President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday paid a surprise visit to Jos, the Plateau State capital, where he appealed to the people of state to bury their differences and work together for peace, in the aftermath of the latest attacks in which scores of people were ct areas of the state.
The president's only scheduled trip in the public domain as at yesterday was the official visit to Calabar where he commissioned the first seedlings and seed multiplication factory in Africa.
But after commissioning the factory in Cross River State, he jetted off to Plateau to commiserate with the people of the state over the gruesome murder of over 100 persons by suspected killer herdsmen between Saturday and Sunday.
Speaking at an interactive session with stakeholders in the state, Buhari urged traditional and community leaders to complement government efforts by persuading their constituencies to tolerate one another for peace and unity in the country.
The president vowed not to relent in his responsibility to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian, noting that he would not run away from it.
He said, "I will continue to pressurise members of the law enforcement agencies directly under me by the Constitution as the Commander-in Chief. About eight days ago, we had five hours security meeting of the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police. What happened here in Jos is very bad. The question of leadership, from your household to whatever you are, is justice.
"The bottom line is justice. That is why wherever I go, I will always appeal to the leadership of the communities, the law enforcement agencies to always have control of their constituencies".
Condemning the latest attacks in Plateau State, which left scores dead, President Buhari, who was accompanied to the meeting by the state governor, Simon Lalong, and his counterparts from Kebbi and Niger, condoled with the affected families, the government and people of the state and wished those injured a speedy recovery.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, noted that the president also used the occasion of the interactive session attended by traditional rulers, community and religious leaders, representatives of youth, women and trade union groups, security chiefs and some top government officials to appeal to Nigerians to avoid inflammatory utterances that endanger peace or promote conflicts.
Buhari said, "Whatever is being given to the media, we have to be very responsible about it. Take for instance the situation in Benue. The Benue subsistence farmer knows that the Nigerian cattle herder that he knows doesn't carry nothing more than a stick, occasionally sometimes something to cut grass to feed his cattle.
"But the present herder, I am told, carries AK47 and people are even blaming me for not talking to them because maybe (they say) I look like one of them. There is some injustice in these aspersions.
"It is noteworthy that many Nigerians still acknowledge that despite the security challenges, this administration has made notable successes in the security sector."
Earlier in his remarks, Governor Lalong blamed parties in the conflict in the state for reneging on their agreement to maintain peace, leading to the recent upsurge in violence, after nearly three years of calm and normalcy in the State.
"We are concerned as a state that the sophisticated weapons used in these attacks, from the evidences on the ground and the narrations of victims, are not those conventional to our environment for self-defence but reflective of a terrorist invasion.
"It, therefore, demands a justified response like that which was undertaken to address the Boko Haram insurgency," he said.
The governor also requested that given the number of villages completely ravaged in the violence, the Federal Government should establish an Emergency Special Intervention Fund to help reconstruct the destroyed communities.
Lalong said the latest attacks are very disturbing and alarming because they left behind the painful loss of over 200 people.
This, he said, is in addition to the humanitarian challenge confronting thousands of displaced persons whose houses and crops were burnt and completely destroyed.
Lalong said, "Your visit is no doubt comforting, coming less than 24 hours after the visit of Mr Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. This visit gives us the confidence to open up the grief in our hearts today, given the punctuation of the peace which we have worked so hard to achieve in the almost three years of our assumption of office.
"The gory pictures of the killing of innocent citizens, women and children continues to torment our hearts and it sends the serious message that something drastic needs to be done comprehensively to nip once and for all the ugly menace of attacks that has come to be associated with suspected militia herdsmen."
The governor noted that these recurring attacks have regrettably opened up space for all manner of criminality by criminal elements and conflict merchants who engage daily in cattle rustling, theft, banditry, gun running and other forms of crimes amongst our citizens.
He added that Plateau State is a beneficiary of the several security measures put in place on the president's instruction.
President Buhari also carefully listened to the presentations and recommendations made by state chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Nura Abdullahi and a representative of the Berom community in Plateau State, Mrs Florence Jambol, on engendering peace in the communities.
President Muhammadu Buhari was also accompanied on the visit by Ministers of Defence, Interior and Information. Also on the team were security chiefs, including the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Inspector General of Police and others.
PMB Commissions Africa's First Rice Seedling Factory In Calabar
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Calabar commissioned the first seedlings and seed multiplication factory in Africa, describing it as people-oriented project.
The president noted that the project initiated and executed by the Cross River State government is in line with his administration's zero oil economic, with the state governor, Senator Ben Ayade, becoming a reference point in that vision.
"When we assumed the rein of leadership of our dear country, our administration launched a zero-oil economic roadmap as a way of making our country less dependent on oil, while encouraging investments in other sectors of the economy, particularly agriculture. I am happy that Governor Ayade keyed into that policy and has today become the reference point in our agricultural revolution effort", Buhari said.
Emphasising the significance of the event, the president said, "That we are gathered here today is no doubt a determination woven through to precision and a glowing testament to the fact that the policy is working."
He lauded Governor Ayade for the giant stride and for keying into his agricultural policy, noting that the factory speaks loudly about his administration's strides in agriculture.
He added that it's capacity to produce high yield and disease resistant seeds, will aid in job creation and earn revenue for the state.
"The factory, said to be the first in Africa, is an automated plant with a capacity to produce high yielding vitaminized and disease resistant rice seedlings," Buhari said.
On the impact of the seedlings factory on the economy, the President said, "Seedlings from this factory will improve rice yield from the current national average of 3 to 4 tons per hectare to about 9 to 10 tons per hectare, thus helping to ensure rice sufficiency in the country and doing away with import and saving foreign exchange for Nigeria.
"Besides creating employment opportunities for the unemployed, I have no doubt that this rice factory will also be a veritable platform for income generation for Cross River.
"I am further told that the factory has the capacity to meet both foreign and domestic demands. This will go a long way in placing Nigeria on the global rice production map."
The president directed relevant federal parastatals to partner with the state, even as he expressed hope that the factory, alongside other agro-based industries being built by the state will inspire other leaders to key into his vision of ensuring food security for the country.
Buhari continued: "I therefore, enjoin relevant Federal Government Agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria, through its anchor borrower's programme, to partner with Cross River in the area of supply of seedlings to our farmers.
"With Governor Ayade's other investments in agriculture such as the ongoing construction of an ultramodern rice mill in Ogoja, the cotton farm in Yala, the cocoa processing plant in Ikom and the Banana plantation in Odukpani, the feed mill and yellow maize farm in Obubra as well as the ultramodern poultry farm for export of frozen chicken amongst others, it is clear that Cross River has found a pathway to decouple itself from over reliance on federal allocation.
"It is evident also that by conceiving projects such as this, Governor Ayade has a keen eye for tomorrow; focusing on projects that are building a new economic base for the state rather than projects with short term benefits for the purpose of making cheap political gains.
"It is therefore, my hope and expectation that other states that are yet to fully take advantage of the zero-oil economic roadmap of the federal government will take a cue from Cross River State. Once again, I commend Governor Ayade for this laudable initiative as our country makes steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production."
In his address, Governor Ayade said the state is aware of the president's focus which inspired the decision to invest in agro-allied industries, including the cocoa processing industry, banana Plantation, soya bean, calapharm, Instant noodles, rice mill, among others.
"These are all products of your discussion with me each time I have to meet with you.", he noted.
Calling for a standing ovation for the president, he said, "I say so because we have five million hectares of paddy soil in Nigeria, unfortunately, less than 1.7 million hectares of that used to be cultivated; but since you came in with your aggressive program on rice, the amount of cultivable land has grown to three million hectares and it is rising".
He disclosed that the country used to spend about NGN460 billion importing rice and an additional NGN60 billion in December, which according to him, "has come down dramatically and saved the pressure on the naira, courtesy of your innovative thinking."
The governor posited that with the population statistics, Nigeria faces a "humongous challenge that can lead to absolute social disorder if you don't take a deliberate step to ensure that we improve on the rice demand and rice supply chain.
"It was against this background that we realise that we needed to do something very specific on rice cultivation", he added.
Justifying the Modernization of rice production, Ayade argued that the old way of preserving rice seeds was outdated and counterproductive as the yield was always low, hence the need to go scientific in seed multiplication and preservation which made it "unacceptable for people to go into farming.
"We needed to change and bring agriculture into a digital age and nexus. It is against that background that Cross River State under my watch and based on your advice, we focused on automated rice seed and seedling factory," he noted, adding that "we are just not stopping at providing seeds and seedlings, we have gone further to also set up the first vitaminised rice plant."
In a bid to bring optimal value for the rice produced, the governor said it will also serve as a raw material for the instant noodles factory being set up by the state government.
President Buhari was also led on a tour of the complex by Governor Ayade amidst cheers from the large crowd that poured out to witness the historic occasion.