By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said that he was distressed and depressed by the atrocious ethno-religious killings in the country, appealing to Nigerians to learn to live together in peace and harmony.
This is as Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State has warned that any traditional or religious leader that protects criminal elements in Plateau State, will have the government to contend with.
Receiving leaders of the Church of Christ in Nations, COCIN, led by Rev. Dr. Dachollom Datiri, at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, in Abuja, President Buhari urged religious, community and traditional leaders to do more in promoting peaceful co-existence among Nigerians at different walks of life.
He said: “As an organised institution (COCIN), I have no reason to doubt your report on the atrocities being committed in your communities including the killing of Idris Alkali, a retired Major-General, the dumping of his car into a pond and the body of the deceased thrown into a disused well.
“The communities (in Plateau) have lived long enough to know that there is nothing they can do without each other than to live together in harmony.
“As leaders, we must persuade the upcoming generation, using every channel particularly the educational institutions, to live together with our neighbours.
“It is not all Muslims that are against Christians and neither are all Christians against Muslims. The leadership in the respective religions have to work harder to make sure they convince the coming generation that they have to live together in the same country.”
President Buhari assured the Christian delegation that he will continue to exert pressure on the Nigeria Police Force to do the needful in protecting lives and property.
His words: “In our security arrangement, the police is in the frontline in making sure that communities, irrespective of ethnic or religious bias, live together in peace.”
In his remarks, Datiri, while condemning the recent killing of an Army General in the state, chronicled recent attacks against Christian communities in Plateau and neighbouring States, resulting in the displacement of thousands of persons.
The cleric appealed to the Federal Government to ensure the safe return and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, to their communities, in addition to the rebuilding of places of worship destroyed in the unfortunate incidents.
Meanwhile, Governor Lalong, who spoke to State House correspondents after the meeting, said: “The delegation of COCIN leadership is at the invitation of Mr. President. “I joined the delegation because they are all Christian leaders from my state. It was in the interest of the state because all of us are searching for peace. I have been searching for peace in Plateau State so any move for peace in Plateau and Nigeria; I will put myself at the forefront. That is why you saw me today.”
On what he was doing to ensure the security and peace in Plateau State, he said: “Well, we have done a lot, including the rehabilitation of the IDPs. We set up a committee and they are submitting their report today.”
“The only one that put us back was the killing of the General. And I have also charged community leaders just like Mr. President said, I said if you want to ensure peace in your place, community leaders must also come out and expose criminals in their domain.
“But when they commit crime and community leaders or religious leaders fight to protect them that is why we have problems. If they had exposed the killers of Alkali earlier everything would have been solved. But there you have community and religious leaders who claimed to be religious, who claimed to be religious leaders hiding cr