The Northern Governors Forum (NEF) has called for the stoppage of attacks on innocent Fulani herders in South-East, South-West and South-South states.
The governors said innocent herders should not be vilified while those found wanting should be handed over to the law enforcement agencies.
But governors in the South West, while responding to the call, said there was the need for authorities in Northern Nigeria to call “killer herdsmen” to order.
There is tension occasioned by the blame game between herders and residents in many states in the South with attendant deaths and destructions.
While people in the South accused herders of atrocities, some Fulani leaders living in the region said not all of them are criminals.
Herders’ settlements have been torched in Oyo, Ondo, Ogun and Edo States, and there is heightened tension in Abia, a development that prompted some prominent personalities and groups to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to act fast.
An elder statesman, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, had three days ago called on the president to wade into the matter to avert reprisal against people of Southern extraction living in the North.
It was about the same time when the Northern Elders Forum, through its spokesman, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, made a similar call. On Wednesday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said it was wrong for one part of the country to lord it over another.
What the Northern governors said
The Chairman of the Northern Governor Forum and governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong, frowned at recent events in the South, saying they were against the peace move by the Nigerian Governors Forum ((NGF).
He recalled in a statement on Thursday the intervention of the NGF led by its Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi, who met with stakeholders in Akure, Ondo State to calm the tension and forge an amicable resolution of the issues was commendable.
“While such intervention was celebrated as a success to be sustained through further engagement between herdsmen and representatives of affected communities, emerging reports of attacks on herders and the gradual introduction of ethnic sentiments in the conflict is disturbing and should immediately be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand.
“The Northern Governors Forum concedes to the rights of Nigerians to reside wherever they so desire without any molestation or discrimination.
“The criminal elements should not be used to tar any particular ethnic group for any crime as that will portend danger to peaceful coexistence and national unity.
“Rather, such criminal elements should be exposed, isolated and made to face the law of the land without prejudice to their ethnic backgrounds as the motives or criminal actions cannot be said to be the position of their ethnic group.
“In the face of the recent worrisome developments, therefore, the Northern Governors Forum calls for calm and cautions Nigerians particularly those in the affected areas who might have been aggrieved or targeted to exercise restraint,” the statement said.
Lalong said the country was already going through a lot, and that escalating tensions would aggravate the situation to levels that could threaten national security.
Lalong called on leaders across political, ethnic, religious and community lines to avoid utterances and actions that would further fan the embers of distrust, hate, violence and retaliation which can easily escalate the situation and cause chaos.
He equally called on government officials, traditional rulers and opinion moulders to also “rise and speak with one voice by not only condemning crime no matter who is involved but also sending the right signals to those who want to take the laws into their hands and trample on the Nigerian Constitution by attempting to deny others the rights to live and pursue their legitimate business in whatever place they choose to reside.
“Security agencies must also be firm and rise to the occasion by protecting all law-abiding citizens against the threat to their lives and properties irrespective of their ethnic or other affiliations.
“They should also send a clear and unambiguous message to those threatening the peace that they will act decisively to stop them from plunging the nation to anarchy.
“The Northern Governors Forum further assures Nigerians of all ethnic, religious and political persuasions of their constitutional rights to pursue their legitimate businesses wherever they choose within the region and appeal to the people to resist any attempt to lure them into any activity that can threaten the peace and tranquillity of the region and the nation at large,” the statement added.