Buhari: My Commitment to Free, Fair Elections Irrevocable

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Muhammadu Buhari

Warns bandits in Zamfara, Sokoto

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Onuminya Innocent in Sokoto

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, in his Christmas message to Nigerians, said his promise to conduct free, fair and credible polls in 2019 was an oath, which could not be broken.

The president also condemned the killing of innocent Nigerians in Birnin Magaji community in Tsafe Local Government Area and Magami community in Faru District of Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State, by suspected bandits, warning that such horrendous violent acts must stop.

Buhari in a statement insisted that his promise to ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible general election in 2019 is not a mere lip service, but rather a bond on which the future of Nigerians and the safety of unborn generations is predicated.

According to him, it is time to tell the world that something good can yet come out of Nigeria, adding that such desire is achievable if Nigerians all team up to make it so.

He said, “With general elections around the corner and heightened political activities across the country, I have charged our security and law enforcement agencies to secure the sanctity of the ballot box and ensure that the outcome of the polls reflects the will of the Nigerian people.

“My avowed commitment to free, fair, credible and violence-free polls is not a ruse or yet another vain political promise. My word is my bond.

“It is a sworn declaration on the advancement of Nigeria, the future and safety of our young and unborn generations.

“Let us tell the world that, indeed, ‘something good’ can come out from Nigeria. And it will happen, as we all team up to make it happen.”

Buhari said he felicitated with Nigerians notably the Christians on today’s Christmas celebration in commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago.

He said today’s commemoration of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem of Judea in today’s nation of Israel offers yet another opportunity to reflect on His symbolic birth as encapsulated in humility as well as the message of salvation, reconciliation and forgiveness which Christ brought.

He added, “I felicitate with all Nigerians, particularly our Christian brothers and sisters, on the joyous occasion of this year’s Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.

“Like I have done in the last three Christmas messages to my fellow compatriots as a serving President, I believe this season is another opportunity to reflect on the imagery of the humble, symbolic and divine birth of a young child thousands of years ago in Bethlehem, Judea, and the message of hope, compassion, salvation, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace that Jesus Christ embodies and conveys,” the president said.

He recalled the state of economy in the outgoing year 2018, saying the economy recorded significant progress in the course of the year through the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

Buhari added that agricultural revolution has boosted local rice production while import has drastically been reduced.

According to him, infrastructure deficit was also upgraded during the year while the fight against corruption continued unabated.

However, Buhari noted that in the face of such positive developments, Nigeria also witnessed a downward movement in 2018 with several lives lost in violence by herders, road crashes, fire and natural disasters.

Against this background, he said while it is impossible to bring back the dead, this Christmas season provides citizens with the opportunity to reach out to those who lost their loved ones in such tragic experiences.

“In 2018, Nigerians have had mixed blessings, typical of human beings.

On the pleasant side, our economy has made significant progress since coming out from recession and our faithful implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

“Agricultural revolution has seen a vastly improved local production to the detriment of importation, while we have achieved surplus in our trade balance. Similarly, infrastructural deficit has been greatly reduced with significant improvements in roads, railways, aviation and power.

“In addition, we have not relented in the fight against corruption while the business environment has been improved through institutional reforms.

“On the downside, we have seen so many unnecessary deaths caused by violent clashes between neighbours, who ordinarily should complement and support one another.

“We cannot bring back the lives lost to floods, unfortunate fire disasters, road accidents, farmers/herders clashes and insurgency.

“But we can put back smiles on the faces of the grieving, the displaced and the troubled, if we show a little love and recommit ourselves to building relationships with those outside our ethnic, religious and socio-political divides.

“As we celebrate Christmas, exchange gifts, pray and visit loved ones, let us remember many others who cannot be with their families this time.”

The president also enjoined citizens to express goodwill and love to members of the Armed Forces whom he said had been making huge sacrifices for the safety of all.

Admonishing all to show kindness to their neighbours and demonstrate the uniqueness of Nigeria’s diversity, the president encouraged Nigerians to also remember the sick, the aged, the physically challenged this season adding that a better future awaits the country.

“Our brave Armed Forces, and other security men and women who make incredible sacrifices to keep us safe, the aged, the sick, physically challenged persons, all deserve our goodwill in this season of love and sharing.

“Together we can show generosity to our neighbours and demonstrate the diversity that makes Nigeria unique – a land with a beautiful climate and vegetation, beaming with an energetic and creative youth population.

“We must not also forget that what lies ahead of us as a nation is better than whatever we must have experienced in the past,” he submitted.

Warns Bandits in Zamfara, Sokoto

Meanwhile, the president has condemned the killing of innocent Nigerians in Birnin Magaji community in Tsafe Local Government Area and Magami community in Faru District of Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State by suspected armed bandits, warning that such horrendous violent acts must stop.

The president’s warning followed the violent activities of armed bandits in Zamfara and Sokoto States in recent weeks, which claimed at least 42 lives last week.

While gunmen on motorcycles had last Wednesday invaded the villages of Gidan Halilu and Gidan Kaka in Birnin Magaji district of Zamfara State, killing 17 people, they also killed 25 people in Magami village in the Maradun district area of the state on Saturday, after they shot indiscriminately.

“These horrendous acts of violence are crimes against humanity. This violence must stop,” the president threatened.

According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity,

Malam Garba Shehu, the president expressed his deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the attacks as well as the government and people of Zamfara State.

He also said the president who wished those injured a speedy recovery, had authorised an assessment trip to Zamfara and Sokoto States by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Baba Sadiq on Christmas and Boxing days.

According to the statement, the president reassured residents of states being plagued by armed bandits, including Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Niger and Taraba, that his administration was committed to their safety adding that he would continue to ensure that security agencies work round the clock to protect local populations.

The statement added, “To this end, a major operation by the Nigerian Armed Forces, Police, Department of State Services and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, is being considered to restore peace and stability in the region.

Buhari conveyed his strong support to the Nigeria Police Force, which has already deployed Special Forces in each of the local government in Zamfara State and the Defence Headquarters’ deployment of a Special Military Intervention Force comprising more than 1,000 personnel to respond to the security challenges in the North-central and North-west.

“These measures, among others, will be intensified to flush out the bandits from wherever they are.

“The president commended Nigerians for their support to our security agencies who have continued to demonstrate dedication, commitment and bravery even in very difficult and complex operations.”

Riot in Zamfara over insecurity

Meanwhile, residents of Tsafe Local Government Area yesterday took to the streets to protest the insecurity in the state and incessant killings by bandits.

Suspected bandits have killed hundreds of people, kidnapped and unleashed hell on residents of the state since the beginning of the year.

The protesters, mainly Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), barricaded the Gusau-Zaria highway linking the state to Kaduna, Kano, and Abuja.

The protesters lit bonfires, destroyed some vehicles and set the secretariat of the local government on fire.

An eyewitness said the protesters also destroyed political billboards of President Buhari and the state governor, Abdulaziz Yari.

The protests carried out by mainly youth and women later degenerated into a full riot.

“The protesters began by blocking the highway and burning tyres, but as we speak, the local government secretariat in Tsafe is on fire,” the eyewitness, who declined to be named for security reasons, said.

The protesters who were carrying placards with various inscriptions, called on the governments to end banditry activities in the area.

Speaking with journalists, the council Chairman Alhaji Aliyu, who visited the town after the incident, said security personnel are now on top of the situation.

According to him, the protesters destroyed properties and set some government/private vehicles and Tsafe LGA secretariat ablaze.

The state police command has however, restricted movement in the area.

The police deployed officers to bring the situation under control but the protesters refused to back down.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Muhammad Shehu, later announced that movement had been restricted between 6p.m and 7a.m.

He said the restriction would be in force till the security situation improves.