The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) yesterday urged governors of the Northern states to start preparing to receive law-abiding Fulani herders who may be compelled to relocate from their present abodes in different parts of Nigeria, following conflict with various host communities.
On the same day, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State faulted the statement made by his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, supporting the free movement of herders with AK-47 rifles.
The NEF made the appeal in a statement signed by its spokesman, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, where it alleged that some groups are fuelling tension in the country in order to achieve their selfish aims.
A number of communities across the country have issued herders quit notices following bloody fracas over grazing lands.
Baba-Ahmed also said last night that the northern governors should start working on land and infrastructure to accommodate the herders, their families and cattle.
He also talked about planning ahead for the health and security needs of the herders, to ensure hitch free resettlement.
The group likewise urged Northerners to assure people from other parts of the country of their safety
Baba-Ahmed said NEF “is planning to meet with governors in the North and South” to improve on collaboration and synergy.
The statement further condemned attacks on Fulani communities, declaring: “Fulani who have broken no laws must be protected from abuse wherever they are
We ask all governments to identify criminals among the Fulani and subject them to the laws of the land.
“Similarly, we demand the cessation of threats and attacks by local ethnic defenders on Fulani communities.
“People who have broken the law by attacking and harassing Fulani for just being Fulani must be brought to book.”
The forum called on “all law-abiding herders to stay put and seek protection, and if they cannot be protected, to relocate to safer areas in the country.”
Baba-Ahmed said the country “is under imminent threats” by those bent on pushing the country to disaster for their nefarious goals.
He said the forum was constrained to draw the attention of Nigerians to sustained attempts by some people to create tension and fear in the country to achieve their objectives.
“Northern Elders Forum is constrained to invite the nation’s attention to the dangers of sustained attempts to raise tensions and create fears among Nigerians until, presumably, they lead to major crisis involving groups and regions in the country.
In the last few weeks, the Forum has led many responsible groups and individuals to appeal for restraint and respect for the law in the way we engineer developments that cause tensions, or react to them.
“Now, the nation is facing imminent threats from persons who are bent on pushing all of us nearer to disaster, to help them achieve their nefarious goals,” the statement said.
Baba-Ahmed adds: “Continuing narratives and threats, including comments from seemingly responsible Nigerians and even elected officials who swore to protect the rights of all citizens and the survival of the country, are raising fears and passions that could make it easy to break more laws of the land and pitch citizens against each other.
“There are efforts to create multiple sources of falsehood in videos and other inflammatory materials in the media clearly targeted at inciting people to act violently against each other.
“Allegations of planned or actual genocide are being made with reckless abandon, and even the international community is being lobbied in futile efforts to sell the fiction that some groups are intent on mass extermination of other groups.
“The latest communication by the Yoruba Council of Elders to the United Nations is an example of lamentable desperation of some groups to erode our security and integrity as a country, and it is more regrettable that it is the handiwork of so-called elders who should forfeit all rights to that honour.”
The statement said that NEF would continue to work to retrieve the country from the dangerous cliff where it has been placed by irresponsible people, many of them in positions of responsibility.
“We urge all northerners to assure Nigerians from other parts of the country that they are safe and welcome to continue to stay in the north.
“The forum repeats: it is not a crime to be member of any ethnic group, and no one has the right to attempt to expel any Nigerian from places where they live lawfully.
The Forum advises President Muhammadu Buhari and Governors to consult and explore measures that will lower tensions and assure all Nigerians that we live in a country where laws have meanings, and all citizens have equal rights to live under secure environments.
“The fight against armed criminals must be pursued on all fronts and with a lot more seriousness.
“The criminal must not reap from the suspicions and fears which his activities also generate,” the forum said.