9 February 2018

Nigeria: No Plan to Colonise Any Part of Nigeria - Buhari

Photo: Premium Times
Nigerian flags.

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja explained that the policy proposed by the federal government to tackle the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country is not meant to colonise any part of the country.

He made this clarification in view of the vehement opposition to the policy in many parts of Nigeria by those who fear the plan was to subjugate them in their own lands. Receiving Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), led by Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev ( Dr) Ignatius Kaigama, President Buhari said the intention of government was to create grazing locations for cattle breeders, but he lamented that the plan has now been misconstrued as another form of colonisation.

In a statement by his special assistant on media, Femi Adesina, President Buhari expressed regret that the well-thought-out policy of the federal government, which was conceived after wide consultations with stakeholders, had been largely misunderstood by a section of the public. He, however, assured the Catholic Bishops that the federal government would continue to explore all opportunities and support initiatives to ensure peace and stability in restive areas.

The bishops had counseled the president to concentrate his efforts at providing the right leadership that will solve the country's many problems, especially the wanton killings in parts of the country, rather than allow himself to be distracted by calls for him to seek re-election. But condemning the recent spate of killings in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, and Zamfara states, the president said security operatives would ensure the prosecution of perpetrators and all those found with illegal arms in the affected areas.

"The impression created - that I was sitting in an air-conditioned office and home enjoying myself while these things happened - is dishonest. "At every step, I have tried to foresee these problems because I have the experience as a former military officer who commanded three out of the four divisions of the Nigerian Army, in Lagos, Ibadan and Jos. "I am quite aware of the problems we have and I am doing my best to get law enforcement agencies to be on alert," he said.

Buhari told the bishops that he would not be tired of recounting the remarkable progress recorded in the areas of security, economy and the fight against corruption. "We have done very well on security in the North East, when you compare what the condition was before we came in and what it is now. "On the economy, particularly agriculture,

I am very pleased that God answered the prayers of Nigerians who prayed for bountiful harvest. "People have taken advantage of federal government policies and programmes to return to the farm and they have not regretted," he said. On the fight against corruption, the president reiterated that government would be guided by the law in the investigation and prosecution of all graft-related cases.

"People are being prosecuted systematically with evidence," he said. "If a permanent secretary has five houses in Abuja, two in Kaduna and one in Borno and Sokoto and he can't account for the properties and there are bank transactions linking him to the properties, the prosecuting agencies will not have difficulties to make progress on the case."

On the question of federal character, the president declared that no ethnic group or political zone has been deliberately marginalised in the appointments made so far. He, however, added that he would take a second look at areas on which issues had been raised when a compendium of all government appointments is submitted to him. In his remarks, Archbishop Kaigama pledged that the Catholic Church in Nigeria would continue to support the Buhari administration and make its contribution to nation-building through prayers, admonitions and assistance to needy Nigerians. "As the voice of the people, we shall continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitising the government, thus promoting good governance, national unity and cohesion," Kaigama said.

Meanwhile, in their presentation made available to State House correspondents, leader of the delegation, Archbishop Kaigama told the president that poverty, hunger, insecurity and violence were at the core of issues fast depleting the goodwill initially enjoyed by the government when it came to power in 2015. According to the clerics, there is a general feeling of hopelessness across the country, with youths exhibiting restive tendencies while many others are hooked on hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crimes.

Kaigama described the entire country as being in a state of nervousness, a development, he said, should worry the president, and indeed, all political leaders in the country rather than any bid for re-election in 2019. While commenting on the spate of killings in Benue and other states occasioned by farmersherdsmen clashes, he said the seeming silence by the presidency was 'shocking'. The bishops described the clashes between farmers and herdsmen, where innocent lives are being lost, as very embarrassing to the nation.

"Your Excellency, needless to say that, as president, you are the father of our dear country, Nigeria. It is therefore pertinent that as loyal citizens as well as informed members of the society, we come to you from time to time to express not only our willing cooperation with the government in working for the progress of our country, but also to share with you the feelings of the multitude of Nigerians at this moment. "We work with the people at the grassroots and, therefore, have first-hand information about what they are going through.

"There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption. "Nearly three years later, however, one has the feeling that this good will is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government which we have the moral responsibility to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders.

"There is too much suffering in the country: poverty, hunger, insecurity, violence, fear - the list is endless. Our beloved country appears to be under siege; many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenceless ones. "There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country.

Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crimes, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The nation is nervous. "Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country."

The bishops expressed sadness that innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are repeatedly and brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood senselessly destroyed. "Lives are wasted and property, worth billions of Naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes," Kaigama told the president. "We are still more saddened by the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by these terrorists in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba states which has caused national shock, grief and outcry. "The silence of the federal government in the wake of these horrifying attacks is, to say the least, shocking. There is a feeling of helplessness among the people and the danger that some people may begin to take the law into their hands." The religious leaders advised Buhari not to take killings in the country with levity, but that he must be preoccupied with protecting the lives and property of citizens and jettison calls for re-election.

He said, "We, therefore, earnestly urge the government to take very seriously, its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of its citizens and ensure that such mindless killings do not reoccur. "Herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy, but this is never to be done at the expense of other people's lives and means of livelihood. We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought rather than introducing "cattle colonies" in the country."

The bishop reminded the president that while thinking about how best to help cattle owners establish ranches, government should equally have plans to help the other farmers "whose produce is essential for our survival as a nation." Kaigama also advised the presidency to sit up and tackle the growing menace of kidnapping in the country, which seems to have overwhelmed the government and placed the people in a state of helplessness.

"In a similar vein, daredevil kidnappers, who at present are having a field day, with a feeling of invincibility, must be made to understand that there is a government in this country. "Government should invest more in equipping our Police Force with modern hightech devices that will help them track down and arrest these criminals and make them face the wrath of the law," he said. On the alleged serial breaches of the federal character principle by the president, the clerics urged the government to ensure equality in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

The archbishop quoted the constitution to impress it on the president to spread his appointments across all parts of the country. "The Federal Character Principle is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: 'The government of the Federation or any of its agencies, the conduct of its affairs, shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.

"Disregard for this principle in some federal government appointments as well as perceptible imbalance in the distribution of federal amenities have created the loss of a sense of belonging in many parts of the country, hence the constant cries of marginalisation, agitation for secession and calls for restructuring.

"These and many more such problems are, in our opinion, grave matters that should be worrying all political leaders in our country today, rather than any bid for re-election," he said. Kaigama further noted that the Catholic Church had always complemented the efforts of government in such areas as providing quality education and primary health care services to the people. "We continue to make our contribution to nation-building through our prayers, admonitions and assistance to needy Nigerians whenever we can.

As the voice of the voiceless, we shall continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitising the government, thus promoting good governance, national unity and cohesion. "We strongly feel that everybody in government at this moment has to take more decisive steps to restore the confidence of the Nigerian people in our governments. "Our collective efforts must be seen in the desire to return to the fine principles of democracy, such as true federalism negotiation and consensus building, as means of achieving a more equitable distribution of the resources of our country and good governance," he said.

BY JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH,

Abuja President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja explained that the policy proposed by the federal government to tackle the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country is not meant to colonise any part of the country. He made this clarification in view of the vehement opposition to the policy in many parts of Nigeria by those who fear the plan was to subjugate them in their own lands. Receiving Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), led by Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev ( Dr) Ignatius Kaigama, President Buhari said the intention of government was to create grazing locations for cattle breeders, but he lamented that the plan has now been misconstrued as another form of colonisation.

In a statement by his special assistant on media, Femi Adesina, President Buhari expressed regret that the well-thought-out policy of the federal government, which was conceived after wide consultations with stakeholders, had been largely misunderstood by a section of the public. He, however, assured the Catholic Bishops that the federal government would continue to explore all opportunities and support initiatives to ensure peace and stability in restive areas.

The bishops had counseled the president to concentrate his efforts at providing the right leadership that will solve the country's many problems, especially the wanton killings in parts of the country, rather than allow himself to be distracted by calls for him to seek re-election. But condemning the recent spate of killings in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, and Zamfara states, the president said security operatives would ensure the prosecution of perpetrators and all those found with illegal arms in the affected areas.

"The impression created - that I was sitting in an air-conditioned office and home enjoying myself while these things happened - is dishonest. "At every step, I have tried to foresee these problems because I have the experience as a former military officer who commanded three out of the four divisions of the Nigerian Army, in Lagos, Ibadan and Jos. "I am quite aware of the problems we have and I am doing my best to get law enforcement agencies to be on alert," he said.

Buhari told the bishops that he would not be tired of recounting the remarkable progress recorded in the areas of security, economy and the fight against corruption. "We have done very well on security in the North East, when you compare what the condition was before we came in and what it is now. "On the economy, particularly agriculture,

I am very pleased that God answered the prayers of Nigerians who prayed for bountiful harvest. "People have taken advantage of federal government policies and programmes to return to the farm and they have not regretted," he said. On the fight against corruption, the president reiterated that government would be guided by the law in the investigation and prosecution of all graft-related cases.

"People are being prosecuted systematically with evidence," he said. "If a permanent secretary has five houses in Abuja, two in Kaduna and one in Borno and Sokoto and he can't account for the properties and there are bank transactions linking him to the properties, the prosecuting agencies will not have difficulties to make progress on the case."

On the question of federal character, the president declared that no ethnic group or political zone has been deliberately marginalised in the appointments made so far. He, however, added that he would take a second look at areas on which issues had been raised when a compendium of all government appointments is submitted to him. In his remarks, Archbishop Kaigama pledged that the Catholic Church in Nigeria would continue to support the Buhari administration and make its contribution to nation-building through prayers, admonitions and assistance to needy Nigerians. "As the voice of the people, we shall continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitising the government, thus promoting good governance, national unity and cohesion," Kaigama said.

Meanwhile, in their presentation made available to State House correspondents, leader of the delegation, Archbishop Kaigama told the president that poverty, hunger, insecurity and violence were at the core of issues fast depleting the goodwill initially enjoyed by the government when it came to power in 2015. According to the clerics, there is a general feeling of hopelessness across the country, with youths exhibiting restive tendencies while many others are hooked on hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crimes.

Kaigama described the entire country as being in a state of nervousness, a development, he said, should worry the president, and indeed, all political leaders in the country rather than any bid for re-election in 2019. While commenting on the spate of killings in Benue and other states occasioned by farmersherdsmen clashes, he said the seeming silence by the presidency was 'shocking'. The bishops described the clashes between farmers and herdsmen, where innocent lives are being lost, as very embarrassing to the nation.

"Your Excellency, needless to say that, as president, you are the father of our dear country, Nigeria. It is therefore pertinent that as loyal citizens as well as informed members of the society, we come to you from time to time to express not only our willing cooperation with the government in working for the progress of our country, but also to share with you the feelings of the multitude of Nigerians at this moment. "We work with the people at the grassroots and, therefore, have first-hand information about what they are going through.

"There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption. "Nearly three years later, however, one has the feeling that this good will is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government which we have the moral responsibility to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders.

"There is too much suffering in the country: poverty, hunger, insecurity, violence, fear - the list is endless. Our beloved country appears to be under siege; many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenceless ones. "There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country.

Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crimes, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The nation is nervous. "Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country."

The bishops expressed sadness that innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are repeatedly and brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood senselessly destroyed. "Lives are wasted and property, worth billions of Naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes," Kaigama told the president. "We are still more saddened by the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by these terrorists in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba states which has caused national shock, grief and outcry. "The silence of the federal government in the wake of these horrifying attacks is, to say the least, shocking. There is a feeling of helplessness among the people and the danger that some people may begin to take the law into their hands." The religious leaders advised Buhari not to take killings in the country with levity, but that he must be preoccupied with protecting the lives and property of citizens and jettison calls for re-election.

He said, "We, therefore, earnestly urge the government to take very seriously, its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of its citizens and ensure that such mindless killings do not reoccur. "Herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy, but this is never to be done at the expense of other people's lives and means of livelihood. We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought rather than introducing "cattle colonies" in the country."

The bishop reminded the president that while thinking about how best to help cattle owners establish ranches, government should equally have plans to help the other farmers "whose produce is essential for our survival as a nation." Kaigama also advised the presidency to sit up and tackle the growing menace of kidnapping in the country, which seems to have overwhelmed the government and placed the people in a state of helplessness.

"In a similar vein, daredevil kidnappers, who at present are having a field day, with a feeling of invincibility, must be made to understand that there is a government in this country. "Government should invest more in equipping our Police Force with modern hightech devices that will help them track down and arrest these criminals and make them face the wrath of the law," he said. On the alleged serial breaches of the federal character principle by the president, the clerics urged the government to ensure equality in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

The archbishop quoted the constitution to impress it on the president to spread his appointments across all parts of the country. "The Federal Character Principle is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: 'The government of the Federation or any of its agencies, the conduct of its affairs, shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.

"Disregard for this principle in some federal government appointments as well as perceptible imbalance in the distribution of federal amenities have created the loss of a sense of belonging in many parts of the country, hence the constant cries of marginalisation, agitation for secession and calls for restructuring.

"These and many more such problems are, in our opinion, grave matters that should be worrying all political leaders in our country today, rather than any bid for re-election," he said. Kaigama further noted that the Catholic Church had always complemented the efforts of government in such areas as providing quality education and primary health care services to the people. "We continue to make our contribution to nation-building through our prayers, admonitions and assistance to needy Nigerians whenever we can.

As the voice of the voiceless, we shall continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitising the government, thus promoting good governance, national unity and cohesion. "We strongly feel that everybody in government at this moment has to take more decisive steps to restore the confidence of the Nigerian people in our governments. "Our collective efforts must be seen in the desire to return to the fine principles of democracy, such as true federalism negotiation and consensus building, as means of achieving a more equitable distribution of the resources of our country and good governance," he said.

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