Kaduna, Abuja, Jos — Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on Sunday said the rising insecurity in the northern region is strong proof that President Muhammadu Buhari and the northern state governors have lost control in protecting the people, despite swearing to uphold such important constitutional duty.
The NEF in a statement signed by its Convener, Prof. Ango Abdullahi stated that the escalation of attacks by bandits, rustlers and insurgents gives the impression that the people of the north have been left completely at the mercy of armed gangs who roam towns and villages at will wreaking havoc.
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The statement reads: "The situation is getting worse literally by the day.
"Bandits and insurgents appear to sense a huge vacuum in political will and capacity which they exploit with disastrous consequences on communities and individuals.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the people of the north have never experienced this level of exposure to criminals who attack, kill, maim, rape, kidnap, burn villages and rustle cattle, while President Buhari issues threats and promises that have no effect.
"The situation under which our communities from Kogi to Borno States, from Sokoto to Taraba States live is no longer tolerable.
"As a responsible body, the Forum has joined millions of others in prayers and in giving advice and encouragement to all authorities that have responsibility to protect our communities," it stated.
The Forum warned that the time has come to say "enough is enough," adding that, "our people are known for their patience and respect for constituted authorities, but all governments must be aware by now that all northerners have been pushed to the wall."
The Forum reminded President Muhammadu Buhari that provision of security and pursuit of economic welfare of citizens are the only two constitutional responsibilities of the state which all leaders must achieve.
"Our current circumstances in the north clearly demonstrate that President Buhari's administration has woefully failed to achieve either.
This is unacceptable. We demand an immediate and comprehensive improvement of our security in the north.
"We are tired of excuses and verbal threats which criminals laugh at, and our fellow citizens see as a clear failure of leadership," the Forum stated.
Reacting, the Presidency told Ango Abdullahi that he was leading an "irritant and featherweight" group known as the Northern Elders Forum.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement issued yesterday, said President Buhari "steadily and steadfastly focuses on the task of retooling Nigeria, and discerning Nigerians know the true state of the nation."
Adesina said: "they don't need a paper tiger to tell them anything."
The presidential spokesman said the position that the group "has no credible membership and its leader is akin to a General without troops" remained unchanged.
The statement titled 'Northern Elders Forum: Still General Without Troops - Presidency' read: "We are not surprised by this latest statement by Prof. Abdullahi, and our past position on what his group represents remains unchanged: a mere irritant and featherweight.
"The former vice chancellor signed the statement under the banner of Northern Elders Forum (NEF).
"Hearing that title, you would think the body was a conglomeration of true elders. But the truth is that NEF is just Ango Abdullahi, and Ango Abdullahi is NEF.
"It is a quasi-organization that boasts of no credible membership, and its leader is akin to a General without troops.
"Before the 2019 presidential election, the one-man army called NEF had shown its antipathy against President Buhari, and its preference for another candidate. They all got beaten together.
NEF is merely waving a flag that is at half-mast."
Contacted, the Chairman Northern Governors Forum and Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong, through his Director of Press & Public Affairs, Dr. Makut Simon Macham did not respond to several calls put to him and an SMS sent to him wasn't replied.