Governors rose on Thursday to douse the rising ethnic tension in the country over the activities of herders from boiling over following the viral unverified video showing killings of people of a particular ethnic group.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai urged Nigerians to halt any action in reaction to the video.
Governors Hope Uzodimma (Imo), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa) met with Ohanaeze Ndigbo President-General Prof. George Obiozor, Miyetti Allah leaders from the five Southeast states, Chairmen of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Chief Imams and heads of Religious and Traditional institutions, on Thursday in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
The parley on a peace pact and the need for all Nigerians to live in peace in a united country wherever they may be.
The meeting also expressed support for North/South, Muslim/Christians peaceful co-existence.
El-Rufai expressed grave concern on the “video clips circulating on social media platforms like WhatsApp in which citizens of a particular ethnicity are being massacred and their properties destroyed in parts of Nigeria. This is coming amidst avoidable rhetoric, frenzied ethnic profiling and unlawful eviction of citizens from their places of domicile.
“Many citizens of Kaduna State have reached out to me as their governor to confirm the authenticity of these video clips. Some allege that these incidents have the support of leaders of the places where attacks have occurred. While I am unable to confirm the authenticity of the video clips, their impact on the peaceful coexistence of our people is a source of concern”.
The governor urged all Nigerians to respect law and order and the rights of all citizens to live in peace and security wherever they reside or work. I appeal to my colleagues governing other States in our country to make similar statements and disavow these attacks and massacres.
He said: “We must avoid anarchy and vigorously promote the rule of law and the right of all citizens to life, liberty and livelihoods wherever they choose to reside. Elected and appointed public leaders across the country must act on their constitutional obligations to protect all citizens, uphold order, and contribute to a climate for peaceful resolution of all issues.
“The victims of criminal actions like banditry and kidnapping in our state cut across all ethnic and religious groups. We have resisted the attempt to tar all members of any ethnic group for the criminal actions of some of their members.
“We urge our representatives in the National Assembly to expedite action on the constitutional amendments that would usher in State and community policing as this is the ultimate panacea for effective law enforcement nationwide.
“We should not allow the criminal actions of insurgents and bandits to tear our country apart. We should not be seduced into the dangerous passion of blaming innocents, declaring them guilty of the crimes of others, evicting them, killing and destroying their property.”
At the Owerri meeting, Governor Uzodimma spoke on the need for the sustainable harmonious and peaceful relationship among all tribes, irrespective of religious beliefs or political inclination.
He lamented the present security challenges in the nation, “instigated by peddlers of rumours, and false information, to encourage conflicts between Farmers and herders, stressing that the two groups should complement each other because they need each other to succeed.”
Governors Bagudu and Badaru, who also attended a similar peace meeting in Akure, Ondo State, last month, hailed the wisdom in convening the meeting and acknowledged that all Nigerians have the right to live peacefully in any part of the nation.
The Northern Governors Forum cautioned their southern colleagues and leaders against comments and actions capable of dividing the country.
The governors claimed that there has been a loss of lives and properties of such herdsmen in the South.
They warned that escalating tensions will not resolve any grievances but aggravate the situation to levels that could threaten national security.
The Forum, through its Chairman and Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, said: “In the face of the recent worrisome developments, therefore, the Northern Governors Forum calls for calm and cautions Nigerians, particularly those in the affected areas who might have been aggrieved or targeted, to exercise restraint.
“Nigeria is 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.
“Security agencies must equally be firm and rise up to the occasion by protecting all law-abiding citizens against the threat to their lives and properties irrespective of their ethnic or other affiliations.”
In another instance on Thursday, while receiving leaders of the Anglican Communion in Nigeria led by Reverend Henry Ndukuba, Governor El-Rufai said: “There was a time in the history of this country when armed robbery was the exclusive preserve of people of a certain part of the country but they were never profiled as ’X’ armed robbers.
“Advance Fee Fraud is also unique to some parts of the country but their ethnicity is never tagged when calling them Yahoo boys.
“I think in the same manner, we should be very careful in assuming that every herdsman is a criminal or every Fulani is a herdsman or every herdsman is a killer.