mutually respectful coexistence of its diverse nationalities, strongly urges that you, Mr. President, consider the following:
“Your government holds an honest and truthful security inquiry to determine communities wherein the original inhabitants have been displaced in the last 2 decades and enforce the immediate return and resettlement of the people in their ancestral homes.
“Further to the above, the government should, in no distant future, close all IDP camps to end the shameful and sinful policy of building such refugee camps for the indigenous peoples, while their ancestral homes are allowed to be occupied by the armed invaders.
Security agents should be specially trained to fight terror
“That the security agencies, including the police, the Civil Defence Corps, and others be specially trained and equipped to rise to the challenges as Nigeria is fast becoming a banana or pariah state of its kid-gloves treatment of terrorism.
“That the Nigerian state which fought a tribal civil war to secure its corporate existence should not allow another internecine war of diverse tribes brought about by its permissive handling of provocative activities of local Fulani militias aided by collaborators from the West African sub-region and the Sahel.
“The desire of the Fulani to be treated as an exclusive ‘race’ cannot be allowed to continue in a free and egalitarian nation. They should seek land for their trade in the same way other Nigerians buy and manage land and stop this sense of entitlement.
“That you, Mr President, should rise to the occasion and dare the powers that be; decisively deal with the perpetrators of the senseless killings, end the massacre, and guarantee the safety of lives and property of citizens in all parts of our country, especially the Middle Belt, and restore the dignity of citizens and national pride, for which you will ever be remembered!
“The joy expressed by you in your New Year message in welcoming your ‘compatriots to this brand new year 2024’ cannot be understood or shared by several millions of our countrymen and women, particularly the people of Mangu, Bokkos, Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State, where over 200 innocent villagers were killed by terrorists, with more than 300 persons injured, several properties destroyed and thousands of people displaced, between Christmas Eve, Friday 24 and Monday, December 26, 2023.
“The SMBLF commiserates with the affected families, and people of Plateau State, and commends the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Pope, and the international community, generally, for their unequivocal condemnation of the killings on the Plateau, while urging that the world be conscious of the grave implications of these happenings on the corporate existence of the Nigerian federation.
“The cycle of attacks, government inaction, and provable official complicity engendered a situation where no less a personality than General T. Y. Danjuma, retd, former Chief of Army Staff and former Defence Minister, openly advised victims of terrorism to arm themselves, since the government appears unwilling to stem the atrocities being committed against the indigenous peoples.
“Commodore Kunle Olawunmi, a former member of an elite group of intelligence officers in our military on national television, posited that a list of sponsors of terror was in the hands of the government, with names of those behind these dastardly acts in the country.
‘’In addition to the list, the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, admitted to having received a list of terror sponsors from the government of the United Arab Emirates, UAE. Of course, nothing was done!
“The audacious and reckless assertions by some prominent personalities of Fulani extraction, such as Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, immediate past governor of Kaduna State, and Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, who ought to be more ‘civilized’, lent credence to the Fulanisation agenda.
‘’Nasir El-Rufai reportedly threatened that ‘whoever kills a Fulani herdsman, including the army, takes a death loan, repayable in 100 years’ on an alleged plan by the military to dislodge a Fulani-occupied settlement on other people’s ancestral home in the outskirts of Jos, Plateau State.
‘’He warned that ‘if the Nigerian Army goes and removes the Fulani settlement, any person wearing Nigerian Army uniform in 14 Western African countries is at risk.’
“Governor Bala Mohammed, on his part, justified the possession of AK-47 weapons by Fulani herders as self-defense in practising the tradition of trans-human, pastoralism’ throughout West Africa, with no regard for national boundaries, let alone mention ancestral lands of other groups, which has no affinity to the Fulani.
“The Buhari administration tried all the tricks in its wits to create Fulani settlements in other people’s territories throughout Nigeria by different strategies of ‘land grabbing’ in the guise of RUGA, grazing routes, cattle colonies or contrived integrated agriculture schemes, where new estates would be built for pastoralists with better amenities than the host communities whose lands would be acquired by the federal government, contrary to the provisions of the constitution, which make land use regulations an exclusive state affair.
‘’The then Presidential spokesman betrayed the mind of the government when he advised the people that ‘it was better they released lands than lose their lives’.
“The horror of the Christmas Eve massacre in Plateau State is not different from the situation in Benue where several communities, particularly in Kwande, Gwer-West, Guma, Makurdi, and Logo Local Government Areas, are perennially attacked by the pampered armed Fulani ethnic militias who have taken over other people’s lands and homes.
“In Kaduna State, and Southern Kaduna particularly, Chikun, Kajuru, Kachia, Zangon Kataf, Kauru, Lere, Birnin Gwari, and Giwa Local Governments are largely under the control of terrorists. The operations of these armies of occupation claimed to be foreigners were allegedly boosted by El-Rufai’s admission of payment of huge amounts of money to Fulani militants across West Africa, only to end up lamenting that these associates of his invariably made Kaduna State ungovernable.
“The situation in Niger State is not different, if not worse, as according to the immediate past governor of the state, Abubakar Sani-Bello, terrorists (he called them bandits) have taken over 12 local government areas in Niger State as confirmed during his visit in 2022 to the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, at the Central Primary School, Gwada.
‘’The worst hit local governments in the state include Rafi, Munyan, Shiroro, Magama, Mashegu, Mariaga, and Wushishi, some of which the terrorists not only have their flags hoisted but also collect taxes and levies, in a state bordering the FCT.
“In the Zuru district of Kebbi State, terrorists are so much in control that they audaciously opened fire and killed military men deployed to the area, following an earlier killing of scores of vigilantes, otherwise known as Yan-Sa-Kai by the terrorists.
“In Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina, peasant farmers of Hausa as well as other non-Fulani nationalities can no longer access their farms as a result of Fulani terrorism. The case of Zamfara is worst, having been virtually rendered ungovernable except for the state capital, Gusau.”
Also yesterday, governors of the six North Central states, lamented the attacks and recent killings in Plateau State by gunmen, and asked the federal government to put a final stop to it.
Chairman of the North Central Governors Forum and governor of Nassarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, who spoke when he led his colleagues on a condolence visit to the governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang, at Government House in Jos, described the killings as unacceptable.
Sule noted that the attacks had persisted for too long, insisting that the federal government must get to the roots of the problem and find a lasting solution.
The Nasarawa governor, who was by his colleagues in Niger and Benue states, said: “We are here to share with you whatever situation you find yourself. I was here on a similar sad note, together with our delegation from Nasarawa State when it happened during the period of your predecessor.
“During the period, we asked specifically for the religious leaders to be the ones in majority, because we wanted to talk directly with our religious leaders, to talk to them about the need to continue to preach peace to our people.
“When we were coming, we talked about peace that we have always enjoyed on the Plateau, the love that has always been there, the period that some of us would walk from Dilimi, Rex, Kwararafa, the New Era and back to Kasua Dareng. Those loving periods that all the people in Plateau used to enjoy. What has happened?
“Your Excellency, we came all the way to ask you to take the courage to find out the root cause of this matter because we can’t continue to live like this.”
Sule, who called on the Federal Government to get to the root of the lingering killings with a view to finding a lasting solution, said further: “We have seen a similar situation in Rwanda because I won’t call what is happening in Plateau farmers-herders crisis, it is not.
“We have seen what happened in Rwanda and luckily, all the four of us governors were there and we listened to the President of Rwanda when he told us the courage he took to invite everybody involved and look at the causes.
“We cannot allow a few people, for selfish reasons, come in and destroy all of us. This is not about Fulani, it is about criminals. And we are asking the federal government to assist us and deal with the problem.”
Responding, Governor Mutfwang thanked the governors for their concern over the situation in Plateau, noting that the people of the region were meant for unity and progress and not division.
He said none of the six states in the North Central had been spared by bandits, stressing that the region must unite and pull their resources together if banditry must be defeated in the component states.
He said the road between Wamba and Panyam had been a safe haven for terrorists because of its dilapidated condition and called on the federal government to intervene on the road as well as that leading from Abuja to Jos.
Deploy radical security, economic policies, NBA tells Tinubu
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has asked President Bola Tinubu to deploy radical security and economic policies that will address the rising spate of insecurity across the federation.
The legal body, in a new year message it issued through its President, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, condemned that attacks carried out on villages in Plateau State by bandits.
While noting that the attacks left about 200 citizens dead, the NBA, which is the umbrella body of legal practitioners in the country, decried an earlier drone strike by the military on Tudun Biri in Kaduna State that led to the death of over 100 Nigerians.
Describing the incidents as inexcusable and unacceptable, the NBA President, said: “From information made available by the military and other security sources, the Tudun Biri incident is suggestive of the gap in our security architecture – lack of inter-agency synergy and coordination, while the attack in Plateau is clearly indicative of poor intelligence gathering or, a deliberate failure to act despite the intelligence on the impending attacks on the villages, or notice of the attack on the villages by the bandits, as reported by community leaders.”
He urged the President Tinubu-led government to show a demonstrable commitment to prioritizing the security of the lives and properties of Nigerians.
“Government, through our armed forces and other security agencies, must ensure that no square inch of the Nigerian territory is left ungoverned; no part of Nigeria should be left under the control of criminal elements by whatever name so-called.
‘’Government must make a deliberate investment in security, of such a scale and magnitude, which will leave Nigerians in no doubt as to the sincerity of the statement made by the President
“The federal government must adopt a holistic approach to the issue of security, while not overlooking the peculiarities of each region and design bespoke measures to deal with them.
“In this wise, the government must neither be ‘scared’ nor ‘ashamed’ to make the right investments in security, in line with global trends in security, without compromising our sovereignty.”