From Okwe Obi, Abuja
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to address the challenges of cattle herding in Nigeria which it said has continued to cause problems across the country.
NEF Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a statement on Monday, announced that governors from the South-West would meet with the Fulani community in Oyo and Ondo states to amicably resolve the lingering problem.
The statement reads:
‘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.
‘The Forum notes that Governors in the South-West are to meet with Fulani organisations 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 be threatening Fulani communities and attacking 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 South-West states that they will continue to receive protection of the state from kidnappings and other crimes.
‘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 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 organisations.
‘The Forum believes it is time for the federal government to recognise 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 important, 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 South-West are assuming national dimensions, and only a national approach will provide short and long term solutions.
‘The Forum appeals to all Nigerians to exercise great restraint in their comments and actions in these trying times. It appeals to leaders at all levels to contribute to the search for solutions to developing threats which will make all our lives worse,’ he said.