President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said the crisis on Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State had claimed more lives than that of herdsmen killings in Benue and Zamfara states.
The President stated this during a stakeholders’ meeting with representatives of ethnic groups and Taraba State Government at Taraba Government House in Jalingo.
Buhari arrived at Danbaba Suntai Airport about 3.38 pm accompanied by Ministers of Women Affairs, Defence, Information and Culture, some members of National Assembly from the state, and Service Chiefs. He was received by the state Governor, Mr Darius Ishaku.
He said he was in the state to condole with the people and government of Taraba State over killings in the state, and called on the people to tolerate one another.
In the meeting, which lasted for almost two hours, Buhari called on the traditional rulers to find ways of resolving the crisis in the state.
“Governor Darius Ishaku and I are here temporarily. We will go at the end of our tenure, but you are permanent with the people at the grass roots.
“So, I charge you to go back and find ways of resolving the crises in your domains. Go and give your people justice for peace to reign.
“When I was campaigning, I came here and promised to provide security, boost the economy and fight corruption.
“Today, even our worst enemy can attest to the fact that the APC-led Federal Government has done well in the area of security. We have decimated Boko Haram, while the fight against corruption is going on well.
“I can only appeal to the conscience of the people for them to embrace peace and live with one another in harmony so that there could be development and not destruction.
“As a President, I have sources of getting intelligence on happening across the country and so I should not be expected to always go out to the field to make noise and insult the sensibility of Nigerians before it would be known that I am taking actions against the killings.
“There were more killings in Mambilla than Benue and Zamfara states. I chose to visit Taraba first, but I will be going to Benue and Zamfara after I return from Ghana to also condole with the people,” he said.
While urging Nigerians to live in peace with one another, the President called for the arrest and prosecution of any herdsman caught with arms.
In his remarks, Ishaku thanked the President for the visit and for approving construction of the 3,050 Mega Watt Mambilla Hydroelectric power project in the state.
The governor said the open grazing prohibition and ranches establishment law in the state was part of the solutions to end herdsmen and farmers clashes, as well as cattle rustling.
“Mr. President, I want to thank you for coming to sympathise with us, but I want to appeal to you to deploy more security operatives, especially the police, in Taraba State to provide security for my people.
“When the crisis started in Nguroje on Thursday, there were only six policemen in the area and they could not do much. So, I appeal to you to deploy more security men here to solve some of our challenges,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel Njiwah, who spoke on behalf of the Mambilla people; Mr Mafindi Danburam, who spoke on behalf of Miyetti Allah; and Mr Afraid Kobiba, who spoke on behalf of the people of Lau, called for justice as a solution to ending insecurity in the country.
Chairman, Taraba State Council of Chiefs and Aku Uka of Wukari, Mr Shekarau Angyu Massa Ibbi, who spoke on behalf of traditional rulers, advocated constitutional roles to enable them to help in dealing with the security situation in their domains.
Groups fault President’s claim on Mambilla crisis
Social cultural groups in Taraba State have faulted the claim of the President that more people were killed in the Mambilla plateau crisis than those of Benue and Zamfara states.
A representative of Yangdang Cultural Association, Mr Afraid Kobiba, who spoke to our correspondent after the meeting, expressed shock over the President’s claims.
Kobiba said he had made presentation before the President where he highlighted that 68 people were killed in Lau, while 15 were still missing in the crisis that happened in January 2018 in addition to other killings that had taken place in the state in the past.
“We have written to the governor about the killing of our people by Fulani herdsmen and we copied National Security Adviser, Director General DSS, Ministers of Interior, Defence and Justice and other relevant agencies, yet the President was mute about the killings in Lau where 63 people were given mass burial in one day.
“I don’t know where he got his facts from, but I think he was misinformed about the crisis in Taraba State,” he said.
President General of Tiv Cultural and Social Association, Mr Goodman Dahida, in his reaction, said the President’s claim was unfortunate.
Dahida said over 100 people were killed in Wukari, Gassol, Ibi and Lau in Taraba State, while dozens were killed in Adamawa; and hundreds others in Benue State, which did not attract the attention of the President.
“The President just told Nigerians where he belongs and the people he belongs to. He is specific about Mambilla killings because his kinsmen were involved.
“Killings have been going on in Taraba State and other places by Fulani herdsmen, but he has not visited any of these places.
“In June last year, he sent his cronies to visit Mambilla because Fulani were reportedly affected in the crisis. I think the President should grow pass ethnic favouritism and treat all Nigerians as one. Every life of Nigerian counts,” he said.