ABUJA- FORMER minister of Defence, and a delegate representing Kebbi State, Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed yesterday described reported cases and statements that Fulani herdsmen engage in massive killings in some parts of the country especially in Benue state as mere speculations.
The former Acting National Chairman, who raised a point of Order following issues earlier raised by a delegate and former Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, Terseer Tsumba over the killings of his people by the Fulanis, said, “There is serious suspicion that some people are masquerading and trying to cause dissension between peace-loving people of northern Nigeria. This has not been investigated. The fact that these people come dressed as Fulanis is immaterial because anybody can dress as Fulanis.
“Many people have come to attack communities in military uniforms, but that does not mean that it is the Nigerian soldiers that are attacking these communities. I will therefore like to correct the impression that it is Fulanis that are attacking the communities.
“The Tiv people of this country know that they are friends to Fulanis, and we have joking relationships and there is no reason, and nobody has established any reason why Fulanis will attack Tiv or any other any other tribe. This issue should be properly investigated so that those forces that are trying to create dissension between the various communities of this country will be uncovered. But without investigation we cannot categorically make a statement in this hall that Fulanis are attacking anybody. The Fulanis do not attack anybody, we are friendly people.
Earlier in his contribution, a delegate at the ongoing National Conference and former Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly who painted a pitiable situation of his people and alleged that Fulanis in his area carry sophisticated weapons, kill their people, however urged the Conference to work towards redesigning our security system.
He said, “I wonder why some people and even the Federal government will propose that it will give these people grazing reserves. You give someone a grazing reserve behind your compound who is coming with a machine gun, I don’t think that will be acceptable by us; I thereby call on us to do a rethink on the proposed issue of grazing reserves.
“Mr chairman, I will like to bring before you what one of our leader s in the north central did; late senator JS Tarkaa who had a friend in Borno , Alhaji Immam; Tarkaa, brought him and gave him a Tiv name Gatie Iwarwar, and made him to represent us at national level;
“Mr Chairman, I will like to inform you that, today, the son of this “Tiv man”, is here in this hall, Alhaji Kassim Imam; this was the spirit with which our leaders at the time saw Nigeria and were working together. There were no differences.
“But Mr Chairman, on the issue of insecurity. I am from the north central and it is not gainsaying for me to know that; the whole of north central has been under siege. Kafanchan has been under curfew; Plateau has been same; and from my state where I come from, Benue state, there are a lot of refugees scattered in Makurdi as we are speaking here; now that the rains have started, I wonder what will be the situation of the refugees. We have been under series of attacks from the Fulani militia.
“In the sixties we lived with the Fulani; our forefathers lived with them; we ate their fura and nono (Cow milk) and indeed as a Tiv man, we exchanged nicknames with the Fulani. They called us Munchi and we called them Agwai; and we retained friendship.
“But I want to say, the type of Fulanis we have today are not the kind of Fulanis we had before; these ones carry sophisticated weapons.
“You give someone a grazing reserve behind your compound who is coming with a machine gun, I don’t think that will be acceptable by us; I there call on us to do a rethink on the proposed issue of grazing reserves. A lot have been said about the issue of desertification in the north; but we are playing lips service to the issue but that is what is pushing the Fulani herdsmen down to take over the middle belt; this put a lot of pressure on our increasing population.
Meanwhile, former governor of Imo State, Achike Udenwa who is at the conference on the platform of Former Governors explained yesterday that public office holders loot the treasury because they want to create wealth to fall back on after leaving office and be able to pay their bills.
Speaking yesterday at the National Conference, Udenwa also explained that those on public offices steal, because of social pressure, just as he cited situations where they were made to buy what he termed unnecessary traditional titles and honorary degrees from tertiary institutions, adding that the Conference would help the country fight corruption.
According to the former governor, if this must be achieved, leaders must look back at the root cause of corruption and tackle it from there, just as he identified insecurity, social problems and greed as the causes of corruption.
Also in his contribution yesterday, chairman, Daily Trust Newspapers and one of two delegates representing the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Mallam Kabiru Yusuf who identified economy, ethnicity and religion as Nigeria’s major problems, however urged delegates to rise up to expectations of Nigerians and come up with resolutions that would redefine the future of the Nigerian youth and the country.
He said, “The foundation of the dissatisfaction and division in the country is not religious or ethnic, but economic. This takes a social form, in the silent war between the teaming poor and the wealthy few; and a regional dimension, between resource rich and poor states.
“Even in normal situations, politics is about the competitive allocation of resources. In our own primitive condition, everything is up for grabs for those with long hands. Like it or not, this country has become a melting pot. Millions of Nigerians make a living outside their home states. In many communities and families, adherents of the two major religions live cheek by bowl.
“Power struggles by irresponsible elite has plunged many countries into a bottomless pit. We need due care in the project of restructuring Nigeria. A ‘mistake’ that is a hundred years old, cannot be corrected by reproach.”
Yusuf who urged the delegates to understand the difficulty associated with of restructuring what he called “certain things” so long “the semblance of a federation would be retained, said, “We all have, and sometimes share, certain values that time does not change.
“And at the core of the justice necessary for unity, the weigh of every man’s vote must be equal. Democracy may be slow and disappointing, but it allows people of different backgrounds to coexist without rancour”.
There was also the call for the reintroduction of the on-shore and off-shore oil dichotomy which would deprive certain oil producing states of any revenue from oil exploration and exploitation carried out off-shore.
However, Nsongurua Udombana, a professor of international law from Akwa Ibom State, shot down the suggestion on the grounds that no international law as cited by the speakers can dictate to a country on what to do within its locality, adding that sections of the 1999 Constitution that vest authority on the central government with regard to the control of natural resources to the exclusion of the states where they are domesticated should be abrogated in the spirit of true federalism.
Udombana stated that the problem of Nigeria was not lack of resources but inability of the leaders to successfully harness these resources for the benefit of the people.
Mrs. Ramatu Bala Usman in her comments said the Conference must ensure that the 35% gender placement in public service and appointments in favour of women be enshrined in the Constitution so as to give it a legal backing.
she asked for institutionalization of the roles of the spouse of the first citizen, either at the national or state level, whether man or woman, so that if a woman becomes the president of governor, the husband will have a constitutional role to play; and vice versa.
Usman went ahead to demand a policy that would compel any new occupant of public office to ensure completion of projects and implementation of policies started by his predecessor before embarking on a new one.
Maria Waziri from Kebbi state also spoke glowingly about the oneness of Nigeria and why women education should be given a priority by government at all levels, adding, “The oneness of this nation is absolutely beyond negotiation. I suggest strongly that we must not approach issues with suspicion. We must discuss freely in the overall national interest because Nigeria belongs to all of us.
“I stand for oneness, for togetherness and for a stronger indivisible Nigeria which is at peace with its citizens based on mutual respect and understanding amongst our diverse people, irrespective of tribe, ethnic or religion.
God has blessed Nigeria with great women; intelligent women; patriotic; determined and courageous women. We must give women more opportunities, collaborate with them and tap into their wonderful potentials. To do all these, women must be educated.
“A widow in pains deserves consolation, not humiliation. The wicked act of throwing her out is ungodly, inhuman, outdated and wickedness. I condemn it with all my heart.”
In his contribution, a Veteran journalist, Chief Onyeama Ugochukwu, challenged the delegates to discuss and make such recommendations that would create a better future for Nigeria by creating a true federalism out of the existing confusion.
Ugochukwu said Jonathan has given the delegates the challenge of finding something new that would move the country forward and prayed that the conference would not be another effort in futility.
Retired General Anthony Ukpo said he was skeptical about the purpose of the Conference at the beginning but that from what he has seen so far, his new challenge is to work hard and ensure that the result of the Conference would not be put on the shelf.
Senator Daisy Danjuma, a delegate representing the Elder Statesmen category stated that the greatest legacy of the Conference would be to ensure obedience to the rule of law and separation of powers, enthronement of natural justice, equity and good conscience in the polity, adding that the issue of insecurity must be taken seriously because as it was today, investors have been scared away; and even the tourism industry with the capacity to replace oil in revenue yielding is basically dead