Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
Arrangements have been concluded for President Muhammadu Buhari to give national honour to an 83-year-old Chief Imam of Nghar village, Gashish district in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area (LGA) of Plateau State, Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, who reportedly rescued 300 christian indigenes of the state on June 24 when suspected herdsmen invaded the community and killed over 200 persons.
The people were said to be running for safety from a neighbouring village when the Imam hid them in his house and mosque, thereby saving their lives.
Governor of the state, Simon Lalongs disclosed Buhari’s plan for Abubakar in Jos, the state capital, yesterday, during the opening ceremony of a three-day peace and security conference with the theme: ‘The resurgence of violence in Plateau State: Towards a multi stakeholder partnership for peace and security’, organised by the State Peace Building Agency.
Lalong said: “The president has told me to bring to him for a handshake, which will be followed by a national honour. I was also preparing what to do for this man. Although, he is already in his old age, but God knows why he did it at that age – for us to study and also know how to maintain peace, not only in Plateau State but Nigeria in general.
“What he did, not only saved the people of Barkin Ladi LGA, not only Plateau State, but I think the whole of this country because 300 lives is not a small number. So, Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, only God will reward you for what you have done.
“We are waiting for that process of meeting the president for a handshake and national honour. Having a handshake with president at the age of 83, I think the man will be happy, even if he is going to his grave; something has happened in his life,” Lalong said.
Lalong also said his administration was committed to the implementation of the white paper from the Berom and Fulani peace committee.
“We believe this is also a panacea for building inclusive peace based on the recommendations of the conflict parties,” he added.
He added that he also recently constituted and inaugurated two separate committees to work on the safe return and resettlement of all internally displaced Persons (IDPs) to their homes and provide for the immediate humanitarian needs for the victims of the crisis with the view to saving lives and maintaining the dignity of the human person.
Narrating what happened, Abubakar, who was at the occasion said, “I hid the women in my personal house and after that, I took the men into the mosque and hid them there.”
Though the attackers caught up with the Imam, forcefully demanding him to release to them those who were christians in the mosque, the cleric was said to have deceived the attackers that everyone in the mosque was a Muslim.
Also commending the heroic actions of the chief imam, Deputy Chief Mission and Charge de Affaires of the US Embassy, Mr. David Young said, “Those who work for peace do not belong to one group or another they are not just Muslims or Christians they are individuals who give up their lives for goodness and fight evil.
“This man is a challenge to all of us; think about what you do every day, do you take risks for peace; would you put your life on the line to protect people from other communities, think about what that means to us, to your country and to our world.”
He said that the circle of violence and attacks, reprisals and counter reprisals has taken horrific tolls on people in this state which has affected both Muslims and Christians, adding that working for peace can save lives and that is the most sacred thing in the world.
Young also observed that the killing of innocent people is simply not acceptable whether in Plateau, Zamfara, Benue, Borno, Delta or Taraba. “We must commit that this criminals who commit this terrible act of whatever kind must be caught and prosecuted, we must break the circle of impunity that fills grievances on our side and leads to reprisal attacks”.
He also called on effective law enforcement agents to arrest and prosecute criminal actors that do evil, adding that it is absolutely essential that those arrested be made to properly face charges in court, because bringing criminal action to justice is the first step to stop violence.
He warned, “Nigeria’s population is growing; about the fastest of any country in the world. In 30 years, the population of Nigeria will grow from 190 million people today to over 400 million people, and much of this population growth will be across the North and Middle belt of the country. So the challenges we face over land and resources aren’t going to get easier but harder.”