The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has said President Muhammadu Buhari and his government would be held responsible should any northerner fall victim of the consequences of the concerns they raised about the safety of Fulani herdsmen in the southern part of the country.
Buhari had told Fulani herdsmen in the southern part of the country to ignore northern elders' statement urging them to leave southern Nigeria.
However, not convinced by the assurance of safety from the presidency, CNG's spokesperson, Abdul-Aziz Suleiman, said in a statement made available in Abuja that while they welcomed the assurance by the president, they were not oblivious of the fact that the lives of their kinsmen were not secure in the southern part of the country.
“CNG wholeheartedly welcomes the assurance given by Mr. President and his government to protect and guarantee the safety of all Nigerians anywhere they are, including the threatened herdsmen in the South.
“We, however, wish to remind Mr. President and the government that northerners would hold them fully responsible should any one of them fall victim of the consequences of the concerns we raised,” he said.
Suleiman said he was amazed at the denial of southern leaders that they did not declare war on herders following the killing of the daughter of an Afenifere chieftain by those he called "unknown assassins".
The group, in conjunction with the Northern Elders Forum, had asked Fulani herdsmen to immediately return to the north if their security was no longer guaranteed in the southern part of the country.
The statement read: “Recall that on July 11 2019 in response to reactions that trailed our earlier submissions, we issued a statement acknowledging the committed concern of the Northern Governors Forum and the Northern Elders Forum in bringing an end to the tensions instigated around the farmers-herders problems.
“In that response, we indicated our acceptance of the invitation for discussions by the leadership of the two forums as a result of which a meeting with the northern elders was fixed for Tuesday, 15 July 2019.
“We went to the meeting with a prepared position which we presented to the leadership of Northern Elders Forum in which we highlighted the utterances made by the southern leaders including decisions taken by some notable political, religious and cultural leaders of the South.
“We capped our submission by pointing out the dangerous war bells sounded by the southern leaders that tended to instigate violence against the herders living in the South following the killing of the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Mrs. Olakunrin Fasoranti.
“We then politely called the attention of the elders to the imminent attack the Fulani were exposed to in the South while the federal authorities remained silent on the matter.
“We made a request to the elders by precisely saying that based on the our observations and the fact that the instigation of hatred against the Fulani persists, 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 noting the inherent return value of such denial.”
According to him, Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi, responded by acknowledging the concern.
“We are worried about their wellbeing. If it is true that their safety can no longer be assured, we rather have them back in areas where their safety is guaranteed. The bottom line is that their safety is far more important than their stay there. This is a country we all wish to keep together and not at the expense of other sections,” Abdullahi was quoted to have said.
He added, “Surprisingly, barely 24 hours after Fulani herders were accused of killing Mrs Olakunrin, leaders of southern groups such as PANDEF, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo and a certain Middle Belt forum issued a joint statement tending to deny having made inflammatory remarks capable of instigating violence against the Fulani in the South or that the security of the herders in the South was not in danger as to have warranted concern from the North.”