By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF), on Monday, in Abuja said only a collective national approach would mitigate the problems cattle herding poses to the economy, the farmers, the herders themselves and their host communities.
This is even as the Northern elders urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately meet with the 36 State Governors and the Service Chiefs with a view to examining how the current tensions in parts of the country, especially the Southwest can be de-escalated.
The Forum, which spoke ahead of a meeting between the Governors in the Southwest and Fulani organizations tomorrow (Tuesday), maintained that both national, and regional strategies would be required to tackle the herdsmen menace.
This was contained in a statement by NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in Abuja.
He said, “Northern Elders Forum has closely followed developments involving Fulani communities, host communities and governments in Oyo and Ondo States as well as reactions across the entire country.
“The Forum is deeply concerned that the country is threatened by irresponsible actions and comments by people with the responsibility to exercise caution and provide constructive leadership.
“We believe it is time for the federal government to recognize and deal with the issue of cattle herding as a national challenge, and adopt policies that will mitigate the problems it poses to the economy, farmers, herders and all communities.
“Most importantly, the Forum advises President Muhammadu Buhari to meet immediately with all State Governors and heads of security and law and order agencies to examine how the current tensions in the country can be de-escalated.
“Events in the Southwest are assuming national dimensions, and only a national approach will provide short and long term solutions.”
The Forum noted that the task before the Governors remained daunting, adding that more needed to be done to reduce the tension posed by cattle herding in the communities.
NEF said, “The Forum is aware of the limitations of all State Governors in terms of their capacities to adequately respond to the security needs of populations.
“The resort to regional outfits like Amotekun and other self-appointed guardians of security of communities are not solutions to these limitations.
“In the last few days, the nation has noticed the problems with these outfits and actions of the locals who masquerade as defenders of ethnic interests.
“At all cost, Nigerians who break the law should have no cover or immunity, whether they are Fulani or local enforcers or organizations
“The Forum, however, appeals to all Nigerians to exercise great restraint in their comments and actions in these trying times. It also appeals to leaders at all levels to contribute to the search for solutions to developing threats which will make all our lives worse.”
On the proposed meeting between the Southwest Governors and the herdsmen organizations in the region, the Northern elders expressed hope that it would achieve the objective of guaranteeing the protection of Fulani communities living lawfully in the Southwest as well as the safety of other citizens.
“The Forum notes that Governors in the South West are to meet with Fulani organizations tomorrow, Tuesday, January 26th, a day after the expiration of the quit order issued by Governor of Ondo State to Fulani herders to leave a forest reserve.
“The meeting will take place in the context of rising fear among Fulani communities from threats and their experiences in the last few days. Persons who are known to threaten Fulani communities and have attacked them are still free.
“The Forum hopes that the meeting will achieve the objective of assuring Fulani communities living lawfully in the South West that they will be protected, and assure all other citizens in the South West States that they will continue to receive the protection of the State from kidnappings and other crimes,” the statement added