By Chuks Okocha
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has called on government at all levels and all stakeholders to de-escalate the prevailing ethnic tension in the country.
The forum said continuing narratives, threats and comments from Nigerians, including elected officials, were raising fears and passions that could lead to a further breach of law and order.
NEF, in a statement yesterday by its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, drew attention to the dangers of sustained attempts to raise tensions and create fears among Nigerians until, presumably, they lead to a major crisis involving groups and regions.
NEF stated that in the last two weeks, along with others, it had appealed for restraint and respect for the law.
NEF said the nation was facing imminent threats from persons allegedly bent on pushing all Nigerians nearer to disaster, to help them achieve their nefarious goals.
It alleged efforts to create multiple sources of falsehood in videos and other inflammatory materials in the media clearly targeted at inciting people to act violently against each other.
According to NEF, allegations of planned or actual genocide are being made with reckless abandon and even the international community is being lobbied in futile efforts to sell the fiction that some groups are intent on mass extermination of other groups.
The forum condemned the latest communication by the Yoruba Council of Elders to the United Nations, describing it as an example of lamentable desperation of some groups to erode the security and integrity of the country.
The forum reiterated its commitment to continue to work to retrieve the country from the dangerous cliff where it has been placed by irresponsible people, many of them in positions of responsibility.
“We have plans to meet with governors in the North and South to improve responsible collaboration and synergy and we intend to visit communities where we have influence to lower tensions and provide assurances and comfort,” it added.
NEF reiterated its demands that Fulani who have broken no laws must be protected from abuse wherever they are.
“We ask all governments to identify criminals among the Fulani and subject them to the laws of the land.
Similarly, we demand the cessation of threats and attacks by local ethnic defenders on Fulani communities,” it said.
NEF also called for the prosecution of those who have attacked and harassed Fulani on account of their identity.
It said: “We encourage all law-abiding herders to stay put and seek protection, and if they cannot be protected, to relocate to safer areas in the country.
“We urge northern governors to prepare to receive law-abiding Fulani herders who may be compelled to relocate.
“We urge all Northerners to assure Nigerians from other parts of the country that they are safe and welcome to continue to stay in the North.”
The forum said it was not a crime to be a member of any ethnic group, adding that no one has the right to attempt to expel any Nigerian from places where they live lawfully.
NEF advised President Muhammadu Buhari and governors to consult and explore measures that will lower tensions and “assure all Nigerians that we live in a country where laws have meanings and all citizens have equal rights to live under secure environments.”
It added that the fight against criminals must be pursued on all fronts and with more seriousness.