By Chimezie Godfrey
The Northern Elders Forum has called on the government and all stakeholders to de-escalate the ethnic tension in the country.
The Forum stressed that continuing narratives and threats, including comments from responsible Nigerians, including elected officials are raising fears and passions that could make it easy to break more laws of the land and pitch citizens against each other.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Forum’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed.
“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,” they stated.
The Forum also revealed that 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.
According to them, 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.
They decried the fact that the latest communication by the Yoruba Council of Elders to the United Nations is an example of lamentable desperation of some groups to erode the security and integrity of the country, adding that this is more regrettable that it is the handiwork of so-called elders who should forfeit all rights to that honour.
The Forum reiterates its commitment 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,” they stated.
The Forum advised 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 Forum further stressed that fight against armed criminals must be pursued on all fronts and with a lot more seriousness.
They added that criminals must not reap from the suspicions and fears which their activities also generate.