The Middle Belt Forum, (MBF), the socio-cultural platform enacting the central Nigerian region has taken the current reactions to the latest round of killings across three local government areas in Plateau State a step further by calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately reconstitute the top echelon of the Security forces. “The peoples of the Middle Belt have every reason to suspect that the top echelon of the security forces is unwilling or unable to protect them”, said Dr Pogu Bitrus, the newly elected President of the Forum in a press conference. Citing as evidence of his position the non-compliance of the Inspector General of Police with presidential directive to re-locate and stay in Makurdi, Benue State after the killings there last January as well as the comment of the Minister of Defence directing states operating Anti-Open Grazing laws to suspend it, Dr Bitrus said the security establishment at the moment are not interested, willing or able to be fair to the people of the Middle Belt.
The MBF leader’s standpoint is only the latest of an avalanche of reactions that have trailed the recent killings in Plateau State, including the American State. Heather Nauert, speaking for the State Department said the United States condemned in the strongest possible terms the killing of civilians and destruction of property in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region over the weekend, adding how concerned it is over recent increase in armed violence against civilians. The statement calls on all political and community leaders to lend their voices to peace and to work together to find lasting solutions to these rural conflicts. Echoing the statement from the State Department, William Stuart Symington, US Ambassador to Nigeria tweeted later yesterday, locating the answer to the cycle of violence in the agency of Nigerian leaders and citizens. “Nigeria’s leaders and citizens have it in their power to make this killing stop now” said the diplomat who, however, placed this on if they are united across all regions, all occupations, and all faiths. “When you act together with sincerity and high purpose and sustained effort, you will end this violence”
Whether the Nigerian elite is still in a coherent enough position to heed the challenge of high purpose the Ambassador has centralised is open to debate. Also open to question is what sort of consensus can be worked upon in the context of angry threats and acrimony that has taken over the country. Worse still, the elite has no one they defer to now. Everyone has taken partisan positions, creating a vacuum in terms of sober voices and actors that can mediate the historical, political and regional dimensions of the national question. The state itself has progressively become more and more incompetent in organising power in terms of biopolitical mediation of it as to be seen to be somehow neutral rather than the current perception of the government of the day as itself a conflict party.
The Middle Belt Forum in its own case, is calling on the president to work with the legislature and immediately commence the process of constitutional amendment for what it calls the proper restructuring of the Nigerian federation while also directing the posting of all police personnel to their various states of origin in line with the principles of community policing. But the MBF is not restricting its attention to the president. It is also calling on the communities in the Middle Belt to organize to defend themselves and their property as the government, according to the Forum president, has abdicated its responsibility to protect them. Locating this in Section 33 of the Nigerian Constitution, the Forum president says it guarantees every citizen the right to life and nobody should be deprived of that right. State governments in the Middle Belt are, accordingly, being asked to, as a matter of urgency, support communities in the Middle Belt to train the vigilante groups on ways of repelling external aggressions of the sort communities in the Middle Belt have been subjected to in the last two decades. Dr Bitrus is demanding governors of the states of the Middle Belt to urgently bring to the attention of the president the need to bring to an end what he called this undeclared war against the people of the Middle Belt because it has the potential of degenerating to a state of anarchy.
Arguing that devolution of powers to the various levels of government is the only way to gurantee peace, security of lives and property in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural entity like Nigeria, Dr Bitrus is equally inviting the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly to get cracking on that.
He drew attention to what he regards as a recent twist to genocide in the Middle Belt in the disposition of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) or the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore to claim responsibility after each round of the killings, be it in Benue or Taraba states where the Miyetti Allah is opposing the Anti Open Grazing Prohibition laws. “Just a few days ago and immediately after the genocide in Plateau, the Miyetti Allah claimed responsibility and their justification was that over 300 cows were stolen by some indigenous Berom youths. In all of these cases, the leadership of the Miyetti Allah has not been arrested nor has the government banned this murderous organization”, said the MBF president who charged how the purported Fulani herdsmen, “brandishing their AK47s, have killed thousands of indigenes of the Middle Belt, sacked entire communities, destroyed property worth billions of Naira and have sought to change our ways of life and entire cultures”
Others who have already reacted to the all consuming violence include the Afenifere socio-cultural group which said it looked like the president and Miyetti Allah used a same laptop to type the statements each issued, leading politician, Professor Jerry Gana said the quantum of despicable bloodletting attacks have gone on for too long, with no concrete plan and clear roadmap to suggest that the federal government has the will and the capacity to resolve these challenges to peace and security. It makes a mockery of the sanctity of human life and is totally unacceptable and stands vehemently condemned, he said in a statement issued on his letterhead.
Asserting that the citizens of Nigeria deserve full proof guarantee of their safety and security, Prof Gana told President Buhari how Nigerians expected him to offer them strong assurances backed by concrete actions as a practical demonstration of your sincerity. Ending his intervention with the prayer ‘May God save Nigeria’, he prayed that the death of those killed in the recent violence in Plateau would ignite a nationwide resolution of against the situation where “precious Nigerian lives be so tragically wasted”.
The Afenifere is asking Nigerians to be ready to throw out President Buhari in 2019 because nowhere else is the quantum of human lives being shed as in Nigeria. It regrets cohabiting with bearers of bestiality, outlawing the possibility of what it calls “Federal Cattle Territories”, its own reference to the ranches the FG is banking on as solution to herdsmen – farmers violence. That, says Afenifere, is state intervention in private business, stressing how no inch of Yoruba land will be ceded by any governor in the area for it.
The Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) said it is at a loss how scores of people could be killed without any form of intervention by soldiers deployed to contain the security challenge. “How could dare devil criminals assault communities without resistance by security agencies to stop these killings. Are these herdsmen in bed with soldiers to unleash mayhem on these peaceful communities,” CAN asked, questioning the relevance of the intelligence gathering by the Department of State Services, (DSS) and other security agencies if communities could be attacked and hundreds slaughtered without security organisations providing rescue efforts.
CAN president, Reverend Ayokunle said CAN and relations of victims of these attacks needed more than assurances and promises of tracking down these criminals by the president even as he said such assurances, though needed, had become irrelevant in the face of incessant attacks that have claimed the lives of thousands of Christians. “Against the backdrop of the wave of attacks on innocent citizens, CAN has come to the conclusion that the Federal Government has been overwhelmed by the current security challenges”, it concluded.
Why the attack and killings that occurred across three local government areas between Thursday and Sunday started attracting public reactions only on Tuesday remains a mystery in the ‘Information Age’.