Watch Your Utterances, Abdulsalami Cautions Govs, Warns against Civil War
•States’ helmsmen demand prosecution of criminals
•To dedicate part of ECA to security
Chuks Okocha in Abuja, Eromosele Abiodun and Nume Ekeghe
The Chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC) and Nigeria’s former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), has cautioned state governors to be more temperate in their utterances in order not to instigate civil unrest in the nation that is on the edge of an inter-ethnic conflagration.
He spoke yesterday on ‘The Morning Show,’ the flagship breakfast programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, and called on the federal government and Nigerians to ensure that peace reigns in the country so as to avoid another civil war.
Abdulsalami, in his second intervention to douse tensions arising from ethnic conflicts that have aggravated the security challenges facing the nation, said the circumstances that led to the civil war from 1967 to 1970, were similar to ongoing occurrences, adding that tackling insecurity must be the priority of the government to avoid another civil war.
The former head of state’s admonishment came two days after he called on Nigerians to stop trading blame and focus on ending the current ethnic clashes, which he described as unfortunate.
Abdulsalami at a press conference in Minna, capital of Niger State, on Tuesday, had expressed concern that the clashes are adding to the challenges of insurgency, banditry and armed robbery in the country.
However, in his latest intervention, Abdulsalami also advised state governors to watch their comments on the crisis to avoid inciting unrest.
But the governors, rising from an emergency meeting yesterday in Abuja blamed the worsening insecurity on porous borders and illegal proliferation of arms in Nigeria. They also demanded prosecution of criminals without consideration for ethnic or religious affiliations.
The former head of state warned that the ethnic conflict that has pitted Southerners against their compatriots from the North would not bode well for the country, if not arrested.
He said: “People who are old enough recollect what happened during the civil war. What were the things that led to the civil war? People from different states were being attacked, killed, and their property was destroyed, and people started migrating to their states of origin. And this is what is happening now.
“You would see that in the southern part of the country, Northerners are migrating back to the North and our brothers from the South in the North are now in fear and are preparing to go back to their states.
“The people in the North are feeling that they are being attacked as it happened in Ibadan and other parts of the country, which is why I think we are reaching a point of no return. We must live together.”
According to him, urgent steps are needed to stop the migration as a way of not inflaming tempers in other parts of the country.
“You can see that some people are migrating from parts of the country back to their states where they feel safer. God forbid this would take us back to 1960s where we had problems that resulted in the civil war,” he added.
He regretted that Nigerians have not learnt from past mistakes of inter-tribal wars and urged the governors to take responsibility for securing lives and property as well as promoting dialogue.
Abdulsalami stated that although the governors are in a difficult situation, it is their responsibility to guard their states.
According to him, ethnic disharmony is rearing itself all over the place.
“You could see where the herders are being chased from some of parts of the Southern states and their cattle are being killed. Certainly, this heightened tension in the country,” he said.
On how state governors can contribute to ensuring peace and stability, he urged them to ensure that their states are secured for both indigenes and non-indigenes and to also be mindful of their public utterances.
“Governors must make sure there is law and order in their states and they should watch their utterances because what they say is what people would take it as an order. They should not say anything that would be misread,” he stated.
He also called for dialogue among the people where crimes are being committed, saying: “If someone is committing a crime, they should be arrested and prosecuted. And it is their responsibility to secure the lives of all Nigerians who are living within their state.”
Abdulsalami added that the NPC is consulting with the federal government on how to reduce insecurity in Nigeria.
He said: “The government of the day whether at the state or federal level, we are discussing with them and advising them what steps to take so that peace can reign in our country. And on the part of the population, we are mobilising them and sensitising them to play their own role in giving peace a chance and be each other’s keeper and also to realise that there is strength in our diversity.
“In terms of what an individual can do, it is to make sure that we liaise with the government and help with providing intelligence.”
Reacting to the clamour for the creation of state police, he said state governments should think through their decisions before creating one.
He said: “When there is a necessity to have state police, so be it, so that the states can have control on their authority so that as the chief security officers of their states, the governors would be able to deploy where they feel there is a need for security. But this cannot be done in haste; we must sit down and look at the pros and cons.
“When we were growing up, there were state police, but now people are afraid they would use state police to intimidate political opponents and I think it is neither here nor there.”
He advised the new service chiefs to look into the welfare of the troops, the utilisation of weapons and all equipment under their care and proper utilisation of the troops under their command.
The former military ruler also stressed the need for a gathering of intelligence through human and equipment intelligence.
“I believe all the service chiefs and generals and officers are capable people once they can properly look after, I am absolutely sure they would do well,” he said.
He also pleaded with the kidnapers of Kagara pupils and parents in Niger State to release their captives unhurt.
He said: “On behalf of all Nigerians, I sympathise with the parents of all those children who have been kidnapped. It is very sad and unfortunate, and I appeal to all these kidnappers to let God touch their mind and let them stop what they are doing. You kidnap someone and demand money; what are you going to do with that money? In your conscience would you enjoy that money?”
Govs Demand Prosecution of Criminals
Governors yesterday blamed the spike in insecurity in the country on porous borders and the illegal proliferation of arms in Nigeria just as they demanded the prosecution of criminals without consideration for their ethnic or religious affiliations.
The governors, who promised to dedicate part of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to security, also rejected the ethnic profiling of crimes in the country, while restating their commitments to protect lives and property.
Addressing journalists after their meeting in Abuja, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said: “Governors are concerned about border management in the country. We have received a number of calls from our colleagues that these crimes are associated with the porous borders in the country and we are concerned about the importance of strengthening the ECOWAS trans-human border protocol in order to address the movement of cattle across borders.
“We also, believe that the porosity of our borders is responsible for the proliferation of light weapons and this has led to disagreement between farmers and herders in the violence we witnessed. Most of the people are seen to be carrying AK-47 arms. ”
He added that the governors are also concerned about synergy among the mainstream security agencies and states’ security institutions or local security arrangements that emanated to respond to the current situations like the vigilante groups, civilian JTF, and Amotekun.
Fayemi said there was the need for them to synergise so that they would not take laws into their hands taking into accounts the fundamental human rights of those who may be innocent of crimes in their jurisdictions.
According to him, the forum has provided some financial support to victims of the conflicts in Oyo and Ogun States.
Fayemi said the governors had impressed it on their people that crime and criminality should be prosecuted without ethnic, religious or any other colouration.
“Governors are totally opposed to ethnic profiling of crime. Knowing what has transpired in other parts of the world, whether we are talking of the way youths were profiled in Germany leading to the World War, or we talking of the way Tutsi were profiled leading to the genocide experienced in Rwanda, we do not believe that crimes are associated with a particular ethnic group,” he said.
He stated that the governors condemned any attempt to profile any ethnic group on account of a particular crime.
He said the governors also condemned the proliferation of fake news and the abuse of social media.
He implored both the mainstream media organisations as well as individuals to apply restraint in how issues relating to the security of lives and property are reported.
Fayemi said the meeting also reviewed the challenges of resourcing for military institutions and commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the appointment of new services chiefs, whom they pledged to work with.
“On our part, we are prepared to support the dedication of portions of the Excess Crude Account and the Natural Resource Development Fund and the Economic Stabilisation Fund to providing the necessary equipment for the military and other security institutions to address immediately the impunity associated with all of the crimes and the criminality that we have highlighted in this briefing,” he added.
He stated that the governors also expressed their interest in strengthening the judicial system so that they can accelerate access to justice for victims of crime and criminality.
The governors, Fayemi said, also reviewed the need to strengthen the National Livestock Transformation Plan as the traditional approach to grazing was no longer sustainable and the country should come up with a modern approach to livestock management.