From Okwe Obi, Abuja
Worried by the profiling of Fulani herders as kidnappers and killers, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), has urged the Federal Government to fish out those giving the region a bad, maintaining that not all of indulge in such acts.
Its Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a statement, yesterday, cautioned religious and political leaders against taking advantage of the situation to inflame passion capable of plunging the country into civil unrest.
Baba-Ahmed, however, expressed reservations over an attempt by some leaders in the South-East and South-West to eject Fulani herders in their regions, adding that the act was a breach of their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
He said: “Northern Elders Forum is constrained to invite the nation’s attention to the dangers of sustained attempts to raise tensions and create fears among Nigerians until, presumably, they lead to major crisis involving groups and regions in the country.
“In the last few weeks, the Forum has 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 by 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.
“Northern Elders 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.
“We have plans to meet with governors in the North and South to improve responsible collaboration and synergy, and we intend to visit communities where we have influence to lower tensions and provide assurances and comfort.
“We repeat our demands that Fulani who have 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 re-locate. 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 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 under secure environments.
“The fight against armed criminals must be pursued on all fronts and with a lot more seriousness.”