By Chris Ochayi
ABUJA – The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, has exonerated Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria of any culpability in the recent killings of farmers in some parts of the country by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Speaking at the General Assembly of Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace, IDFP, Thursday, in Abuja, Sultan Abubakar III, said the organisation has no control over any Fulani man.
The religious leader, who rather attributed the massacre of innocent lives to the handiwork of some criminal elements, however, charged the Federal Government and the security apparatus to urgently fish out perpetrators of the heinous crime and prosecute them.
Sultan asked, “How is it possible for Fulani to attack settlements or communities to carry out killings of innocent people, destroy property and disappear without trace?
Sultan Abubakar III, said the Miyetti Allah was formed over 32 years to cater for welfare and advance the growth of Fulani business.
He said that any Fulani man carrying arms and ammunition is not a member of the Miyetti Allah, because the group which is now under his leadership as Grand Patron was never a criminal group.
Sultan Abubakar, who berated those calling for proscription of the group, challenged them to as well call for proscription of other Socio-ethnic organisations like the Afenifere, Ohanaeze ndi Igbo and Arewa Consultative Forum, among others.
According to him, “Miyetti Allah doesn’t control any Fulani man. Calling for proscription of Miyetti Allah is equivalent to calling for the proscription of other ethnic organisations like Afenifere, ACF, Ohanaeze and others
“It was formed 32 years ago and these crises were not there. I am the patron and we have never asked Fulani herdsman to kill anybody.
“Any Fulani man caught killing is a criminal and should be treated as such. What are the security agencies doing? If they have failed, they should accept that they have failed.
“What is going on is not an ethnic problem; it’s not a religious problem. It’s an economic problem.”
On the way out, the Sultan who advocated for dialogue, said, “What we need is to sit down and dialogue. As religious leaders, we have to be very careful with what we say, because it carries weight, our followers listen to us very seriously.
“We must believe in one another, trust and love ourselves because that is what our two major religions advocate. We must continue to speak with one voice. We should not be labelling everybody a criminal because his brother is a criminal.”
The royal father also added that, “People are say, label Miyetti Allah a terrorist group. No, we are not terrorists and can’t join terrorism.”
On the situation in Benue state, he recalled, “This thing didn’t start today, in the past eight years, I have been to Benue many times to discuss this issue.
“We had met for hours and agreements reached, yet nothing has been implemented. Why? The former governors of Benue are still alive and they know all these.
“Even the present governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom had written to me to come again with my peace mission, but we had not had the opportunity before this round of crisis.
“We must come to the bottom of this issue, how come these Fulani men are carrying guns without the security men knowing.
“I keep on repeating it, things are not okay, but they are not as bad as they are made to look especially in the social media. Let’s go round and speak to one another, not just staying in our comfort zones”, he said.
In his address, the President, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Dr. Samson Ayokunle accused some religious leaders of being insincere while commenting on the issue of killing of innocent people in the country.
Ayokunle, who was represented by the Bishop of Yola, Bishop Stephen Manza, said, as religious leaders, we need to condemn evil in this country. We seated here today as religious leaders, but how sincere in what we say?
He said, “Christians at all levels believe in peace. This is time for us to speak with one voice. But my concern is whether we are sincere in what we are doing.
“We religious leaders, we crevice people a lot. We say one thing when we have another thing in mind. Our tribal and religious affiliations have overshadowed our Nigerianness.
“The problem is that we keep mute once a person is killed and a member of our faith is not the victim.
“Another thing is that we identify with people of our faith even when the person is doing the wrong thing. We all know that President Muhammadu Buhari is not handling the security situation in the country well but certain persons are not talking may be because he is a Muslim.
“And when Jonathan was there, some Christian leaders kept quiet because he’s a Christian.”
On his part, Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Dioceses, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, however, assured Nigerians that the problem of insecurity threatening the soul of the nation was surmountable if Nigerians build trust among themselves.
According to him, “Nothing happening in this country now that is beyond us, it is within our hands. But just like the Bishop of Yola has said, we need sincerity.
“We shouldn’t be praying for peace, when in the real sense, we are the ones causing crises everywhere. Talking for peace will give peace if there is truth. So, we must learn to build trust, trusting one another. We must join hands to do what is right.”