President Muhammadu Buhari has urged Fulani herdsmen and other Nigerians to ignore a recent call by the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) and the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) for herders to relocate from southern Nigeria to the northern parts of the country.
The controversial order, issued on Tuesday, was based on the claims that the safety and security of the Fulani herdsmen and their cattle could no longer be guaranteed in the southern part of the country.
The President, in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, all Nigerians were free to reside in any part of the country.
The President, therefore, called on all Nigerians to help keep the peace in the country.
“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.59
“In line with our country’s constitution, the government of Nigeria and the administration of President 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 President said.
The President 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 statement read.
Chairman of NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who gave the order on Tuesday, had said the order had become necessary following reports that the herdsmen have been exposed to some danger in the hands of some hostile communities in the southern part of the country.
“…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.
Also, the spokesman for the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said “… we feel obliged to advise the leadership of the Northern Elders’ Forum to consider calling on the Fulani to forego their right to live and flourish anywhere in the South and relocate to their various states in the North to ensure their safety.”
In a response to the order, Yakasai argued that the proposed relocation would amount to a breach of the 1999 Constitution and a violation of the rights of the herdsmen to live anywhere they choose within the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to him, the Fulani herdsmen were bona fide Nigerians who must not be intimidated and harassed out of any community in Nigeria.
“Leadership of the Northern group should be aware that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has bestowed right to every Nigerian to live in any part of the country he or she wishes to reside and that no authority, group of people or an individual, no matter how highly placed, can deny any Nigerian to exercise this inalienable right.