Afenifere, Southern, Middle Belt Leaders, Yakasai Differ over Relocation of Herdsmen

  • Ignore NEF’s order to quit south, Buhari tells herdsmen ACF backs northern elders’ call

Omololu Ogunmade, Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja, Segun James in Lagos and John Shiklam in Kaduna

The apex Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere; Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF); former Liaison Officer to the late President Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, have expressed divergent views over the call by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on Fulani herdsmen to relocate to the north if their safety was not guaranteed in other parts of the country.

This is coming as President Muhammadu Buhari wednesday told Fulani herders to ignore the instruction from the NEF asking them to leave the southern part of Nigeria and return to the north.

However, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has said that there is no harm in advising the herdsmen in the southern part of the country to return to the north.

In a statement signed by the Chairman of SMBLF, Chief Edwin Clark; Chief Ayo Adebanjo for Afenifere; President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo; and President General of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, the group said it was saddened that at a time for national sober reflection on the tragedy befalling the country, the Coalition of Northern Groups had chosen to further inflame passion by making reckless and unguarded statements on the state of affairs.

“It is more depressing that the NEF has chosen to join the youths who issued a 30-day ultimatum to Southerners to accept RUGA or face unpleasant consequences in their provocative action. The expressed grievance of the criminalisation of Fulani as a group is totally misplaced and unfounded. As stated above, the Nigerian Leaders and Elders Forum which Prof. Ango Abdullahi belongs to unanimously endorsed Atiku for the last election and still support him till now. Is he not a Fulani man?

“What people have railed against is the terrorism which some Fulani militias who pose as herdsmen have inflicted on Middle Belt and Southern communities and which they have even openly admitted in some cases .We expect peace-loving and rational Fulanis to join in the condemnations of these criminal elements and the enforcement of the law against them. This would have shown they believe in the unity of this country and its cohesion. But taking any attack against these people as condemning all Fulanis unwittingly gives the impression that they endorse the activities of these elements.

“The Southern and Middle Belt communities have not said fellow Nigerians from the North cannot do business in their areas. This is why we endorsed ranching for cattle business and that those who are interested should purchase land from the States and be ready to live under the Laws of the States. What we are opposed to is creating Federal Cattle Territories in States in the name of RUGA,” SMBLF explained.

On his part Yakasai has expressed disagreement with the calls to Fulani herdsmen to return to the northern part of the country by a section of the north.

Yakasai argued yesterday in a statement that going by the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, every citizen of the country has a right to reside in any part of the country they so wish.

“I wish to condemn in the strongest terms possible the recent call by the Northern Group to Fulani people living in Southern part of Nigeria to leave the area and return to the north. Leadership of the northern group should be aware that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has bestowed right to every Nigerian to live in any part of the country he or she wishes to reside and that no authority, group of people or an individual no matter how highly placed can deny any Nigerian to exercise this inalienable right,” Yakasai said.

But the Secretary of ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, Secretary General of the northern socio-cultural association, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has said that there is no harm in advising herdsmen in the southern part of the country to return to the North if they feel their safety is not guaranteed.

Sani told THISDAY yesterday that there was nothing wrong in advising the herdsmen about the step to take if they felt their safety was being threatened.

“I read the reports credited to the Northern Elders Forum that herdsmen in the south who feel threatened are at liberty to return to the north.

“That is to say, if the herdsmen have reasons to believe the authorities in the southern states cannot guarantee the safety of the herdsmen in their states.

“My understanding is that it was an advice by the Northern Elders Forum. It is not an order to the herds men in the South who are in better position to know whether they are safe or not” Sani said.

Meanwhile, President Buhari yesterday told Fulani herders to ignore the recent instruction from the NEF asking them to leave the southern part of Nigeria and return to the north.

In a statement issued yesterday by the presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, the president said all Nigerians reserved the right to live in any part of the country, adding that the government of President Buhari will protect them wherever they are.

According to him, no person has any right to order anyone or group out of any part of the country.

“All citizens of Nigeria are free to move and live within any part of the country they please, whether or not they are originally from there.

“In line with our country’s constitution, the government of Nigeria and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will protect citizens of Nigeria wherever they find themselves.

“No one has the right to ask anyone or group to depart from any part of the country, whether north, south, east or west,” the president said.

The statement questioned the rationale behind the instruction, describing it as unsolicited and ill-intentioned, insisting that the group had no power to issue such order.

It accused the group of dabbling into security matters to score cheap political points and urged Nigerians not to allow the elders to mislead them, saying the government is committed to finding lasting solutions to the crisis.

“They have no one’s authority to make such pronouncements.

“The polarising role of the Northern Elders Forum and all those other groups dabbling into issues of security to score cheap political points has for long been a sore point in Nigeria’s body polity. “They should not be allowed to mislead anyone, least of all the Fulani herders.

“The Buhari administration is fully devoted to finding a lasting solution to the herder-farmer clashes in different parts of Nigeria- one that would be acceptable to all the parties involved.”