President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said claims that being a Fulani, he must be encouraging the killings being perpetrated by armed herdsmen in parts of the country seemed to him that there was no limit to the evil in the minds of men.
He wondered how anyone in their right minds would suggest that he, who emerged as President with substantial votes from affected areas, would do any harm to the same people who voted for him.
Buhari said this while receiving members of Christian Association of Nigeria from the 19 northern states and Abuja at Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President said it was unfair for anybody to accuse his government of not doing anything to stop the killings.
Mr Buhari said, “When some (people), 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.
“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 peacefulness. The governor’s hard work for peace and the presence of the military’s Operation Safe Haven must have had some impact.”
The President said the government had deployed extra special forces from Defence Headquarters.
Besides, he said no fewer than three special military intervention forces were currently in the troubled zones.
These forces, he said, were supported with investigative and intelligence gathering capabilities from Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services and other agencies.
Buhari said the military and the police had arrested hundreds of suspects across the various flashpoints in the region and several prosecutions were ongoing.
He added, “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 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 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 various flashpoints 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.
The President said government could achieve lasting peace only with the sincere and active cooperation of communities, religious leaders, youths and other stakeholders.
These, he added, included the media in whose hand, he said, “lies 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,” Buhari told his guests.
Arrest, prosecute killers, Northern Christians tell Buhari
Earlier, Chairman of CAN Northern States, Mr Yakubu Pam, had on behalf of the delegation urged the President to revisit the country’s security architecture in order to give it a new lease of life and responsiveness to earn the required trust, confidence, and support of the general populace.
Pam also called on the government to ensure that all communities ravaged by killer herdsmen were rebuilt and adequate security be put in place to enable displaced persons to return to their homes and means of livelihood.
He urged the government to roll out a robust advocacy programme to enlighten the nomadic herders on modern cattle rearing against open grazing and roaming across the states and national boundaries.
He also urged the government to encourage herders to acquire land for cattle ranching across the country as a means of private business investment.
Pam also called for the release of Leah Sharibu and others in Boko Haram’s captivity and stoppage of marriage of Christian girls without their parents’ consent in the North.
The clergyman said, “We, therefore, wish to state that the situation does not only violate the fundamental human rights of the girls but is also a call to anarchy if such actions were to get an even score by the Christian population.
“The appeal, therefore, is for your quick intervention to ensure that the numerous girls held under such circumstances are released to their parents.
“In the spirit of the above observation, we wish to demand that intensive and speedy actions should be taken for the release of girls in captivity, especially Leah Sharibu.
“That all perpetrators including the so-called foreigners as alleged of these heinous crimes against humanity in parts of northern states should be arrested and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others .”