Less that 24 hours after the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) told Fulani herdsmen to return to the Northern part of the country from the South for safety reasons, President Muhammadu Buhari has enjoined all Nigerians to ignore the call.
Said the President in a statement from his office: “All citizens of Nigeria are free to move and live within any part of the country they please, whether or not they are originally from there.
“In line with our country’s constitution, the government of Nigeria and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will protect citizens of Nigeria wherever they find themselves.
“No one has the right to ask anyone or group to depart from any part of the country, whether north, south, east or west”.
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on Tuesday urged Fulani herders to leave Southern part of the country if the safety of their lives and properties are not guaranteed.
The Chairman of the forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who said this at a news conference in Abuja on Tuesday, said that there was a move by some trouble elements to engage herders with violence in Southern part of the country.
“We have heard in the few hours ago that some violence had already started to manifest in some sections of the country against the herdsmen, who for all we know would affect peaceful coexistence in the communities where they have lived for many years.
“Now, certainly, we are worried about their safety, like we are worried about the safety of every Nigerian who decided to live wherever they want to.
“But then, if there is no certainty that their safety is guaranteed by the authorities that are immediately around them or by the authorities that have responsibility for the overall security of all Nigerians wherever they reside, we are certainly worried about their wellbeing.
“And I think particular attention should be paid to what is happening hour-to-hour, day-to-day basis.
“If it is indeed true that their safety is not guaranteed in the places where they are residing, we would rather have them back into areas where their safety is guaranteed, and they should be coming back as much as possible to the North,” Abdullahi said.
According to him, the forum is making efforts to ensure that everything must be done to avoid escalation of violence that will lead to the break down of law and order in the country.
He recalled that the forum had met with Northern Governors Forum (NGF) after which the forum decided to begin the consultation with Southern governors who have control and ownership of land especially Fulani space settlements.
The chairman also urged the Federal Government to set up Judicial Panel of Enquiry to enable those who lost properties to come and make their claims, adding that compensation for the loss should not be one sided.
But in a statement on behalf of the President, the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu questioned the intentions of the NEF and the other so-called leaders in delving into issues with unsolicited, ill-intentioned advice.
“They have no one’s authority to make such pronouncements.
“The polarising role of the Northern Elders Forum and all those other groups dabbling into issues of security to score cheap political points has for long been a sore point in Nigeria’s body polity.
“They should not be allowed to mislead anyone, least of all the Fulani herders.
“The Buhari administration is fully devoted to finding a lasting solution to the herder-farmer clashes in different parts of Nigeria- one that would be acceptable to all the parties involved.”
The President, therefore, calls on all Nigerians to help keep the peace in the country.