NIGERIA’S Northern State Governors Forum (NSGF) has asked its colleagues in the south of the country to stop criminalising the entire Fulani ethnic group but to fish out the criminal elements within their domains and make them face the wrath of the law.
In recent years, there have been incessant clashes between Fulani cattle herdsmen and farmers across the country as the pastoralists’ livestock eat crops and destroy farms. On top of this, there is a criminal element to the herdsmen as they heavy-armed Fulanis are engaged in kidnapping, rape, extortion and armed robbery.
Over the last week, there has been stout opposition to the herdsmen in the southwest geo-political zone with Fulanis expelled in at least three states. Herdsmen body the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban) has been accused of being behind the violence and many have called for it to be dubbed a terrorist organisation.
Wading into the crisis, the NSFF expressed worries that the activities of criminal elements were being used to tag a particular ethnic group. NSGF chairman Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, said northern governors strongly believe in the rights of Nigerians to reside wherever they so desire without any molestation or discrimination.
He warned that there could be danger to peaceful coexistence and national unity if a particular ethnic group is being molested and discriminated upon. Governor Lalong said instead of tagging a particular ethnic group as criminal and subjecting them to danger, criminal elements among them should be exposed, isolated and made to face the law.
Governor Lalong called for calm across the country and cautioned citizens, particularly those in the southwest and southeast, to exercise restraint. He noted that Nigeria is currently going through a lot and escalating such tensions would definitely not resolve any grievances but rather aggravate the situation to levels that could threaten national security.
“Leaders across political, ethnic, religious and community lines should avoid utterances and actions that further fan the embers of distrust, hate, violence and retaliation which can easily escalate the situation and cause chaos. Relevant government officials, traditional rulers and opinion moulders must also send the right signals to those who want to take the laws into their hands and trample on the Nigerian constitution by attempting to deny others the rights to live and pursue their legitimate business in whatever place they choose to reside.
“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,” Governor Lalong said.