By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The presidency yesterday in Abuja, restated that it never contemplated offering N100 billion to Miyetti Allah for any dubious purpose as widely circulated in the polity, describing the rumour as absolute falsehood.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, the issue of money was never discussed in meetings held by both representatives of the federal government and Miyetti Allah.
He said if the group had raised any matter involving money, Miyetti Allah would have immediately been dismissed as a dubious group, explaining that it had become compelling to dismiss the allegation again to assuage the minds of the public of such falsehood and as well open the minds of such rumour peddlers to the truth.
“We note the statement by Ohanaeze this morning, who expressed concern about an allegation that government gave N100 billion to Miyetti Allah for dubious reasons. As I said on Channels TV, it is an absolute falsehood.
“The issue of money was never raised at any of the meetings between the representatives of government and Miyetti Allah. If they had raised it, this government would have dismissed them as yet another dubious group, like the many making claims to be representing our trusting people but serving their own interests. “We choose again to speak on this because it is dangerous for the public to ignore rumours aimed at inciting people against each other or against the government. The people spreading such rumours should be helped to see the truth and participate in nation building, and not become crisis messengers,” he said. The statement also clarified presidency’s earlier submission which compared Miyetti Allah with Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, noting that both groups disagreed with the comparison, but insisted that as the two groups are socio-cultural organisations representing people’s interests, even so Miyetti Allah represents the interests of herders.
It also stated that Afenifere and Ohanaeze were wrong by opposing the move to dialogue with Miyetti Allah, saying in a plural society like Nigeria, dialogue remains a potent tool for resolving crisis, which he said could not be despised.
The statement added that deploying the tool of dialogue in the face of the myriad of security crisis confronting Nigeria today was necessary, adding that Miyetti Allah also has a stake in Nigeria and all stakeholders need to be engaged in the move to build the country.
Shehu also said the group does not serve the interest of the North or Muslims alone but rather everyone, recalling that before petroleum became the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, agriculture had served as the source of the country’s income while cattle and hide and skin contributed largely to this.
The statement added: “We are pleased that Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo found our insights worthy of attention even when they disagreed with our view that they, as socio-cultural associations, represent same interests as Miyetti Allah, an association of Fulani herders.
“The point both socio-cultural groups missed, however, by insisting that government should not to talk to Miyetti Allah is the need to address and engage Nigeria’s ethnic, religious, cultural and economic plurality that was evident when General Yakubu Gowon introduced National Youth Service Corps, NYSC. The need to engage all groups of Nigeria is as much relevant today as it was then.
“The Presidency’s position is that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is equipped to address these issues. The security challenges faced by Nigeria today make the task of addressing the issues very urgent.
“Miyetti Allah, like any other trade, community, ethnic organization or interest group is a legal stakeholder in our nation and should be respected. We maintain that the government needs to engage all stakeholders and seek partnership in building our country.
“The activities of Miyetti Allah do not benefit selected ethnicities or Muslims only, but everyone. Long before petroleum became the core of Nigerian economy, agriculture was the main source of Nigerian wealth. Cattle, hides and skin were a major part of Nigerian export.
“It is right to state that there are criminals among every group in Nigeria and in every country. There are criminals among the northern population as there are in the southern part of the country. It is not good to generalise blames. The government will engage each stakeholder and create dialogue between, and among, different groups.”