REPRSENTATIVES of several Middle Belt and southern socio-cultural groups have shunned a security summit called by former military head of state General Abdulsalam Abubakar because the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban) was invited.
Macban’s members have been accused of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Nigerians as heavily-armed Fulani herdsmen have ransacked villages in a violent orgy. President Buhari has come under fierce criticism for not clamping down on Macban amid claims that he is sympathetic to their cause being an ethnic Fulani himself who also owns cattle.
Earlier this year, President Buhari’s spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu said Macban is
just a Fulani cultural association and it was right that the government should talk with them. Over the weekend, General Abubakar organised a security summit in Minna, the Niger State capital but the Middle Belt Forum, Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (Pandef) all refused to attend.
They issued a jointly signed letter condemning the Buhari government for what they termed the inappropriate lumping of nationality organisations in the same vehicle with organisations such as Macban. They added that they were happy to talk to the Northern Elders Forum and the Arewa Consultative Forum but would not sit down to discuss with the Gan Allah Fulani Development Association and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria.
Their letter to General Abubakar read: “While we do not know the members of the first group, the lumping of Miyetti Allah, a trade association for cattle herders and whose members have been accused of various violations of rights, including life, across the country sends worrying signal to us. It falls into the categorisation of our respected socio-cultural platforms with Miyetti Allah by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu.
“We consider the above a grave insult on our bodies and our coming to a roundtable with the group would mean acquiescence to the narrative that put us in the same bracket with those wielding illegal AK-47 all over the country and inflicting terror on fellow citizens. Even if the above were not the case with Miyetti Allah, it would have been inappropriate to put nationality organisations in the same vehicle with this trade group as there are organisations for fishermen, farmers, poultry owners and spare parts dealers across the country like such who are not invited
“Towards this end, we decline participation in the roundtable as scheduled without prejudice to your peace-building activities. We also regret any inconvenience our decision may have caused you as we know the efforts that go into planning an event like this.”
Leaders who signed the letter include Chief Edwin Clark on behalf of Pandef, Chief Ayo Adebanjo on behalf of Afenifere, Chief John Nwodo on behalf of Ohaneze Ndigbo and Dr Pogu Bitrus on behalf of the Middle Belt Forum.