By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
THE Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has raised the alarm that some elites and elected public officers were bent on manipulating the herdsmen crisis in parts of the country to create fear among Nigerians and cause a major war involving groups and regions.
A statement on Friday by NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said there were attempts to create multiple sources of falsehoods and other inflammatory materials related to the herdsmen debacle with a view to inciting the people to act violently against each other.
He said the latest communication from the Yoruba Council of Elders to the United Nation was proof of efforts to also lobby the international community into believing that some ethnic groups were intent on mass extermination of other groups.
So, the Forum advised President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 State Governors to consult and explore measures that will lower the tensions and assure all Nigerians every citizen has an equal right to live in secure environments.
The statement reads, “The Northern Elders Forum is constrained to invite the nation’s attention to the dangers of sustained attempts to raise tensions and create fear among Nigerians until, presumably, they lead to a major crisis involving groups and regions in the country.
“In the last few weeks, we have led many responsible groups and individuals to appeal for restraint and respect for the law in the way we engineer developments that cause tensions or react to them.
“Now the nation is facing imminent threats from persons who are bent on pushing all of us nearer to disaster, to help them achieve their nefarious goals.
“The Forum particularly notes that continuing narratives and threats, including comments from seemingly responsible Nigerians and even elected officials who swore to protect the rights of all citizens and the survival of the country, are raising fears and passions that could make it easy to break more laws of the land and pitch citizens against each other.
“There are efforts to create multiple sources of falsehood in videos and other inflammatory materials in the media clearly targeted at inciting people to act violently against each other.
“Allegations of planned or actual genocide are being made with reckless abandon, and even the international community is being lobbied in futile efforts to sell the fiction that some groups are intent on mass extermination of other groups.
“The latest communication from the Yoruba Council of Elders to the United Nations is an example of lamentable desperation of some groups to erode our security and integrity as a country, and it is more regrettable that it is the handiwork of so-called elders who should forfeit all rights to that honour.”
“The Forum commits to continue to work to retrieve the country from the dangerous cliff where it has been placed by irresponsible people, many of them in positions of responsibility.”
The Northern elders said they plan to meet with governors in the North and South to improve responsible collaboration and synergy.
“We also intend to visit the communities where we have the influence to lower tensions and provide assurances and comfort.
“We repeat our demands that Fulani who has broken no laws must be protected from abuse wherever they are. We ask all governments to identify criminals among the Fulani and subject them to the laws of the land.
“Similarly, we demand the cessation of threats and attacks by local ethnic defenders on Fulani communities. People who have broken the law by attacking and harassing Fulani for just being Fulani must be brought to book.
“We encourage all law-abiding herders to stay put and seek protection, and if they cannot be protected, to relocate to safer areas in the country.
“We urge northern governors to prepare to receive law-abiding Fulani herders who may be compelled to relocate.
“We urge all northerners to assure Nigerians from other parts of the country that they are safe and welcome to continue to stay in the north.
“The Forum repeats: it is not a crime to be a member of any ethnic group, and no one has the right to attempt to expel any Nigerian from places where they live lawfully.
“The Forum advises President Muhammadu Buhari and Governors to consult and explore measures that will lower tensions and assure all Nigerians that we live in a country where laws have meanings, and all citizens have equal rights to live in secure environments.
“The fight against armed criminals must be pursued on all fronts and a lot more seriously. The criminal must not reap from the suspicions and fears which his activities also generate,” the statement added.