The Northern Governors Forum has said the lingering attacks against herdsmen in the South East and South West will aggravate Nigeria’s insecurity situation to levels that could threaten national security.
The forum says it is concerned by lingering reports that herdsmen belonging to a particular ethnic group are being attacked leading to loss of lives and properties.
Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Plateau State Simon Bako Lalong in a press release on Thursday recalls the recent intervention of the Nigerian Governors Forum 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.
He said 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.
“While the Northern Governors Forum concedes to the rights of Nigerians to reside wherever they so desire without any molestation or discrimination, it also emphasizes that 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,” he said.
The Forum calls for calm and cautions Nigerians particularly those in the affected areas who might have been aggrieved or targeted to exercise restraint.
Lalong cautioned leaders across political, ethnic, religious, and community lines should to avoid utterances and actions that further fan the embers of distrust, hate, violence, and retaliation which can easily escalate the situation and cause chaos.
He said, “relevant government officials, traditional rulers, and opinion molders must also rise up 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 equally be firm and rise up to the occasion by protecting all law-abiding citizens against threats 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 into anarchy.
The 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.