The Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar, has queried the competence of the security agencies and their inability to stop the attacks and killings by herdsmen in Benue State.
He stated that everything must be done to stop the ongoing loss of lives, warning religious and political leaders to avoid inflammatory utterances that could further worsen the situation.
The Sultan, who is also the President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, said this on Thursday in Abuja at the 1st General Assembly of Inter-faith Dialogue forum with the theme, ‘Living together, achieving together.’
The monarch observed that Nigerians should be more concerned about the daily loss of lives instead of the religion or ethnicity of the victims, stressing that God is angry with the killers.
“The killings must be stopped, they have gone too far. This is not the time to apportion blames, but to seek solutions. What are the security agencies doing and when will these killings stop? We must challenge the leaders with one voice, the issues must not be looked at with the prisms of religion or ethnicity,” Abubakar cautioned.
The Sultan admitted that he is a patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder Association of Nigeria, but explained that the group had no control over the Fulani herdsmen, whom he said were preoccupied with their animals in the bush.
Explaining his involvement with the group, he stated that it was established about 32 years ago to assist the members, adding that it was wrong for Nigerians to criminalise the Fulani over the crime of a few criminals among them.
Abubakar, who said he had no apologies for being a Fulani, decried the statement attributed to the Secretary-General of the Christian Association of Nigeria, in which he called for the proscription of Miyetti Allah and its declaration as a terrorist organisation.
He said, “We pray not to get to the level of Afghanistan where everybody is bearing arms, but you can’t label Miyetti Allah as a terrorist organisation. It has never sat down to discuss how to kill innocent people and take over their land. The Fulani (herdsmen) don’t care about electricity, roads or the government because they live in the bush.
“We refuse to accept that all Fulani are bad. The crisis in Benue is not a religious or ethnic problem but an economic one. It is a fight between herdsmen and farmers and unless the government takes it seriously, it may get out of hand,” the monarch submitted.
The Sultan also dismissed fears about Islamisation of Nigeria, noting that this cannot happen, warning religious leaders against heating up the polity with baseless rumours.
The monarch explained that he visited Benue State thrice in 2017 to discuss solutions to the herdsmen/farmers’ clashes with the state government, but added that none of the recommendations was implemented by the government.
He disclosed that the comatose Nigeria Inter-Religious Council would be revived, adding that a meeting of the members would hold next month.
The CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, who was represented by the Bishop of Yola, Rev. Stephen Mamza, accused the nation’s leaders of insincerity, insisting that the crisis would not have degenerated if they had implemented what they recommended.
He blamed religious and political leaders for the Benue killings and expressed the hope that the gathering would proffer solutions to the challenge.
“We have leaders who deceive people; they say one thing, but do another thing. We have placed tribal affiliation above the national interest. Every killing should be condemned irrespective of the religion of the victims,” he said.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, in his remarks, said there was a sense of anxiety and tension across the nation over the Benue crisis, noting that the atmosphere had been poisoned with hate speech being shared in social media.
He said sincerity and trust from Christians and Muslims were necessary ingredients for peace in the country, adding that the practitioners of the two faiths had fought one another in the past “and history is not on our side.”
“We (Christians and Muslims) are in the same boat on a turbulent sea. We can decide to work together to reach our destination or fight and let the boat sink and God would take care of all of us,” the cleric concluded.