The Prof Ango Abdullahi-led Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has risen from its meeting in Zaria with a verdict that President Muhammadu Buhari has failed Nigeria.
It said that Buhari has failed to tackle insecurity and improve the economy.
The forum lamented that the Buhari-led government appeared helpless in finding solutions to insecurity as well as addressing poverty in the country.
Addressing Journalists shortly after the meeting convened by the Chairman of the forum, Prof Ango Abdullahi, yesterday, the forum’s Director, Advocacy and Engagements of NEF, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmad, said poverty, particularly in the North and massive social security have worsened under Buhari’s administration.
In attendance at the meeting were: Abdullahi, former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alamin Daggash (rtd); Secretary of the Coalition of Northern Groups, Abdullahi Usman and Amb Yahaya Kwande; Deputy National Chairman of NEF, Alhaji Bello Kirfi (Wazirin Bauchi), DIG Labaran Wurno, Alhaji Yakubu Shehu and former MD, defunct Bank of the North, Hajiya Amina Yahaya, among others.
Baba-Ahmed stated categorically that NEF had before the 2019 elections, warned Nigerians that Buhari lacked the will, competence and commitment to lead the country into a secure and prosperous future.
While noting that the relationship between insecurity and poverty is fundamental, the Northern Elders said, the current administration does not appear to have any idea on what will provide relief or solution.
Speaking on the 2023 Presidential election, the forum said the North will only support candidate who can find solutions to problems bedevilling the region.
According to Baba-Ahmed: “Northern Elders Forum has refrained from comments on major developments relating to management of national security and governance because it is convinced that these are times which require the highest levels of responsibility and circumspection in the manner elders and leaders in the nation contribute to the search for solutions to the multiple problems which face the nation.
“It has become necessary and appropriate, however, to make public, the position of the forum on important matters that affect the manner Nigerians live, and the future we must address.
“The forum regrets that by any standard of judgement, the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed the nation in the vital area of improving its security. Poverty, particularly in the North, and massive social security have worsened under this administration. The relationship between insecurity and poverty is fundamental, but the administration does not appear to have any idea on what will provide relief or solution.
“It gives the forum no pleasure to say that it had warned Nigerians that Buhari lacked the will, the competence and commitment to lead it into a secure and prosperous future before the 2019 elections.
“It is shocking that in spite of unprecedented consensus among Nigerians that the administration requires a new resolve, approach and leadership in the fight against the nation’s multiple security challenges, Buhari appears either totally isolated or in deep denial over the result of his failures to secure Nigerians.
“With this type of mind set, it is difficult to see how President Buhari can accept the challenge to radically improve his handling of our security situation. Nonetheless, we believe that Nigerians must continue to raise our voices and organize through all legitimate means to demand that the administration addresses major failings in his perception of our situation and his response to our demands for our rights to security.
“The forum demands a thorough overhaul of the leadership of our security and public safety agencies, and the injection of higher levels of competence, integrity and accountability in the manner our troops and the police and security agencies deal with security challenges. We appeal to our religious leaders and fellow citizens not to fall into the trap of insurgents to set us up against each other.
“We condemn the tactic of targeting Christians and publicising their executions by an insurgency seeking to exploit our different faiths.
“We also condemn the murder of thousands of Muslims and Christians in communities which the insurgency has made permanent targets in the last decade. These are times when we must unite and resist a common enemy as well as demand that our leaders protect us all as Nigerians.
“In principle, the forum supports the idea of improving the policing capacities of the nation. It is important to emphasise, however, that all initiatives to improve public safety must find accommodation within our laws, and must not be designed to threaten or harass particular groups or interests. We recommend the adoption of a more vigorous and inclusive process which will result in the creation of acceptable frameworks and higher levels of confidence among all communities with respect to policing strategies.
“This forum extends its hand at any group or interest willing to discuss this important matter, and will utilize its entire assets to collaborate with other groups to achieve an understanding on the way forward. We advise all governments to exercise higher levels of restraint and responsibility in the manner they respond to the challenges of improving our security and safety.
“In this regard, the forum notes that the comments of the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), in response to the opinions of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar do not conform with the culture of respect and reverence for leaders which Northerners are noted for.
“The forum demands that the Chairman of BOT of Coalition of Northern Groups should apologise to His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto without reservations. The forum notes that His Eminence has many avenues for relating with the coalition, and urges him to continue with his close relations with the coalition and utilize his position to extract the maximum benefits which could accrue to the Northern community in his relations with the coalition.
“In moments of tension and stress, Nigerians tend to find easy solutions or scapegoats. This forum is concerned that the apparent resurgence of certain types of conflicts such as ethnic and farmers/herders clashes will have multiplier effects and cause damaging setbacks to the successes made in improving community relations. We appeal to governments and communities to commit further to living together in peace and earning a living within the ample resources we are blessed with.
“With due respect to the rights of the Lagos State Government to take decisions that improve the environment and public safety, we are constrained to draw attention to the impact of its policy on banning Okada and Keke in parts of the state on the poor and operators, many of them from the North, who earn honest living through this trade.
“We urge restraint in the responses of those who are immediately affected by this policy, while we urge Northern State Governments to mobilize and support the people who will be compelled to relocate back to the North with other sources of legitimate living.
“The forum had engaged a broad spectrum of opinion on the stress in relations between the palace of Sarkin Kano and the Government of Kano State. The forum is looking forward to engaging with His Excellency, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje on this matter.
“We commend the maturity and restraint of all parties on this matter, and we join others in prayers that Allah will help us all to find a way out of this issue. We are aware of the outpouring of advise and contributions towards resolving these stresses, and we urge the governor and Sarkin Kano, the two people Allah has entrusted with huge leadership responsibilities today, to find a fair and lasting solution to this seeming problem.
“The forum has observed that political manoeuvres around the 2023 elections are targeting the North as a region available for exploitation. We want to make it clear that people of the North will be very careful in committing to persons seeking their support on the basis of their region or wealth.
“The North knows its interests, and will stand together to elect only persons who meet the standards and interests of the people of the North. No politician should assume that they are entitled to our support unless they show a clear understanding and a commitment to deal with our problems and meet our aspirations”.
Meanwhile, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has declared that no true Muslim would desecrate Islam by killing to satisfy God.
The ACF Secretary-General, Anthony Sani, made the remark, yesterday, in response to President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent remark that 90 per cent of Boko Haram victims are Muslims and not Christians.
In an exclusive chat with newsmen, Sani said Boko Haram was a common enemy of Nigerians and should be dealt with for the good of the country.
He said: “I do not have the exact figures as to how many Nigerians have been killed by the insurgence by religion but it is a known fact that most of Boko Haram sects are not only Muslims but are also people from North-East.
“The same with their victims most of whom are Muslims and from North-East, but I cannot know the exact proportion.”
Sani corroborated Buhari’s claim, stressing that Boko Haram was after what he termed “mundane things like political power.”
The ACF scribe noted that the terrorist group resort to religion is for strategic reasons.
He said: “The sects do not target only Christians but also Muslims whom they consider are not willing to adhere to their version of Islam, even though we all know Boko Haram is not pursuing any jihad but is in search of mundane things like political power.
“Their resort to religion is for strategic reasons and not pity meant to attract the gullible as canon fodders.
“That was why President Barack Obama once made a clear distinction between Islam and Islamic terrorism which desecrates Islam. No true Muslim can desecrate Islam by killing people for God Who does not need anybody to kill for Him.
“I want to believe Boko Haram is a common enemy to all Nigerians who should come together and unleash their synergistic potential against collective challenge for the good of all Nigerians regardless of creed and ethnicity.”
S’Court Judgement On Bayelsa: RSG Condemns Attacks On Peter Odili, Family …Bemoans FG’s Silence On Threat To Ex-Gov’s Life
The Rivers State Government has condemned the cowardly attacks on the former state Governor, Dr Peter Odili and his family, especially his wife, Hon Justice Mary Odili, for performing her official duties as Justice of the Supreme Court in effort to further deepen democracy and promote the rule of law in Nigeria.
The condemnation was contained in a statement, signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, shortly after the State Executive Council (SEC), in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The state government, which described the attacks as unacceptable and unfortunate, said it would not fold its hands and watch lawless Nigerians attack the former First Family of the state with impunity, and cautioned those involved in the dastardly act to retrace their steps and find more noble things to do to give their lives meaning.
The statement reads in full, “The Rivers State Executive Council at its meeting held on Wednesday, 19th February, 2020 at the Government House, Port Harcourt, reviewed the recent attacks on the residence of the former governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili as a result of the Supreme Court judgment that nullified the election of David Lyon as governor of Bayelsa State and resolved as follows: ‘That the Rivers State Executive Council observed that the Federal Government seems not to show interest in the sponsored threats to the lives of Dr Peter Odili and members of his family.
“That the Rivers State Executive Council condemns the barricading of the residence of Dr Peter Odili at Maitama, Abuja by sponsored thugs of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“That the Rivers State Executive Council wondered why Dr Peter Odili’s family should be singled out for the unwarranted attack, when the judgment that ousted David Lyon as Governor of Bayelsa State was a unanimous decision of a five-member panel of Supreme Court Justices.
“That the Rivers State Executive Council warns the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva and the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole and their hired agents to desist from the sponsorship of violent attacks against Dr Peter Odili and members of his family.
“That the Rivers State Government will hold Timipre Sylva and Adams Oshiomhole responsible if anything happens to Dr Peter Odili and members of his family.
“That the Rivers State Executive Council noted that in the past Rivers State suffered unfavourable Judicial Pronouncements and never resorted to self-help as being promoted by APC Leaders in the case of Bayelsa State.
“That the Rivers State Government will employ all legal means to protect Dr Peter Odili and members of his family.
“That the Rivers State Government will protect Rivers State Indigenes who are serving Federal and State Judicial officers.
“That the Rivers State Government warns that should this harassment and intimidation continue, it will have no alternative than to retaliate.
“That the Rivers State Government will defend the lives and property of Rivers people at all times. Enough is enough”, the statement added.
NUPENG Shuts Filling Stations In Rivers …RSG Cautions Consumers Against Panic Buying
Barely 48hours after stakeholders averted proposed strike over seizure of petroleum tankers by personnel of security agencies, including the Army, the leadership of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Employees (NUPENG) has succumbed to pressure, and directed filling stations in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and its environs to shut down operations following fresh disagreement between tanker drivers and security agencies in the state.
But in a swift reaction, yesterday, the Rivers State Government has called on members of the public to avoid panic buying of petroleum products as it has taken steps to resolve issues leading to the protest by petroleum tanker drivers in the state.
Most of the filling stations monitored across Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas in Rivers State, yesterday, were discovered to have complied with the fresh directive to embark on strike over the arrest of some tanker drivers and seizure of their vehicles.
The shutdown of operations has led to fuel scarcity and resurgence of black market in Port Harcourt and its environs.
Also, black market operators have taken advantage of the development to make brisk deals.
Our correspondent, who monitored the industrial action by the filing station operators, reports that queues have continued to build up in most filling stations in the state capital.
The majority of the filling stations were said to have stopped dispensing fuel to motorists and other consumers since midnight on Tuesday after another tanker was said to have been seized by the Task Force on Illegal Parking.
Our correspondent, who monitored the situation in Port Harcourt, yesterday, observed that Tonnino Filling Station, Jet Filling Station and Royal Dynasty Filling Station on Ada-George Road, as well as some filling stations on Port Harcourt-Aba Road, and the few between Rumuomasi through Elekahia, were all shut down.
Also, Eterna Filling Station and Forte Filling Station located along Peter Odili Road were both shut down.
Our correspondent also tracked a Toyota Sienna and Hiace buses populated by NUPENG strike enforcement team, monitoring compliance with the directive within Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGAs.
The two buses were seen criss-crossing the roads, monitoring all filling stations from Aba Road through Waterlines, and from Rumuokalagbor-Elekahia through Nkpogu to Peter Odili, and onward to Port Harcourt Township through Eastern Bypass.
Speaking on the action, the National Treasurer of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Employees, NUPENG, Comrade Alex Agwanwa, explained that the action was due to the inability of security agents to respect the understanding they reached with the union, last weekend.
Agwanwa, who is also the chairman of the United Labour Congress in Rivers State explained that between Sunday and yesterday, more trucks have been arrested alongside the drivers by security agencies.
“Instead of maintaining our understanding, they decided to arrest more trucks. As we speak, 27 trucks carrying legal products have been arrested. It is unacceptable.
“This matter has been on for the past two years. We did not want it to get to this stage but here we are,” he added.
The NUPENG official maintained that the filings stations would remain shut until all their members and trucks seized by the security agencies are released.
Some filling station attendants, who spoke with The Tide said their services were withdrawn following directives from the leadership of the joint body of petroleum marketers in Rivers State.
The Chairman of the Licensed Filling Station Owners in Rivers State, Comrade Sunny Nkpe, who spoke with The Tide on the issue, said the action was taken because of the violation of an agreement reached by all stakeholders on the matter, which shelved the earlier planned strike.
He said their members were still facing intimidation and arrests by the state task force on illegal parking and other security operatives.
On his part, the National Public Relations Officer of NUPENG, Comrade Chinedu Ukadike, said the decision reached on February 16 for security agencies and the state government to release the union’s trucks in detention by February 17 was yet to be carried out, hence the directive to withdraw of the services of members.
He further claimed that the arrests were unnecessary and carried out without proper investigation.
He said, “Most of these trucks are carrying our products. If they continue to hold our trucks in detention, what do they want us to sell?”.
Some motorists, who spoke with our correspondent, lamented the situation, stating that it was difficult for them to operate due to scarcity of products.
A commercial driver, Akanimo Abel, said he bought a liter of fuel at N350 from black market operators.
He said, “My business is badly affected by the strike, the strike took all of us by surprise, and we did not expect it. We thought all the issues have been resolved. I want the issues to be resolved once so that normal business can go on.”
Another commercial taxi driver, Chris Agbogu, said the strike has caused grave difficulties to the users of the products, adding that he was finding it difficult to buy enough fuel to enable him do his business.
In reaction to the surprise strike by tanker drivers and filling station owners in the state, the Rivers State Government, yesterday, advised members of the public to avoid panic buying of petroleum products as it has taken steps to resolve issues leading to the protest by petroleum tanker drivers in the state.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Energy, Dr Peter Medee, who gave the advise in an interview with newsmen in Government House, Port Harcourt, said the lingering protest was as a result of several threats by the union that they want to go on strike.
“There are catalog of what they actually requested that we do, and we have been making efforts to see what we can do to resolve those things”, he said.
He explained that the state government had approached the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army on some trucks seized by soldiers and that the GOC had graciously approved release of those trucks.
“Unfortunately, some of those trucks were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further investigation.
“There are processes that we have to take to get those ones that were sent to EFCC released, and we are in the process of getting them done”, the commissioner said, adding that the trucks at the 6 Division have already been released.
On the trucks impounded by the state task force on decongestion of roads, Medee said they had also made efforts to get them released, and also gone to the prison to release members of the union that were imprisoned, while those in police custody for wrong parking have also been released.
“What I am saying in essence is that we are making several efforts. Now, we have started engaging directly with their national leadership because we have seen that their union people in the state are beginning to show lack of understand of the sensibility of government”.
He noted that the government of Chief Nyesom Wike was very careful with the ease of doing business initiative because it was his vision that nothing should hinder business activities in the state, hence the need to thread with caution.
The commissioner further stated that the Federal Government was battling with oil theft, which was why a lot of trucks involved in sharp practices were being impounded daily by security agencies.
He gave kudos to the union leaders for declaring that they would not support any of their members involved in illegality.
“However, we expect the union to understand and bear with us. All the efforts we are making are gradually paying off. We are releasing the trucks. We are releasing their members that were arrested.
“We are not ignoring them. We are doing our very best to make sure that the problem is resolved, and I can assure you that in a short time, whatever you are seeing will be over.
“My advice to Rivers people is that they should avoid panic buying, relax, we will definitely handle this problem”, the commissioner assured.
Chris Oluoh, Taneh Beemene & Benice Iragunima
Tribute To Bishop Matthew Kuka’s Homily
Like a vote of thanks, a tribute is meant to give praise and honour to whom such is due; especially in an environment where people live in fear to say the truth, or tell an emperior that he is dressed like a clown, or behaves like one. Anybody who is acquainted with Bishop Matthew Hassan Kuka would testify that he is an ideal human being and also a shining light of what a Christian should be.
Anybody reading the homily of Bishop Kuka titled “For a Tormented Nation and a Besieged Faith”, carried by The Tide newspaper (Friday February 14, 2020), would be deeply touched by the message contained therein. In the language of the Catholic Church, a homily is a speech or advice given at a special religious ceremony, in this case, burial of a Seminarian, Michael Nnamdi, in Kaduna, murdered by kidnappers recently.
Maybe Michael was not the first or only Seminarian kidnapped in Nigeria for a ransome, but from the Good Shepherd Seminary, Kaduna, that incident was a shock. His death was a greater shock, both to Catholics in Nigeria and across the globe, with a total of 3,305 persons lighting candles shortly before his burial on the February 5.
An ancient sage once said that it is to those who understand the world, not those who disfigure it; those who strive to liberate humans from plight and enslavement, not those who aggravate them, that we owe our loyalty.
We live and intermingle in a world where there are noble and ignoble people and where those who strive to ennoble the status of mankind stand in danger. Yet, the likes of Bishop Matthew Kuka should not be lacking in every society, for they provide courage to the stooping spirit of man. Not only are humans standing in a moment of decision, moment of separation of the darkness from light and moment of rudderless navigation. In the words of Bishop Kuka: “Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud and pharisaism have caught up with us”.
Truly, Nigeria is at a point where we must call for a verdict; a time to confront and dispel the clouds of evil that hover over us; for we have practiced madness for too long. Kuka, in his homily recalled how, in Chatham House in London, Buhari said: “If I am elected President, the world will have no reason to worry about Nigeria. Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa … And I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front”.
Bishop Kuka spoke the whole truth and on behalf of Nigerians that “this President has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interest of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women … Today, in Nigeria, the noble religion of Islam has convulsed …”
Unfortunately, Islam is beginning to earn an unpleasant reputation through the instrumentality of bad politics. It is true that Muslim scholars, traditional rulers and intellectuals have continued to cry out helplessly, asking for their religion and region to be freed from chokehold. Bishop Kuka tells us that “neither Islam nor the North can identify any real benefits from these years that have been consumed by the locusts that this government has unleashed on our country. The Fulani, his innocent Kinsmen, have become the subject of opprobrium, ridicule, defamation, calumny and obloquy”.
Is it a hate speech to say that this administration is “running the most nepotic and narcissistic government in known history”? Or that “the North still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution”? does the fact that The Sultan recently lamented the tragic consequences of power being in the wrong hands, not indicate that all is not well with Nigeria currently?
Similarly, we are told that “the Northern Elders who is 2015 believed that General Buhari had come to redeem the North, have now turned against the President.” Is it not true that things fall apart when politicians use religion to extend the frontiers of their ambition and power? Why do kidnappers separate their victims and force Christians to become Muslims?
Apart from the killing of Late Seminarian Michael Nnamdi by his kidnnappers, had there not been similar killing of Christian clerics by kidnappers and terrorists in recent times? Should we accept the logic of a presidential spokesperson that since more Muslims are being killed than Christians, then there is sense in senseless killings? From the homily of Bishop Kuka that “killing Christian and destroying Christianity is seen as one of their key missions,” it become obvious that kidnappers and terrorists are out on a definite purpose.
The fact that His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto and the Emir of Kano, two most powerful leaders, have expressed their unhappiness over the situations in the country. But in spite of the obvious provocations and trends, Bishop M. Kuka can still tell the world that “we have no vengeance or bitterness in our hearts…Trials of every sort come our way, but we are not discouraged…”
Bishop Matthew Hassan Kuka has aptly shown through his homily that he has a clear understanding of the problems of this country, one of which is the use of religion as an instrument of political power. While not suggesting the use of violence or vengeance on the part of Christians, he has asked the current administration to run an inclusive system where everyone would have a sense of belonging and contribute to build up Nigeria.
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