By Emma Njoku, Noah Ebije, Kaduna and Lukman Olabiyi
The Presidency, yesterday, declared that the military has been overstretched by the rising security challenges across the country.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, stated this, yesterday, during a national television broadcast while fielding questions on the crisis arising from frequent clashes between herders and farmersacross the country.
Shehu dismissed the recent allegation by Noble laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, that President Muhammadu Buhari’s “refusal” to address the nation on the conflict between herders and farmers meant he was complicit in the criminal activities of herdsmen.
He said: “The president is more than concerned of the ongoing situation and he is fully conscious of the fact that it is the responsibility of his government to work with Nigerians to secure lives and stop the ongoing crisis whether they are kidnapping or the new line of ethnic violence. He condemns it and he does not support it.
“The country’s military, as we speak, are overstretched because they are active in, at least, 34 of the 36 states including the FCT.”
The presidential spokesperson said community leaders must work with the president and security agencies to ensure an end to the crisis.
“Community leaders — local and traditional — must work with the president. To say the president is doing nothing is because there is impunity and impunity is in the country because there are big men, VIPs,” he said.
He urged the police to publish the list of suspected criminal herders facing trials at the moment.
“We are not following up stories as media, otherwise, if you know the thousands of people… and I hope the headquarters of the police will take responsibility and publish the full list of Fulani herders who are undergoing trials in various states particularly in Benue state.
“Trials are going on, convictions are being made and the president cannot be complicit; it is very uncharitable. The president cannot be complicit in the kinds of things being said of him.
The years-long farmers-herders clashes recently resurfaced in south-west states; Ogun, Ondo and Oyo.
In Oyo, there have been reports of attacks against herders after residents accused them of perpetrating crimes — an allegation the herders denied.
To douse the rising tension, a number of governors including Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state have proposed a ban on the movement of cattle from north to south.
Some people undermining government’s efforts, says NSA
Meanwhile, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd), yesterday, in Kaduna, dismissed claims that theincessant banditry, killings and ethno-religious crises in the country were signs of end of the world as written in the holy Bible.
Making reference to the book of Matthew, Monguno said such comments were only meant to cause tension in the country.
Speaking at a town hall meeting by North West governors and traditional rulers, the NSA admitted that security is the responsibility of government.
The meeting came on the heels of directive by the Presidency that leaders of the region should find measures towards ending banditry which has continued to cost lives and property in communities.
He said: “The purpose of this meeting is to address insecurity in all zones of the country. Buhari is worried and deeply concerned over wanton killings, not only in Northwest, but in the whole country.
“We have a lot of suspicious people undermining government efforts.
Some of us are spiritual in our thinking. Some believe that we have come to the dead end. This is not the end of time as predicted in the
Bible. It is in the book of Matthew that when you see brothers killing brothers, son killing father, nations fighting nations, the end of time has come. But this is not the issue with our country.
“It is true that security is the fundamental responsibility of government. Insecurity require multifaceted approach to overcome it.
With the new service chiefs, there is new dimension to ending insecurity
“President Buhari is determined to end insecurity in the country. All the tiers of government must cooperate on security.
“It is possible that other people outside the government are sabotaging government effort. But government will not give up. It is unfortunate that time was too short to engage other stakeholders in this town hall meeting. We are going to visit other geopolitical zones.”
Situation worse than 10 years ago -Govs
The governors pledged to explore all available means to ensure the security of lives and property.
Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina State, on behalf of the governors, said the security situation in the region has deteriorated, pointing out that the governors must work to ensure peace and stability.
“It is our responsibility to ensure everyone is safe,” he said, adding that communities should be adequately involved in ensuring security.
“Everybody must be on the same page. We must go back to our communities, build community relationships and restore what was lost.
“Ten years ago, the situation was not as bad as it is today, now communal life has broken down,’’ he said.
Masari, however, urged all governors in the country to take responsibility of protecting everyone, “irrespective of where they come from, ethnicity or religion”.
Plateau Governor, Simon Lalong, who is also the Chairman of Northern Governors Forum, urged Nigerians to learn to live in peace, irrespective of religious and ethnic differences.
“Today, on behalf of northern governors, I welcome the new service chiefs while commending those who did their best and also prayed to see the end of the insecurity in Nigeria,” he said.
On his part, Kaduna State Governor, Nasiru El-Rufai, noted that the high level delegation at the meeting underscored the importance with which the Federal Government attached to finding solutions to security challenges in the country.
He expressed the hope that the meeting will come up with a road map to end the security challenges in the country, which has affected the economy and livelihood of the people.
El-Rufai expressed concern over recent clashes in the South-West, which have raised tension and agitations.
“All of us the governors are going round, talking with stakeholders to calm people down,” he said.
He noted that security should be the number one priority of government and a collective responsibility of all.
The meeting was attended by all the governors in the zone, traditional rulers, security experts and other key stakeholders.
Gumi: Time to forget political differences
Also, speaking, the Kaduna based Islamic Scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, said: “This is the time we forget our political differences. Come together, irrespective of ethnic and religious difference to tackle insecurity.
“Christians and Muslims should go to churches and Mosques to pray for peace because peace is possible in our country. I am happy that authority is now asking us What do we do to end insecurity.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Leo Irabor, said: “Insecurity in North West is concern to every stakeholder. We assure you that reorganisation is going to challenge the tide of insecurity in the zone and other zones in the country.
Emir of Zazzau, Ambassador Ahmed Nuhu Bamali, said: “We are happy that government has answered our call to hold this meeting. Killings in our land is not acceptable. This is the time to unite as a nation. Embrace each other, Muslims and Christians should love one another.”
CAN organises prayer
Worried by the situation, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State chapter, will, on Saturday, hold a prayer session for Nigeria, to seek for peace across the country.
This was disclosed in a statement made available from the office of
the Chairman, Lagos State CAN, Bishop Stephen Adegbite, which was signed by his media aide, Rev. Oladapo Daramola.
CAN, in the statement, described the programme as an annual event which is included in their calendar.
The prayer programme known as the Inter-Denominational Divine Service (IDDS) 2021, with the theme: A New Beginning, A New Dawn and A New Glory (Genesis 1: 1-3).
The association held that the programme will draw thousands of christians from every part of the state, under one roof to pray for and commit the state and the nation into the able hands of the Almighty God.
The statement further disclosed that Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, his cabinet members, members of the Lagos State House of Assembly, the Judiciary arm and many religious leaders of different blocs of CAN will also be present at the service scheduled to hold at LAWNA Territorial Headquarters of the Apostolic Church.
The Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche, will deliver the homily at the service.