By Peter Duru & John Mkom
•I’m in Taraba to condole with Mambila people – Buhari
•More visits to Yobe, Rivers, Zamfara, Benue — PRESIDENCY
•We’ll welcome President Buhari — Benue govt
•President’s visits, an afterthought — Fayose
JALINGO — President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed that any Fulani man found in possession of AK-47 rifles should be charged to court.
The President said this in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital during a visit to the state to commiserate with people that lost loved ones in the wake of violence that engulfed the area recently.
“Any Fulani man caught with AK-47 should be charged to court.”
He spoke at Government House, Jalingo, and lamented lack of oneness and inability of the people to live together in peace as brothers and sisters.
He said his reason to visit Taraba State first was informed by the large-scale killing at Mambila Plateau which he described as more than the number of those killed in Benue and Zamfara states
He said he will soon embark on the same visit to Zamfara and Benue states, also to condole with those who lost their loved ones.
The President called on the traditional rulers in the state to go to their chiefdoms and preach peace among their subjects for peaceful coexistence among their people.
He said traditional rulers in Nigeria were the main land lords, while politicians like himself as the President and Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State were visitors who might not stay on their seats for ever.
“Any Fulani man caught with AK-47 should be charged to court. You, the traditional rulers are going to remain on your stools till you die; Ishaku (the governor) and I may not last on our seats for long but you are going to be there till you die.
“Please go to your domains and initiate peace among your people. These killings will not help us,” President Buhari said.
The representatives of Yandan, Fulani and Mambila tribes who were allowed to speak on the occasion, called on the President to instil justice in the land for the people to live in peace.
Earlier in his comment, Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, appreciated the President for finding time to visit the state for condolences.
Ishaku said the crisis in the state had hindered speedy development which the state government initially initiated.
He pleaded with with the President to mobilize more security personnel in the state to forestall further crisis among the people.
Buhari planning more visits to Benue, Zamfara, Yobe, Rivers
President Muhammadu Buhari is planning more trips to Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Yobe and Rivers states, which have recorded different forms of violence in 2018.
The development comes weeks after the President was criticised for not visiting the states to sympathise with the people.
On Saturday, images of the President at a wedding ceremony in Kano sparked negative reactions on social media.
Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, disclosed news of the President’s visit to the state in a statement yesterday.
This is even as Benue State Government stated yesterday that the visit will afford the people ample opportunity to table their problems before the President, as President Buhari started the assessment with a visist to Taraba yesterday.
On the President’s proposed visit to the troubled states, Adesina said: “In view of recent terrorist attacks, criminal activities and communal clashes in some states leading to tragic loss of lives and kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls, President Buhari immediately tasked the Armed Forces and other Security agencies to compile comprehensive reports on the various incidents.
“Having received and studied the reports, the President has decided to undertake an on-the-spot assessment of the various occurrences and to meet and console the communities affected.
“From today, March 5, he will visit Taraba, and subsequently Benue, Yobe, Zamfara and Rivers states.
“President Buhari has been receiving daily briefings, and has been in constant touch with the governors, and has been updated with situation reports.
“The President calls on all Nigerians, especially those in the affected areas, to cooperate fully with the security agencies to enable them curb the spate of crimes, bring those responsible to justice and prevent further occurrences.”
Benue govt reacts
Reacting to the President’s proposed visit, Special Adviser to Governor Samuel Ortom on Media and Publicity, Mr. Tahav Agerzua, said the state had long expected the President’s visit.
He said: “The entire country is his constituency and he is at liberty to visit any part of the country for any reason if his schedule permits him.
“For the people of Benue, if you recall, the delegation that visited him after the New Year day killings that claimed the lives of over 73 people, told him to visit the state. Several people have also told him and criticized him for not coming to commiserate with the people of the states.
“So if he has decided in his wisdom to visit and if his schedule permits, then we shall welcome him and table our problems before him. He has the constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of our people.
“The constitution expects him to do that and we expect that he shall give account to God for the privileged and opportunity to govern the country and to provide good governance.”
Why President and I have not visited troubled areas — Osinbajo
Meanwhile, the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had last weekend, spoken on the reason he and President Buhari have not visited Dapchi in Yobe State where 110 students were abducted two weeks ago.
Both men have been criticised for not paying condolence visits to places where abductions and avoidable deaths were recorded in recent times.
Speaking with journalists, Osinbajo said while the government has expressed sympathy with the people, condolence visits alone would not solve the problem.
He listed some of the measures which the government has embarked upon to reduce killings and widespread violence.
Osinbajo said: “There is no amount of condolence that can compensate for the loss of life. Benue killing is one set of killing far too much; there is no amount of condolence that can compensate for that. And I want to say that it’s a massive tragedy.
“But the question that you seem to ask I’ve been to Zamfara, I’ve been to Adamawa when this killing took place. There are those who said, ‘oh, why don’t you visit the Fulani settlement, why do visit only where Christians were?’
“I even visited Benue in September where there have been killing before, then I’ve visited them when the flooding took place and we looked at all the issues and tried to address many of these. There have been several of these issues in different places, recently Dapchi. We have expressed condolences, but no amount of condolence would do. The more important thing and our focus has been, is first of all ensuring security in these places.”
Buhari’s visits, an afterthought — Fayose
Reacting to the visit to Taraba yesterday by the President, Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, described the visit to Taraba and planned visit to Benue, Zamfara, Yobe and Rivers states as an after-thought.
In a statement issued on his behalf by Lere Olayinka, his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Fayose wondered why the President “refused” to visit the people immediately after the killings and abduction.
He likened the President to a selfish king who went on making merry while his people were in agony only to show up when the people had already buried their loved ones that were gruesomely murdered, got over their anguish and moved on with their lives.
Fayose, who accused Buhari of visiting those states because of his re-election bid, said: “Obviously, the president is more concerned about his reelection in 2019 and his visit to those states that he abandoned during their times of trouble is to seek for votes, not to sympathise with the people of the states on their loses.
“On January 9 and 12, this year, 88 victims of herdsmen attacks were given mass burial in Taraba state. Also on January 11, 2018, another 73 persons killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue state were buried in a mass grave in Makurdi, the state capital.
“Meaning that in Taraba and Benue states alone, 161 Nigerians were given mass burial within three days! This never caught the attention of our president. Rather, it was a visit to Nasarawa, a neighbouring state to Benue that was important to him.
“To further demonstrate his lack of compassion for Nigerians, while the entire nation, especially parents of the 110 abducted school girls in Dapchi, Yobe state are still in anguish, President Buhari went to Kano last Saturday to attend a social function, thus sparking negative reactions from Nigerians.
“Apparently, it was the negative reactions of Nigerians, especially on social media and the effects on the president’s reelection bid that necessitated his hurried visit to Taraba state today, and planned visits to Benue, Zamfara, Yobe and Rivers states.
“I am sure the people of Taraba state won’t be hoodwinked by the President’s cosmetic sympathy, show of concern and crocodile tears, which he never bothered to shed when hundreds of indigenes of the State were being killed by suspected herdsmen.
“Nigerians can no longer be deceived by a president who never cared for them when they needed him most. Therefore, no amount of hurriedly organised campaign visits will sway the people.”
Visits, bid to hoodwink voters — PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the imminent visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Taraba, Benue and other crisis-prone areas where innocent lives were lost recently as an afterthought and a move to further hoodwink the people ahead of the 2019 general elections.
In a statement issued by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP lamented the eleventh hour decision of the President to pay a condolence visit to the affected states after months of tragedy wrecked on them by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
“Many Nigerians have dismissed the planned visits of President Buhari to these states as cosmetic afterthought. Nigerians have already formed their opinion of him, and rightly so, as a President that has never shown them concern in their time of need.
“It is alarming that Mr. President will consider visiting some of these states months after marauders, insurgents and bandits committed their havocs. Mr. President has been in the country and never thought it necessary to pay a condolence visit to any of these states until Nigerians raised the alarm alleging a manifest indifference on his part.
“It is even more pathetic that in Benue state, President Buhari summoned the leaders of the bereaved people to the Presidential villa, Abuja, rather than complying with the age-long tradition of Africans by visiting the bereaved,” the statement read.