President Muhammadu Buhari replied his critics yesterday, saying he is doing a lot to end killings in some parts of the country.
The President has been under attack by those claiming he has done little to end the killngs by people suspected to be herdsmen and bandits.
He spoke during a meeting at the State House with leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the North.
Buhari added that he could not support harming or killing of citizens he was elected to protect and cater for.
He said: “I thank you very much for taking the time to pay this visit today and for the issues you have raised. The recent killings in Benue, Zamfara and lately Plateau are wicked, condemnable and completely unacceptable acts.
“We, Nigerians, are religious people and no religion or culture accepts the killing of people for any reason whatsoever. This is why we must all rise as one to condemn these vile and wicked acts to ensure that all the culprits are brought to justice.
“We owe it to the memory of those who lost their lives in the violence in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Zamfara and elsewhere since 1999 to bring the conflicts to a decisive end. I assure you that we will do this.
“Let me make it clear that even a single life lost in any part of the country is one too many. I came to office vowing to ensure the protection of lives and property, and I remain committed to this despite the challenges we have experienced.
“I, therefore, seek your support as clerics and religious leaders to join hands with this administration and give us your full support. As you all know, deploying law enforcement agencies is fully our responsibility as a government while creating the platform and mechanisms for dialogue is a collective effort.
“The military and police have arrested hundreds of suspects across the various flash-points in the region and several prosecutions are going on. In a number of cases, we have seen convictions. Nigerians are right when they say they want to see more convictions and I would like to appeal to the judiciary to help us fast-track these cases.
“When some, for clearly political purposes, attempt to suggest that this government is doing nothing about the killings, and that I, being Fulani, must be encouraging these satanic acts, it seems to me that there is no limit to the evil in the minds of men.
“Otherwise, how can anyone in their right minds suggest that I, as an elected President even with substantial votes in the affected areas, will for any reason do harm by an act of omission to those same people?
“Secondly, the problems in all these areas, as you all know, are historical. There is no administration that has not had to contend with killings in these same areas over the years.” he said
The President added: “Indeed, in 2001, you may recall that after thousands were killed in Plateau State, a State of Emergency was declared and a governor was replaced by an Administrator. To suggest that our Administration is doing nothing is terribly unfair.
“We must not forget that the same Plateau State which has been crisis-ridden for years has in the past three years been celebrated for its peace. The governor’s hard work for peace and the presence of the military’s Operation Safe Haven must have had some impact.” he said
In recent weeks, he said his administration had beefed up its strength with the deployment of extra Special Forces from the Defence headquaters.
According to him, his administration currently has no fewer than three special military intervention forces in the troubled zones.
He listed them as Operation Safe Haven to secure Plateau State, Operation Whirl Stroke 1 (OPWS) to secure Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa and OPWS 2 to secure Zamfara and Kaduna States.
“These forces are supported with investigative and intelligence gathering capabilities from the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services and other agencies.” he added
Government, he said, can achieve lasting peace only with the sincere and active cooperation of communities, religious leaders, youths and other stakeholders.
“These include the Media in whose hands lie the power to frame, shape the perspectives and narratives which influence the thinking of millions of people within and outside Nigeria.
“Finally, let us collectively shame those who are stoking the fires of ethnic and religious conflicts for their short-term political gains.
“This country belongs equally to Christians and Muslims and even those who claim ignorance of God.” he said
Woman cries before Buhari over killings
A woman in the delegation of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) which met yesterday with President Muhammadu Buhari, knelt down and wept profusely before him.
She requested for a private meeting with the President over the killings. Her request was granted.
Women leader of North CAN Mrs. Leah Olusiyi Solomon, knelt down, crying over the killings especially of women and children.
The woman raised up her hands while weeping.
The President was touched and he directed her to liaise with the person that would arrange the meeting.
With the CAN leaders at the meeting was Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, whose state witnessed the recent orgy of killings.
The CAN leaders demanded a review of the country’s security architecture and an immediate end to incessant killings by suspected armed herdsmen.
The Christian leaders also called on President Buhari to ensure the release of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu, who is being held by Boko Haram for refusing to denounce her Christian faith.
In his presentation, President of CAN North, Rev. Yakubu Pam said the review of security architecture in the country would give the security apparatus a new lease of life and responsiveness to earn the required trust, confidence, and support of the general populace.
He also lamented the continuous abduction of underage Christian girls who were forcibly converted to Islamic religion and given out for marriage without the consent of their parents, which he said breeds religious disharmony.
The group urged President Buhari to intensify and speed up actions for the release of girls in captivity, especially Leah Sharibu.
Pam said: “All communities ravaged by the herdsmen violence in the North should be rebuilt and adequate security be put in place to enable displaced persons to return to their homes and means of livelihood
“The Federal Government should roll out a robust advocacy programme to enlighten the nomadic herders on modern cattle rearing against open grazing and roaming across states and national boundaries,” he added.
Other demands of the group include that “the federal government should encourage herders to acquire land for cattle ranching across the country as a means of private business investment.